10 Fascinating Alcoholic Drinks From Ancient Societies

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Vote up the ancient alcoholic drinks you'd like to try.

Today's alcoholic beverages range from canned Strawberritas to expertly crafted cocktails, but modern bartenders aren't the first people to invent adults-only drinks. In fact, there are plenty of types of weird ancient liquors that have survived in the historical and archaeological records. These ancient alcohols don't always sound appetizing, but they're definitely fascinating.

Beer is one of the oldest beverages still being enjoyed today. The Egyptians were big home-brewers, though their drinks were soupier than most modern imbibers would prefer. The ancient drinks of the Greeks include kykeon, a mysterious barley-cheese beverage. But drinking in the ancient world often involved psychedelics as well. That shouldn't be surprising; after all, liquor in the ancient world was often used in religious rituals.

Unusual wines, agave extracts, and hearty ales have been enjoyed for centuries. Consider the history contained in that bottle of beer the next time you crack one open.


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    Falernian Wine

    Falernian Wine
    Photo: John Reinhard Weguelin / via Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Thanks to their conquests and trade, the ancient Romans had access to a lot of great wine. Falernian was considered one of the finest, hailing from Campania in Italy.

    According to Pliny the Elder, Falernian wines were thought to be the second-best of all wines. He claimed that Falernian was best after aging for fifteen years. Very high in alcohol content, "it is the only one, too, among all the wines that takes fire on the application of flame," said Pliny.

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    Photo: Art of Manliness / via Pinterest

    Pulque is arguably the most storied alcoholic drink in Mexico's history, serving as an ancestor of mescal and tequila. It's made by fermenting, not distilling, the sap of the maguey plant (AKA agave). It contains a lot of probiotics, and has served many purposes over the years.

    In mythology, the milky white beverage was said to have been invented in a lost divine paradise, although humans probably first started drinking it about 4000 years ago. The Aztecs also used it as a religious stimulant.

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    Photo: Egyptahotep / via YouTube

    Shedeh is a mysterious ancient Egyptian drink whose contents scholars still debate. Was it wine, made from pomegranates or grapes, or perhaps blended from both? The term "shedeh" has no translation in modern English, and the only Egyptian text that chronicled how it was made said it was filtered and heated - but the papyrus it was found on was incomplete. Whatever it was, shedeh was apparently a beverage fit for the pharaohs: King Tutankhamun's tomb contained an amphora of the liquor.

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    Photo: blogs.getty.edu / via Pinterest

    This ancient Roman spiced wine sounds quite lovely. Sweetened with honey and boiled down, conditum remained a popular alcoholic drink from Roman times into the Byzantine era and beyond. An ancient recipe even survives in a Roman gourmand's cookbook; this one is recommended for travelers and includes pepper.