As trade between civilizations grew, technology and techniques for brewing and winemaking spread throughout the ancient world. Firm evidence for early consumption of alcohol comes from analysis of ancient chemical residues; the earliest so far is from China. Other dates on the map are estimates based on when a plant or crop later used to make alcohol first appears in the archaeological record.
Emergence of Homo sapiens, who most likely consumed naturally fermented fruits. Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations emerge and introduce large-scale brewing and winemaking. Physicians in Salerno, Italy, bring distillation, an Arab technique, to Europe. Mesoamericans drank this fruit wine, which was served in a long-necked jar shaped like a cacao pod. Ancient brewers made a potent drink by peeling, boiling, and then chewing the starchy root; saliva converts starch into a fermentable sugar. The bright red fruit of the Peruvian pepper tree was fermented into a piquant wine. Wild potatoes show up this early at a Chilean archaeological site; today the Mapuche people ferment them into a powerful brew.
This medieval brew was flavored with native herbs, such as bog myrtle and rosemary, instead of hops. This ancient brew, from a nutritious grain, spread across the Sahel when the climate was wetter. This wine, still popular in Africa and tropical Asia, may have first been made very long ago by fermenting the sap of wild palms.
Analyzing residues from several of those tubs, Zarnkow found evidence of oxalate, a crusty, whitish chemical left behind when water and grain mix. One vessel contained the shoulder bone of a wild ass, just the right size and shape to stir a foaming, fermenting broth of grain and water. Add it all together, and you have the makings of an impressive feast, enough to attract hundreds of hunter-gatherers to that prominent hill.
One purpose of the alcohol may have been the same one that leads South American shamans today to take hallucinogens: to induce an altered state that puts them in touch with the spirit world. But researchers here think something else was going on too. The organizers of the feast, they say, were using the barbecue and the booze brewed from wild grains as a reward. Alcoholic beverages outside of government control, such as homemade brews and moonshine.
People in wealthy regions with long drinking traditions, such as Europe, tend to drink the most.
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Abstainers are more often found in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where laws or tradition limit consumption. The outlines of the deal have changed little in the thousands of years since. Demand for reliable supplies pushed humans first to plant the wild grasses and then over time to selectively breed them into the high-yielding barley, wheat, and other grains we know today. The coincidence is suggestive.
But proof is elusive. Patrick McGovern acknowledges the uncertainty but still says the beer-before-bread theory is solid. The people there had only recently made the transition to farming. Alcoholic beverages, like agriculture, were invented independently many different times, likely on every continent save Antarctica. Over the millennia nearly every plant with some sugar or starch has been pressed into service for fermentation: agave and apples, birch tree sap and bananas, cocoa and cassavas, corn and cacti, molle berries, rice, sweet potatoes, peach palms, pineapples, pumpkins, persimmons, and wild grapes.
As if to prove that the desire for alcohol knows no bounds, the nomads of Central Asia make up for the lack of fruit and grain on their steppes by fermenting horse milk. The result, koumiss, is a tangy drink with the alcohol content of a weak beer.
People drank the stuff for the same reason primates ate fermented fruit: because it was good for them. That antimicrobial effect benefits the drinker. It explains why beer, wine, and other fermented beverages were, at least until the rise of modern sanitation, often healthier to drink than water. They produce all kinds of nutrients, including such B vitamins as folic acid, niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin.
Those nutrients would have been more present in ancient brews than in our modern filtered and pasteurized varieties. In the ancient Near East at least, beer was a sort of enriched liquid bread, providing calories, hydration, and essential vitamins. At Tall Bazi, a site in northern Syria, a German excavation revealed a clutch of about 70 houses overlooking the Euphrates River that were abandoned during a sudden fire almost 3, years ago.
In each house, usually close to the front door, the excavators found a huge, gallon clay jar sunk into the floor. Chemical analysis—by Zarnkow again—revealed traces of barley and thick crusts of oxalate in the jars. By B. Beer was such a necessity in Egypt that royals were buried with miniature breweries to slake their thirst in the afterlife. In ancient Babylon beer was so important that sources from B.
Adelheid Otto, an archaeologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich who co-directs excavations at Tall Bazi, thinks the nutrients that fermenting added to early grain made Mesopotamian civilization viable, providing basic vitamins missing from what was otherwise a depressingly bad diet. And then, of course, there is the other side of the story.
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There are the lengths to which people throughout history have gone to go on a bender. Before the Celtic ancestors of the French learned to produce wine themselves, they imported it from the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans. In a wheat field at the end of a winding mountain road in central France, at an archaeological site called Corent, I get a taste of this dependency. My guide is Matthieu Poux, a Franco-Swiss archaeologist with a crew cut, blue aviator shades that match his shirt, and a firm handshake. At Corent, Poux leads some 50 French archaeologists and students who are uncovering the foundations of a major Celtic ceremonial center and regional capital.
In the second and first centuries B. The town had a marketplace, a temple, taverns, a theater, and hundreds of houses. Around B. The evidence, in the shape of shattered clay wine jars, or amphorae, is so abundant that it crunches underfoot as Poux leads me across the site. Archaeologists have uncovered at least 50 tons of broken amphorae here; Poux estimates that tons more remain on the hilltop.
Bending down, he plucks a palm-size chunk of fired clay flecked with black volcanic glass from the dirt and hands it to me. Roman vintners, whose elite Roman clients preferred white wines, tended vast plantations of red wine grapes for the Celtic market; traders moved the wine across the Mediterranean, in ships that carried up to 10, amphorae each, and then sent it north on small river barges.
By the time it reached Corent months later, its value had multiplied a hundredfold. One contemporary claimed the thirsty Celts would trade a slave for a single jar. Wine was the focus of elaborate rituals that cemented the status of the tribal leaders. Things often got rowdy. By paving their streets with the broken jars, Poux says, the rulers of Corent flaunted their wealth and power. By his calculations, the Celts living here went through 50, to , wine jars over the course of a century, the equivalent of 28, bottles a year of expensive, imported Italian red.
Worldwide, people age 15 and over average about a drink a day—or more like two if you include only drinkers, because about half of us have never touched a drop. Millions of years ago, when food was harder to come by, the attraction to ethanol and the brain chemistry that lit up to reward the discovery of fermented fruit may have been a critical survival advantage for our primate ancestors. Today those genetic and neurochemical traits may be at the root of compulsive drinking, says Robert Dudley, whose father was an alcoholic. The ancient Greeks were a good example. A crucial part of their spiritual and intellectual life was the symposium fueled by wine—within limits.
Mixing wine with water in a decorated vessel called a krater, Greek hosts served their exclusively male guests a first bowl for health, another for pleasure, and a third for sleep. The mixture spent the night sitting on a table next to his desk, covered by a paper plate. When Zarnkow flicks on the lights, I can immediately see that the slop has come alive, thanks to yeast from the sourdough. Muddy sediment at the bottom of the pitcher resembles wet muesli. Every few seconds, a large bubble of carbon dioxide percolates to the top through a scummy layer of foam. A translucent gold liquid, resembling the wheat beer brewed in massive steel tanks at the brewery next door, rests in the middle.
Zarnkow says the inspiration for the brew came from a 5,year-old song. He and I look at the bubbling pitcher, in my case a little uneasily. This is much more tasty than warm water filled with microorganisms. The beer is both tart and sweet, bready with a hint of sour apple juice at the end. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine it changing the world. Read Caption. A Chinese newlywed toasts her guests with a traditional cup of rice wine.
The drink has been consumed in China for at least 9, years; a chemical residue found in a jar of that age is the oldest proof of a deliberately fermented beverage.
Good Beer Brings People Together
But the influence of alcohol probably extends even deeper into prehistory. By Andrew Curry. Photographs by Brian Finke. This story appears in the February issue of National Geographic magazine. A symposium today is a scholarly conference, but in ancient Greece it was an all-male, after-dinner drinking party. Guests drank wine from a cup called a kylix, like this one from the fifth century B. A drinking master diluted the wine with water and filled each cup.
If he did his job judiciously, and especially if Socrates was there, a symposium might well include learned conversation. With just three ingredients, this twist on a traditional cobbler is a seasonal essential for the home bar.
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Muddle citrus in a mixing glass. Pack a Collins glass with crushed or pebble ice; strain mixture into glass. Add straw and mint plouche; top with two to three dashes of Angostura bitters. Inspired by Lizzie Asher's Pisco Royale , this rosier version brings an extra layer of luxe to the traditional Peruvian favorite.
Dry shake egg white on its own in a shaker with one small chip of ice to aid in beating. Add Pisco, lemon juice, and simple syrup along with more ice and shake vigorously. Strain into coupe. Top with Taittinger carefully so as not to break froth; top with several drops of bitters in a decorative manner. Tip: Use a small straw or toothpick to swirl bitters into a design. Strain using cheesecloth and store in glass bottle. Short on time? Five to six drops of lavender bitters will do the trick in a pinch.
This recipe originally appeared in People Magazine on May 19, Add all ingredients over ice in mixing glass. Stir and strain into coupe; garnish with peach slice. Muddle 3 basil leaves in a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled glass. Build in Pilsner or Belgian beer glass with crushed or pebble ice and swizzle. Garnish with Peychaud's bitters and a grapefruit twist rose. Reduce heat and let simmer until thickened. Allow to cool and transfer to glass bottle; store in refrigerator until ready to use.
Muddle two strawberries in a cocktail shaker. Add all ingredients, shake, and strain over fresh ice in a wine glass. Top with a splash of Prosecco and garnish with a lime wheel. Add five to eight chunks of papaya and 4 tablespoons sugar to 1 quart of rice wine vinegar. Stir well and let sit at room temperature for 1 week.
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Strain and refrigerate until ready to use. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain over ice into a wine glass or highball and top with prosecco; garnish with a lemon wheel and mint sprig. Gastronomista sure does love a good infusion, and this one spices things up with Thai chile in a high-proof triple sec. Drop chiles into bottle and let sit for one week to forever depending on taste preference. Wells notes, "I leave my chiles in the bottle all the time, and I add more liqueur to the mix when necessary. It goes without saying that this play on the classic Alaskan cocktail is designed for a slightly milder climate than that of its namesake.
Stir all ingredients together with ice in a mixing glass and strain into coupe.
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Express lemon zest around rim and drop in as garnish. Combine first five ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into highball or wine glass and add copious amounts of cucumber and fruit. The Kir and its bubbly cousin, Kir Royale, are as foolproof as they are divine. The Cassis is very sweet, so you'll want to take it easy and add more as you go to taste. Damon Boelte of Brooklyn's Grand Army not only knows the key to a killer cocktail, but has a knack for bringing out their most photogenic qualities, too.
Combine all ingredients except champagne in a mixing glass; stir and strain into coupe. Top with Champagne and garnish with maraschino cherry. Pin these cocktail ideas for later. Type keyword s to search. Today's Top Stories. The Best July 4th Home Sales. The Best Museums Around the World. Thibaut Chaillon.
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Garnish with lime wedge or wheel. Emily Arden Wells. Summer Night's Dream. Ace Hotel Sangria. Suprina Bubble. Getty Images. Remove from heat and strain, adding equivalent volume of sugar to container Combine all ingredients in large punch bowl; stir and serve in Burgundy glasses with additional ice and fruit.