Monday, November 5, 2012
by Eliza Knight
I am definitely a lover of wine. I visit wineries, attend wine festivals and when I go to the Renn Faire, I imbibe in a glass or two of mead. Lucky for me in my town there are several wineries! One of which has a famous Mead, they sell to the Renaissance Festival … Yum! Since I’m a historical writer, I often think about whether or not my characters would be doing what I’m doing. What sort of drinks did they have back in medieval times?
Water – if water was boiled it could be purified, but people rarely drank it and when they did it wasn’t always boiled first. Water had too much bacteria in it. You know what went into the water? Shudder. Water ways were treated as a sewage of sorts. Excrement, trash, carcasses…
Milk – Milk from animals was for children only. Adults didn’t drink it—although they did enjoy almond milk. A milk-cow was considered a prized possession. Especially if the family was starving and the mother couldn’t nurse her baby. Those cows saved a lot of babies from starvation. Milk was also provided by goats.
Ale – was made from grains and very thick. Think beer but not strained enough. Often they would drink watered down ale.
Wine – the poor had no wine. It was very expensive. The middle class had watered down local wine, and those with money generally had the good stuff. In England, for the nobility, wine was often imported from France or Italy. Funny that today, the French and Italian wines are still the top of the line.
Caudell – was wine or ale that was beaten with raw eggs to make a frothy beverage. I wonder if the guys who were trying to pump up their muscles devoured this drink often?
Cider – made from apples, but I wouldn’t serve it to your children today although children in the medieval era often drank watered down fermented—alcoholic—beverages, because it was safer. It was usually mixed with mead or some other alcoholic beverage.
Mead – is an alcoholic beverage made from honey and grains. It was often flavored with hops to give it that bitter beer flavor.
Perry or Poire – pear juice…but again, not for modern kiddies. It’s fermented, and similar to the cider.
Spiced wine – also known as Clarey or Claret. It was wine spiced with cinnamon or honey, and other spices.
Distillates – these are alcoholic beverages made from grains, and very strong. Think of liquor. (Whiskey was made quite a bit in Scotland and Ireland!)
Murrey – blackberry wine
Prunelle – juice of wild plums and berries, fermented into a wine or liqueur
Melomel – this is mead that contains fruit, like berries.
Methegin – was a type of mead made with spices.
Hippocras – mix of wine and spices
By the way, in medieval times it was okay to drink alcohol with breakfast. Do you think I could get away with it, if I said I was doing it for research? How did they function? Then again, if you were constantly drinking alcohol, I suppose you built up quite a tolerance. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I (Reigned 1558-1603) loved her cordials—a spiced liquor.