Top 10 drinking myths, legends and ancient rituals

The world of drinks is full of tall tales, myths and legends. While some are more credible than others, all are intriguing, and offer an insight into the rich history of booze culture, customs and rituals.

Fermented grain, fruit juice and honey have been used to make alcohol for thousands of years, with some of the earliest evidence dating back to 7,000 BC in China.

In 2017, some of the oldest evidence ever found of wine made using grapes was discovered in Georgia. Some 8,000 years old it confirms that mankind’s relationship with wine is several centuries older than previously thought.

The team analysed trace evidence preserved in clay jars recently unearthed in Neolithic villages in southern Georgia, not far from the modern capital Tblisi, at digs between 2012 and 2016.

Belonging to the ancient culture known as Shulaveri-Shomutepe, which existed from approximately 6,000 BC to 5,000 BC and covered the modern countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the jars would have been as big as 300 litres when first made. Carbon dating of the pottery indicated the oldest one was from about 5,980 BC, possibly a little older.

In India, an alcoholic beverage called sura, distilled from rice, was in use between 3000 and 2000 BC, while the Babylonians are known to have worshiped a wine goddess as early as 2700 BC.

In Greece, one of the first alcoholic beverages to gain popularity was mead, a fermented drink made from honey and water, with references to the dangers of alcohol found throughout ancient Greek literature.

It demonstrates that humankind’s relationship with alcohol is not only historically, but culturally engrained, with a fermented beverage all too often pivotal to ancient rituals and kinship. Here, we round up a few of our favourite extraordinary tales that surround alcohol, from gunpowder rum and Cleopatra’s pearl cocktail, to viking drinking horns and the troublesome ‘la fée verte’.  

Click through for some of our favourites…

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