Yesterday, we took a long, hard look at booze science; today, let's turn our sights to booze history. A recent video from The Atlantic, appropriately titled, “Good Libations: A Brief Visual History of Booze,” walks us through thousands of years of alcoholic history — and you guys? If you think you know your booze, think again. This charming little animation is chock full of drinks I had no idea even existed. It might not be vital information for your every day life… but it certainly is fascinating.
It's common knowledge that humanity has been getting its booze on since ancient times, but sometimes I think we forget just how far back it all goes. Pretty much as long as we've been on the planet, we've been fermenting foods and liquids and having a jolly old time. I took the liberty of pulling out a few of my favorites from the video and digging a little more into the history behind them; check out the fruits of my labor below. Oh, and don't forget to scroll down to watch the full video — it's definitely worth it, whether you're into wacky ancient history or just trying to figure out what signature cocktail to serve at your next theme party. Bottoms up!
1. Barley Beer
You probably already know that beer was a regular part of the ancient Egyptians' diet. But although the oldest known recorded evidence of brewing occurs in Gilgamesh, which is typically dated to either 2500 B.C.E. or 3500 B.C.E., it's thought that brewing itself actually kicked up around the time that cereal grains first started being farmed in Mesopotamia — waaaaaay back in 10,000 B.C.E., according to Live Science. They likely would have involved steeping malted or crushed grain in water.
2. Early Wine
Fun fact: Evidence of the earliest known winery was discovered in what's now modern day Armenia in 2007. According to National Geographic, the equipment unearthed included a wine press, vessels for fermentation and storage, drinking cups, and the remains of grape vines, skins, and seeds.
For the curious, kumis is a fermented milk drink, usually from a mare. Genghis Khan is thought to have drunk it.
Made from the maguey plant, pulque is kind of similar to mezcal; VICE's Munchies blog calls it “the original energy drink.” A study published in 2014 dated it back to somewhere around 150 B.C.E to A.D. 650.
5. Distilled Spirits
Although there's evidence that distillation was used in Alexandria around the second century B.C.E., distilled spirits as we know them (gin, brandy, etc.) were likely first used in Italy around the 12th century. Writings from the Schola Medica Salernitana — the world's first medical school — at the time make mention of high-proof spirits.
Punch — the boozy kind, not the juice box kind — doesn't always pack as much of an alcoholic… well, punch as an actual cocktail will, but there's still something to be said for it. According to History.com, it was invented in the 17th century by sailors in the British East India Company as an alternative to beer. Beer had a tendency to go rancid and flat once the ships reached the warm climates of the Indian Ocean, so as a replacement, the sailors cobbled together drinks from the ingredients available at their ports of call — typically rum, citrus fruits, and spices. Eventually these sailors brought the wonders of punch back with them, and the rest, as they say…
7. Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned became known as the Old Fashioned thanks to its ingredients: Spirits, sugar, water, and bitters — essentially the only ingredients early cocktails had. When newfangled and more complex drinks started to come into vogue, it earned its now-famous name due to its old fashioned nature.
Watch the full video below:
Want more booze? Watch this very scientific taste test on how many boozy gummies it takes to get drunk:
Images: Pexels; The Atlantic/YouTube (7)