History of Alcohol

Read on to know about the history of alcohol from the ancient times.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2018
Alcohol dates back to a very early part of man's history. As per many archaeologists, wines made of grapes seem to have existed for more than 10,000 years and other alcoholic drinks like mead have existed for even longer.
When we look back on history, it is easy to gather that alcohol had been used socially for many diverse purposes like providing courage in battles, calming feuds, sealing pacts and celebrations. Here, we will see how alcohol can be traced right from the Egyptian times to today.
Egypt
Since the discovery of late Stone Age beer jugs, it has been established that intentionally fermented beverages existed as early as the 10,000 BC (Neolithic Period). The Egyptian pictographs clearly show wine as a finished product circa 4000 BC. Brewing and alcoholic drinks have been a very integral part of the early Egyptian civilization.
This fact can be established from the symbolic evidence that while many gods were local, Osiris was worshiped throughout the country. The Egyptians firmly believed that Osiris was an important god who invented beer, which was an important beverage.
They made at least 24 types of wine and 17 types of beer. The alcoholic beverages were used for pleasure, nutrition, rituals, medicine, remuneration, and funerary purposes where the beverages were stored in the tombs of the deceased for use in the afterlife.
China
Many alcoholic beverages have been used in China since the prehistoric times. Wine jars from Jiahu which dates back to 7000 BC are the earliest evidence of alcohol in China. The fermented drink was produced by rice, honey, and fruit.
In China, alcohol is known as Jiu and is considered to be a spiritual food which played an important role in their religious life. As per a Chinese imperial edict at around 1116 BC, it was believed that the use of alcohol in moderation was prescribed by heaven.
Greece
The first alcoholic drink that obtained widespread popularity was mead. It was made in 2000 BC in Greece by fermenting honey with alcohol. However, by 1700 BC, wine too gained a lot of popularity and was also incorporated into religious rituals. It became an important part of hospitality, an integral part of meals and was also used for medicinal purposes.
People of Greece enjoyed their alcohol in several ways like warm, chilled, pure, mixed with water, and spiced. Further, habitual drunkenness was rare in Greece although intoxications at banquets and festivals were common. The Greeks put a lot of stress and importance on moderation.
India
In the Chalcolithic era of the Indus Valley civilization, alcoholic beverages again made an appearance. A beverage distilled from rice meal known as Sura was very popular among the Kshatriya warrior and the peasant population.
The Hindu Ayurvedic texts have described the benefits of the alcoholic beverages along with the consequences of intoxication and alcoholic diseases. Alcoholic drinks in India are considered to be a taboo among many religious sects including the devout adherents of Buddhism and the Hindu Brahmin caste.
Pre-Columbian America
Alcoholic beverages were developed by many Native American civilizations, some of which are still produced today. The traditional native beverage of Mesoamerica was pulque or octli which was made from the fermented juice of maguey.
Mezcal was obtained by distilling pulque, and tequila is a form of mezcal. It is believed to be beer but the main carbohydrate was a complex form of fructose and not starch.
South America produced Chichi, which is a Spanish word for a variety of traditional fermented beverages. Fruits, corn, and manioc root formed the main ingredients of chichi. Native American populations of Brazil made the traditional alcoholic beverage known as Cauim which was very similar to chichi.
A characteristic feature that set cauim apart from other alcoholic drinks was that the starting material is cooked, chewed and then re-cooked before fermentation. The saliva that is present in the ingredients of the cauim break down the starches into fermentable sugars.