A Toast to the Ancient History of Happy Hour

New book explores the early drinking habits of our ancestors.

July 13, 2017 5:00 am
The History of Ancient Humans' Happy Hour
Floor mosaic depicting a fortified farm and farmers drinking a toast, from a home in El Alia, Tunisia. Roman Civilization, 2nd Century. Tunis, Musée National Du Bardo (Archaeological Museum) (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

That happy-hour cocktail you can’t get off your mind right now? It’s been dreamed about for a lot longer than you might think.

As biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern found in his latest book, Ancient Brews: Rediscovered and Recreated, ancient humans enjoyed a good alcohol-related buzz just like their modern kin would.

McGovern went the extra mile, actually concocting ancient recipes and seeing if they held muster for today’s drinker, according to Smithsonian. (The book includes some recipes you can try at home.) The drinks he attempted to make included wines, beers and “extreme fermented beverages,” some of which originated in China and Mesoamerica.

“We usually do not have an airtight argument that a particular recreated beverage was made in antiquity in the same way or with all the same ingredients,” McGovern wrote in the book. “Our ultimate objective is to gather as many well-verified pieces of the puzzle as possible, hypothesize about what ingredients most likely went into the brew and how it was brewed, and then try to replicate it.”

McGovern also suggests that alcoholic consumption may have led to early enlightened thought. “Once you have fermented beverages, it causes a change of behavior, creates a mind-altering experience. I think that could be important in developing language, music, the arts in general and then religion, too.”


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