The history of alcoholic drinks has always been a fascinating subject. Regardless of race, age group, or era – it always has a touch of magic in it that will make one yearn to learn it. Some have dedicated their lives to validating history, while others have written volumes of books that can be considered treasures from our past.
Progress is a term that’s commonly associated with history. We recall civilization as the merging of different cultures, which in turn produced a new one, and the process continues. Yet, have you ever wondered about the origin of alcoholic drinks? Let alone the oldest drinks in the history of mankind? If not, hold your beer, and let’s venture into the world of the oldest alcoholic drinks in history.
10. Ninkasi Beer
Ninkasi is the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, and her hymn holds the recipe for brewing some of the finest from ancient times. The discovery of the clay tablets, which contained the Hymn to Ninkasi, holds the key to the part this goddess played in the life of the ancient Mesopotamians. The inscriptions, however, were not translated until the 1990s, and to their surprise, they actually contained the actual beer recipe.
9. Babylonian Beer
It would be a shame if this ancient civilization were left out of a list such as this one. Beer consumption in Babylon dates back to 2,700 BCE. In the ancient text – The Code of Hammurabi, we can find instructions about beer rations as well as their distribution to both citizens and heads of state. We all know the caste system, and this is exactly the basis for the distribution. Lower ranks, such as laborers, receive two liters daily, while the higher ones and their priests receive up to five.
8. Etruscan Wine
These ancient people are the ones attributed to having molded the Greeks and the Romans thanks to their influence on these two popular cultures from our past. Wine has always been a part of special occasions. Their language is still not fully understood today, but their murals depict a lot about people making wine using grapes. Large spectacles, as in a gladiator fight, often show an important official drinking grape wine to open the festivities.
7. Hebrew Wine from the Bible
There are various mentions of wine in the bible, as this is a crucial part of the Jewish culture. Terminologically, the Hebrew word is “yayin” – to boil up, which refers to the fermented drink. The function of wine in this era is somewhat similar to how we usually make use of it today. It is commonly offered as a drink for social occasions, besides it being part of their offerings in the past.
6. Egyptian Herbal Wine
Part of the earlier challenges among our ancient ancestors is seeking cures for various diseases. Concoctions derived from different herbs are often the solution to this problem. The find from the tomb of Scorpion I, which dates back to 3150 BCE, is the earliest evidence that people from the past have practiced using various medicines to cure illnesses. Archeologists were able to discover over 700 jars that contained traces of tartrate, which can be associated with wine from the ancient Egyptians.
5. Barley Beer from Godin Tepe
It seems like Iran is never shy when it comes to the use of ancient alcohol. This drink is associated with one of the oldest and, perhaps, most advanced civilizations of old, the Sumerians. The jugs date back to 3400-3000 BCE and contain traces of what we now call beer. Further evidence suggests that Sumerians are fond of this drink as multiple symbols of beer have been prevalent among their ancient texts.
4. Indian Mead
Most of the alcoholic beverages in this list have their own pieces of evidence found from ancient archeological sites. The Indian Mead, however, relies on ancient texts. We’re talking about the Rigveda, which is one of the oldest texts and holds a lot of the foundations from which Indian culture and religion are derived. This Indian Mead is known to the sacred texts as Madhu Madya, which is essentially fermented honey mixed with herbs.
3. The Wine from Hajji Firuz Tepe
Here’s another entry from a Neolithic archeological site in Iran that dates back to 5400-5000 BCE. However, the discovery in Hajji Firuz Tepe makes it rather more sophisticated as the jars found on the site proved to have contained traces of both white and red wine. They also found evidence of preservatives such as pine resin and Terebinth which is commonly known in biblical texts as the Oak tree.
2. Rice Mead from China
There’s been a prevailing line of thought that everything we use nowadays has a Chinese origin. Well, this is true, even for our favorite alcoholic drinks. This drink has been found to have originated in Jiahu, which is a little village in China and can be dated back to 7,000 BCE. The discovery was published in 2004 when finds from Neolithic jars within the village revealed traces of fermented mead. The wine is said to have consisted of berries, honey, rice, and yeast.
1. Georgian Wine
Grape is a vital ingredient in producing quality wine. People from the past seemed to have understood this when archeologists accidentally unearthed jars that were at least 8000 years old and contained evidence of the early settlers being fond of grapes. As opposed to the popular belief that China holds the record for the oldest alcoholic beverage, this so-called Neolithic wine from Georgia is actually the oldest and was declared by the Guinness World Records.
Regardless of the era, human civilization will continue to find ways to enjoy social gatherings. May it be for intoxication or just simply adding more color to festivities, we’re now certain that our ancestors have that desire within them. It is fascinating to know how it evolved and was used in the past.
Nowadays, we have access to it at every corner and store we come by. As we take a sip, as we raise a toast, let’s remember those ancient ones who probably just died, not even knowing such wonder actually exists.
I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.