Have you ever sipped a tasty drink and thought about where it came from? Most drinks we have today are the modernised version of historic medieval drinks. Medieval time drinks were not as boring as you think. People used to enjoy drinking alcoholic and non-alcoholic medieval drinks as much as we love them today.
During the Medieval period, people didn’t have water filters, and therefore, they used to prefer drinking brewed and specialised beverages. These Medieval drinks included more nutrients, were beneficial for the digestive system and were less prone to putrefaction. Also, medieval drinks were prepared while keeping medicinal properties in mind. All these properties were missing in water because people couldn’t experiment with them a lot.
Plain milk, even though it was available for people of all classes, was not consumed by adults and was reserved for young and elderly people. Even tea and coffee didn’t make it to Europe until the 16th century. Poor people mostly drank mead, cider, and mead, while rich people had access to all drinks, and wine and beer were their favourites. There were also other types of drinks in medieval times. Here is a list of some famous medieval alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and how they were made.
Alcoholic Medieval Drinks
The wine was a very popular medieval time drink. It was considered a prestigious and healthy choice. It was consumed in moderate quantities to aid digestion, generate good blood, and improve mood.
The quality of wine used to differ in the medieval era depending on the types of grapes used in it and the number of grape pressings it got. The first pressing was reserved for the upper class and was used to prepare expensive and fine wines. While second and third pressings were used for preparing lower quality wines with more alcoholic content. Common men used to drink the cheap white or rose wine, while the lower class used to get watered-down vinegar wines.
Spiced and mulled wines were also very popular in medieval times. These were considered very healthy as they helped in digestion, and spices added to them were used to fulfil nutrient requirements. These were usually made with the spices like ginger, pepper, nutmeg, sugar, cardamom, grains of paradise, and sugar. These were poured into the wine in steeped or liquid form for producing hypocras. By the 14th century, bags of ready-made spice mix for wine were available in the market, and people could buy them from the spice merchants and prepare their own wines at home.
Spirits were prepared using the distillation technique. This technique was very popular among ancient Greeks and Romans; however, it was lost and not practised again in Europe until the 12th century. At that time, Arabic innovations in the field were combined with water-cooled glass alembics.
In distillation, the liquid was purified and mixed with spices or sugar. Earlier, it was used for medical purposes, but later, it became one of the medieval alcoholic drinks. The alcoholic distillates were occasionally used to create dazzling by soaking a piece of cotton in spirits. It was then placed in the mouth. Even Aqua Vitae, a strong alcoholic spirit, was considered very healthy by medieval physicians.
Mead was a kind of wine made by fermenting honey and water with yeast. Its alcoholic content used ranged from mild to strong. Usually, people preferred drinking it in carbonated and sparkling form, but it was also found in dry form. The flavour of mead was very similar to beer, and it was produced by brewing spices or fruits as per the local recipes.
This medieval alcoholic drink was prepared all over the European regions by adding different spices or herbs, known as ‘metheglin’. The one produced with fruits was known as ‘melomel’, and the one made with grapes, the most popular one, was called ‘payment’. Even ‘Mulled mead’, prepared with spices or fruits, is still a popular drink at Christmas time.
In the northern regions of Europe, since the grapes were not cultivated, people living there weren’t able to prepare wine. Even importing wine used to add more cost to it, making it accessible to only the rich class. So, the people of northern Europe were more bent on drinking beer. It was accessible to people of all social classes and age groups.
However, beer was not considered good for health and was extremely disfavored. It used to harm the stomach and head, ruin teeth, and cause bad breath. Even people who used to consume it became drunk quickly. But it was so addictive that people in the medieval period couldn’t resist drinking more of it. For them, it is used to facilitate their urination system and make their flesh white and smooth. It became popular with time, and people all over Europe started consuming it.
In the early medieval age, beer was brewed in monasteries. Even people used to brew it at their homes on a smaller scale. By the mid medieval age, the breweries in Northern Germany took over beer production. In England, the annual per capita consumption of beer was 270-300 litres. Smooth beers were consumed with breakfasts, and the stronger ones were consumed later in the day.
Non-Alcoholic Medieval Drinks
Dancha was a kind of tea made by boiling tea bricks and was drunk during the special ceremonies. It was served either warm or cold; however, later, it was used to make ice tea by mixing in water.
2. Lemon Drink
Now known as lemonade, the lemon drink was made by adding lemon and honey to the water. This non-alcoholic drink was enjoyed by both the poor and rich class as a refreshing beverage. Also, it was consumed before the meal to soothe the stomach acids.
3. Barley Tea
Barley tea is a brewed beverage prepared by steeping barley in hot water. Also, honey was added to enhance its sweetness. It was served hot. It was rich in beneficial nutrients and used to improve digestion.
4. Chicory Water
Chicory water was made by soaking chicory sticks in water. It was used to ease digestion and improve blood sugar problems.
5. Sage Water
Sage water was one of the popular drinks in medieval times. The sage was soaked in the pitcher of water overnight until it became saturated and left its flavour in the water. It used to taste very refreshing.
6. Cold Almond Milk
Almond milk was very famous in England in the later medieval period. However, its original recipe included wine, but it was also made by adding vinegar or grenadine to make it non-alcoholic.
7. Rose and Lavender Drink
Rose and Lavender drink was one of the women’s favourite medieval times drinks. It was made by adding rose and lavender petals to the sweet water. It was left overnight and was drunk cold. It was considered a popular dinner table drink to soothe the belly.
Granatus was a thick and sweet pomegranate syrup that was primarily an Arabic beverage but became very famous in medieval Europe with time. In this drink, the pomegranates were pressed and reduced into syrup and fermented for months before use. It was served by diluting it with hot or cold water and adding sugar to it.
9. Clarea of Water
Clarea of water was a spiced honey drink that was drunk cold with meals. The local spices were added to the water and honey and were brought to a boil. It was left at room temperature and was drunk in the same way.
There were also other alcoholic and non-alcoholic medieval drinks, but we have tried to mention all the most popular ones. People in the medieval era were both fond of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The purpose of consuming these drinks was to keep them hydrated and offer nutrients to their bodies that were not available in the water. You also don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated. If you enjoyed reading about drinks in medieval times, don’t forget to share this article. Cheers!