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PLUS ¥Viva la resistencia! Pulque as the ultimate rebel drink * Divine intervention How the monks transformed drinking habits * Honey, I drunk the meads The bee brew’s back

Exploring the origins of good drinking


Contents Hot Rum Cow – Issue 10 – #HRC10

Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved. Medieval German saying


Ape�tif 06 Me and my drinking Dan Aykroyd

18 Strange magic A short history of distillation

08 Quaffing quackery Four of drink’s more dubious medicinal claims

20 Selling stout How advertising became the true genius of Guinness

09 Lies, damned lies and statistics US drinks advertising versus consumption

26 Cofftail culture Luke Gibson on coffee cocktails 28 Salute the strange Three cheers for the weird and wonderful world of toasting

10 Drinkers through history No. 10: Boris Yeltsin

32 Booze brothers What did the monks ever do for us? Allow Hot Rum Cow to explain

12 How to ... master sabrage Learn how to open a bottle of bubbly with a great big sword 14 Science or fiction? Can a cup of joe and a fry-up sober you up? 16 A thousand words The world’s largest glass of beer

42 Liquid lunch Food historian Seren EvansCharrington lays on a boozy medieval banquet


52 ¡Viva la resistencia! What has 400 breasts, is rife with debauched rabbits and smells of revolution? The story of pulque



Editorial enquiries Simon Lyle


Design and illustration enquiries Eric Campbell

56 In search of the medieval pint We brew up a forgotten pleasure

Advertising enquiries David Riddell

Subscriptions Ewen Hosie

Hot Rum Cow is published by White Light Media. 54 Timberbush, Edinburgh EH6 6QH. Tel: 0131 555 6494





Hot Rum Cow – Issue 10 – #HRC10

Fraser Allen EDITOR


Liz Longden


Eric Campbell



Christina McPherson, Malcolm Triggs, Ewen Hosie DESIGN

Matt McArthur, Ross Daniel Russell, Sarah Tucker DIGITAL


Jo Allen


International Media Sales David Riddell 0141 563 1381 / 07899 790818


WHO? Published by White Light Media Ltd, 54 Timberbush, Edinburgh EH6 6QH. Printed in the UK by Cambrian Offset Ltd. Hot Rum Cow is distributed by MMS. THE LEGAL BIT All rights reserved.

Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. All prices are correct at time of going to press but are subject to change. The paper used for this publication is made from FSC certified sources using 100% ECF pulp. This magazine can be recycled through your kerbside collection or at a local recycling point. Cover illustration: Matt Sloe



Fea�ures 62 Perpetually playful potations Opening up a compendium of drinking games through the ages 68 The sausage of the spirits world How whisky links the world and World Whisky Day links its drinkers  @HotRumCow


84 Interesting drinks worth trying No. 10: Escubac 86 Of myths, magic and mead A mead renaissance inspired by a psychedelic past

72 Find your style Perry

96 Time, gentlemen, please An extract from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II

78 Liquid legacy Exploring the lives of the latest in three long family lines

98 Ask Eric Our resident expert answers your questions

Printed on FSC mixed sources paper




A gentle introduction to a flavoursome magazine > Dan Aykroyd > Booze Quackery > Lies, damned lies > Drinkers through history > How to ... sabre champagne > Science or fiction? > A thousand words




Other than your own vodka (naturally), what is your favourite tipple? That would have to be Patrón Tequila, which is the logical choice for any premium Margarita. Launching Crystal Head Vodka all started when I brought Patrón Tequila to Canada because Canadians didn’t have a premium tequila for them to enjoy. Then it dawned on me that there was no ultra-premium vodka that didn’t contain sugars either. I just wanted something better to serve my guests – something to rise above some of the less expensive products. My thought was surely a better, more naturally smooth taste and mouth-feel were achievable. You must have propped up the bar with some colourful characters over the years. Who was the best drinking companion? It’s always wonderful to enjoy a drink with John Alexander, my co-founder and American artist of the brilliant skull bottle design.

We’re based in Scotland. Your character Elwood Blues supposedly has a Scottish uncle, and your own family also has some Scottish ancestry. Have you ever visited? Scotland is a wonderful place that I’ve visited many times. I filmed parts of The House of Mirth with the brilliant Gillian Anderson in Glasgow. Speaking of Glasgow, you’re clearly a big music fan – did you know there used to be a band from that fair city named after you called Dananananaykroyd? What’s the weirdest thing a fan has done in your honour? Fans always give me the most amazing gifts. One fan made a lounge chair with Crystal Head bottles in the armrests – a truly unique creation. I have even seen several fans tattooed with Elwood on them.

If you were getting a round of drinks in for Elwood Blues and Ray Stantz, what would you get each of them? Elwood Blues would enjoy our signature cocktail – the Canadian Mule, made with Crystal Head Aurora, our new ultrapremium wheat-based vodka. The new vodka offers a drier, bolder and spicier flavour. Ray Stantz is a man, much like myself, who enjoys a simple creation. Crystal Head Vodka, dry vermouth, two olives and a pearl onion. Shaken well with ice. And how do you feel about the new female-led Ghostbusters film? I know the women in the Ghostbusters movie are going to deliver a new and exciting film! Melissa, Kristen, Kate and Leslie are doing amazing things with the franchise. You were nominated for an Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy. If you could play someone you admire in a film, who would you choose? General Cutis LeMay [World War II US Air Force General]. If you were a condemned man, awaiting your fate, what would your last drink be? Crystal Clear – Crystal Head on the rocks with fresh lime.




QUAFFING QUACKERY Booze and medicine have shared a long and chequered history. Many drinks developed from medicines while many ‘medics’ made dubious claims about the health-giving qualities of drinks – here are four of the most outrageous


Decades before it received its reputation as a bohemian drink, absinthe was used during the French Revolution as an all-purpose elixir. Allegedly invented by a French doctor, this anise-flavoured spirit was considered to have medicinal purpose due to the presence of trace amounts of wormwood, used in Europe as a medicinal herb. The more outlandish historical uses made of absinthe include its application in the treatment of kidney stones – ironic considering both alcohol and wormwood are bad for the kidneys – and epilepsy – which is also ironic, as wormwood contains the compound thujone, known to exacerbate seizures.



Gaétan Picon, a French soldier stationed in Algeria, invented this caramel-flavoured bitter, popular now as an aperitif in France. He originally designed the drink as an elixir to aid his recovery from malaria. It was distilled using macerated orange zest, bitter gentian, quinine and caramel. While the drink did not provide any notable defence against malaria, Picon made his own recovery, and later found success with the drink as an aperitif. He died in his seventies in the year 1888.

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS 40 years of US alcohol advertising expenditure and how much alcohol people there actually drank


Brandy was a popular medicinal drink in the 19th century. An extreme overview of its healing properties can be found in the Rev. Samuel Fenton’s snappily titled 1847 journal The Excellent Properties of Salted Brandy as a Most Efficacious Medicine and Sedative for Internal as Well as External Diseases, Inflammation and Local Injuries. In it, Fenton cites salted brandy as a cure for just about everything, from plague and gout, to the common cold.


2011: $542,886,494

400 300 200


Wine has been used medicinally for thousands of years, with accounts stretching back to the days of ancient Egypt. In more recent terms, however – if you can call two millennia ago recent – vermouth was prescribed for several ailments. One historical base for what we know now as vermouth hails back to 400 BC; this ‘Hippocratic Vinum’ was formulated by famed Greek apothecary Hippocrates to treat – among other things – intestinal worms.

1971: $9,303,105

ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION Gallons per capita 1971 22.2 gal

28 26 24 22 20

2011 24.6 gal







Each issue we take a look at a notable drinker from history. This time it’s the turn of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin


he first president of post-Soviet Russia, Boris Yeltsin left behind a mixed legacy; at the end of his presidential tenure in 1999, he was believed to have held a public approval rating as low as two per cent. While he helped to usher in an era of post-glasnost Russian prosperity, he was ruthlessly corporate, creating massive wealth disparity among the Russian population. While he forged new ties with Western allies, he was also the orchestrator of violent conflict in Chechnya. Aside from his controversial politics, however, Yeltsin is well remembered for his drinking. A PR’s nightmare, Yeltsin was often prone to displays of jovial-yet-inappropriate public inebriation, and YouTube probably has a server dedicated to space for his drunk-dancing videos alone.


Other incidents wouldn’t come to public attention until later on. In 2009, Bill Clinton described to a writer how Yeltsin was once found by security standing outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue trying to find a taxi so he could go get some pizza. In his pants. The next night, he was reportedly found by security again, stumbling around the basement of Blair House, the White House’s guest residence. Yeltsin, then, was something of a tragic drinking figure, polarising Russians and non-Russians alike with his erratic and unpredictable behaviour. After a long struggle with a poor heart (he underwent quintuple bypass surgery in 1996), Yeltsin died of congestive heart failure at the age of 76 on 23 April 2007.


In 1992, Yeltsin played the spoons on the Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev’s head at a state banquet held by the ex-Soviet country. In August 1994 in Berlin, he snatched a baton from a conductor and drunkenly led a band, and attempted to sing along with an orchestra. A month later, he stood up the Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds at Shannon Airport, when he was too drunk to leave his plane. He even compared Swedish tennis player Björn Borg’s face to meatballs at a nuclear weapons conference in Stockholm in 1997.

Yeltsin was once found by security standing outside the White House so he could go get some pizza. In his pants.

Peated Malts of Distinction brings together an unrivalled collection of peated malts for every palate, from the lightly peated flavour of The Ardmore to the heavy peat smoke of Laphroaig. Each single malt boasts its own unique, distinctive and smoky flavour.



ILLUSTRATION: Tom Humberstone

Neither the easiest nor most practical way to open a bottle of bubbly, serve via decapitation – known as sabrage – is nonetheless the coolest. It can take a bit of practice, so read on for some pointers to avoid taking your fingers off.




Hold the bottle away from your body at a 30- to 45-degree angle with offhand, and place sabre or knife in dominant hand.

PREPARE THE BOTTLE Remove the foil from the head of the bottle. Unwind the wire cage, place cage slightly above glass lip of bottle head and re-tighten.

3 THE KILLER BLOW Using the seam of the bottle as a guide, hit the lip of the bottle head using the blunt end of the sabre. Try not to sweep in an arc or at an angle – instead use a straight, punching motion with moderate force.


4 CHAMPAGNE SUCCESS If done correctly, the cork and top of the bottle should pop off, leaving a clean cut along the neck.

COLLECTIVELY DISTINGUISHED. INDIVIDUALLY UNIQUE. The artful distillation of modern Scottish gin • /edinburghgin




~SCIENCE OR FICTION? Can coffee and fry-ups really sober you up? Let science explain.


ou’ve probably seen it in the movies or read it in a novel at some point – some drunk needs a quick-cut sober-up in time for that big job interview, or that high noon showdown or that meeting with bae’s parents, so they reach for a strong cup of joe. Or maybe they’ve got the hangover from hell and dive headfirst into a stonking great doner kebab. According to research, however, coffee and greasy food may not actually be as effective as you’d hope. People get the impression that coffee in particular may aid them in their attempts to get sober because it is a stimulant, but it doesn’t actually quicken the rate that the body processes alcohol. The American Psychological Association published reports of an experiment led by Temple University in Philadelphia in 2009 that looked into measuring whether intoxicated mice got better at navigating a maze containing unpleasant stimuli, such as bright light and loud sounds, when injected with caffeine. The study concluded that “caffeine failed to reduce ethanol-induced learning benefits”. The boozed-up, 14

uncaffeinated mice had general problems avoiding the stimuli compared with the sober ‘control’ mice. The mice that were intoxicated and caffeinated at the same time, though more alert, didn’t fare any better in avoiding these pitfalls either. Caffeine, therefore, is not a particularly good idea when drunk, as it can trick the mind into a false sense of sobriety, leading to poor decisionmaking. If you’re looking to

sober up quickly, you’re better off just sticking to water. Similar research from Northern Kentucky University shows that caffeinated energy drinks, often used as cocktail mixers, can also mask the effects of drunkenness. A study of 18 participants showed that people who drank alcoholic energy drinks often rated themselves as feeling more sober than people with the same blood alcohol level who had consumed only alcohol.

When it comes to food, a greasy fry-up won’t sober you up properly either – the only thing that can really break down the alcohol in your system is time – but the combination of bread, bacon (and fat) found in a fry-up breakfast can help when you’re feeling rough the next day. Protein in bacon assists the breakdown of amino acids, increasing the production of neurotransmitters in the brain that help dull the thud of a hangover headache. n


A large beer The world’s largest glass of beer, to be more precise

The world’s largest glass of beer was produced and poured by Angus Wood and Ed Dupuy of the Stod Fold Brewing Company in Yorkshire, England in July 2014. It contained 2,082 litres, or 3,664 pints – one for each of the kilometres in the Tour de

France cycle race which was passing through Yorkshire that summer. The beer was Stod Fold Gold ale and the glass measured 2.23 metres in height and 1.12 metres in diameter. It took one hour to fill the glass.




A short history of distillation WORDS: Liz Longden ILLUSTRATION: Ross Daniel Russell

1st–3rd century

SOAKING IT UP There is no evidence of distilled alcohol in antiquity, but the principle of evaporation and condensation was observed, if not understood. The philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias noted that “sailors at sea boil sea water and suspend large sponges from the mouth of a bronzen vessel to imbibe what is evaporated. In drawing this off the sponges, they find it to be sweet water.” A WOMAN’S WORK The invention of the still is widely attributed to a woman – ‘Maria the Jewess’, an alchemist working in Egypt somewhere between the 1st and 3rd century AD. Basic in design, it consists of a distillation vessel (cucurbit), still-head (ambix), delivery tube (solen) and receiving vessel (bikos). The earliest known sketch of one of Maria’s stills, by the Greek alchemist Zozimos, shows three receiving vessels, giving it the name ‘tribikos’.


8th–13th century

ISLAMIC INNOVATION The Muslim scholars of the Islamic Golden Age (8th–13th century AD) had little interest in distilling alcohol, but helped its cause by collating and refining the distilling technology of earlier scholars, mostly for the production of perfumes and cosmetics. Their legacy is preserved in much of the language we use today – alembic, alchemy, alkali, elixir and, not least, alcohol. The word comes from the Arabic ‘al-kuhl’ (‘the kohl’) – referring to the powder make-up, which was obtained through distillation. ‘Alcohol’ was not used in its modern sense until the mid-1600s.

13th century

A VENETIAN BLINDER By the 13th century AD, the development of sophisticated techniques among the glass-blowers of Venice made possible stronger glass, as well as the creation of more intricate forms. One example was the Florentine scholar Taddeo Alderotti’s ‘canele serpentinum’ (now known as the ‘worm-cooler’) – a curling solen, which ran worm-like through a trough of cold water, giving more effective condensation and better-quality distillate. Before long, entire stills could be sculpted of glass, bypassing the need for glues, which deteriorated at high temperatures, and making higher temperatures – and purer distillates – possible.

12th–14th century

HEAVENLY SPIRIT ... AND DARK ARTS There is no evidence of distilled alcohol until the 12th century. But once aqua ardente (‘burning water’) was discovered, alchemists were hooked. Seth C. Rasmussen, in his book The Quest for Aqua Vitae, notes that some thought this mysterious substance, which looked like water but which burned with a blue, gemlike flame, to be Aristotle’s elusive quintessence – the ‘fifth element’ of which the heavens were made. For others, it was the work of the devil – in 1380, Charles V of France made the ownership of a still a capital offence.

17th century

ANIMAL MAGIC The 17th-century alchemist Giambattista Della Porta argued that the able distiller must study nature to select the optimal ‘container’ for a given fluid. Just as the bear has a thick body and small neck to allow its ‘furious’ humours to escape quickly and easily, so ‘flatulent’ fluids, Della Porta argued, must be distilled into a broad-based, bearshaped vessel. Gentle fluids, on the other hand, following the example of the ostrich and the stag, require a long, graceful neck in order for the distillate to be adequately refined. For the distillation of wondrous aqua vitae was reserved the pièce de résistance, the magnificent seven-headed hydra.


How advertising became the true genius of Guinness


WORDS: David Walsh

he two men would have beaten a similar path through the Liberties to one I myself am now treading. Tasked with intelligence gathering, copywriters Oswald Greene and Bobby Bevan visited the Guinness brewery in 1927 to learn all they could about stout in the hope it would spark their creativity for the inaugural Guinness advertising campaign. It was a seminal moment. Nearly 90 years on, a bitterly cold wind, enriched with the coffee aroma of roasting barley, roars through the same cobbled lanes they strode down as I follow on their heels into the bowels of the old St James’s Gate brewery. I’m on my way to meet archivist Eibhlin Colgan at the Guinness Storehouse, the nerve centre of the brand as we know it today and home to its archives. For the contemporaries of Greene and Bevan, she is often the first port of call for new campaigns. In much the same way, I’m hoping my visit will be a point of departure in understanding the advertising juggernaut that Guinness has become. “Lord Iveagh was reluctant back in the 1920s to advertise. He very much felt that if you had to self-promote your product, it meant that your product was sub-par,” explains Colgan, pointing to an austere, wall-mounted newspaper clipping. “When he was eventually convinced that this was the way the world was going, he laid down the diktat that he would only allow the company to advertise if the quality of the advertisement was the same as the quality of the beer.” The column advert is matter-of-fact in tone, limited in illustration. It simply details and emphasises the company’s achievements, as well as its notable health benefits: “Guinness builds strong muscles … It enriches the blood; 20

Strength, sea lions and surfers sure sell stout


Doctors affirm that Guinness is a valuable restorative after influenza …” While it was the first use of the well-known slogan “Guinness is good for you”, it marked an auspicious start for a company now associated with being on the cusp of edgy, often flamboyant advertising. Perhaps Colgan had a point, though. As a company, Guinness had been successfully operating for 170 years before the first national advertisement was printed in Britain in 1929. What need was there to advertise? Of course nowadays, that’s a rhetorical question. Like a red-brick fortress, the former plant in which we’re standing guards the company’s unique history and folklore. There’s an immediate sense you’re never too far away from the ghosts of generations of brewers past. Even in the warren of laneways running between vat houses, the skeletal remains of the brewery’s disused narrow-gauge railway protruding up through the wet cobbles are a reminder of past glories. Back then, these rails would have been used to transport 8,000 casks a day, as well as to haul malt wagons, spent grain and hops around the 64-acre site, by then the largest brewery in the world. As synonymous as it may be with Irish culture globally, Guinness itself represents part of the soul and mystique of a bygone Dublin. And while barges charged with casks no longer puff up and down the River Liffey, the brewery is as much an integral part of the glass-fronted cityscape of modern Dublin as it has ever been.

“I have always been a jolly man and I thought the Guinness campaign needed a touch of humour” – John Gilroy

Without digging too deeply, it’s obvious that advertising has acted as the linchpin to secure this legacy for future generations of Dubliners. What isn’t so glaring, however, is how Guinness became such an advertising force to be reckoned with seemingly overnight.


pread out on the bench in the archives room are what can only be described as the inner workings of a creative genius. During 35 years of his career, John Gilroy produced well over 100 classic Guinness press and poster adverts, first as an in-house artist at S. H. Benson’s advertising agency and later as a freelancer. A chance visit to a circus changed the course of advertising forever when Gilroy spotted a sea lion balancing a ball on its nose. It was the first and arguably the finest of a series of “My Goodness, My Guinness” adverts that went on to feature a series of zoo animals, characters instantly associated with the brand. Perhaps the most emblematic was the exotic toucan, which appeared extensively on billboards, memorabilia and later gable end murals on pubs across Ireland. “When all these animals were produced, it was the 1930s and they were mainly shown in smog-filled London – just after the 1929 crash, a little bit of a grim place probably to be living,” says Colgan. “Then there’s these really different, colourful icons beaming down from billboards. I think the toucan really caught the public’s imagination the most. They took it to their hearts.”

A pencil sketch from John Gilroy’s sketchbook and a finished advert from the ‘Guinness for Strength’ campaign 22

Gilroy also produced some of the most enduring advertising images of the period with the “Guinness for Strength” campaign (a message that would fall foul of today’s advertising codes), which included the likes of a 1934 ad of a workman carrying a girder and a 1949 ad of a farmer pulling a horse and cart – Gilroy’s personal favourite. The drawings Colgan has dug out from the archives in front of us all happen to be concepts for this particular campaign. “He would have started off with the initial pencil sketches, and you can see it was literally torn out of a blotter or sketchbook. He would have developed from this into colour crayons or colour charcoal,” says Colgan, “and then into full-on water colours. “You can really see his creative process, how he would have gone about taking an initial idea and really developing it up and then working thoroughly to the final product; you can even see here he’s tippexed parts out on this one.” The attention to detail and his technical skill with a range of implements is impressive. In one instance, you can see how he agonises over the positioning of the arms of a concert pianist carrying off a grand piano, sketching first in pencil then brusquely doodling in ink below it. In the subsequent version, his modifications are made and presented in colour, with the slogan “Guinness for Strength” roughly positioned in crayon. “There’s always that little bit of humour. Just that small detail that you maybe wouldn’t notice at first glance.” For his part, Gilroy later said in an interview, “I have always been a jolly man and I thought the Guinness campaign needed a touch of humour.” This was certainly evident in the unflattering caricature of himself he employed as the distraught zookeeper outwitted by his menagerie of mischievous animals. Such timeless humour also stands out in a sketch for an abandoned “My Goodness, My Guinness” poster depicting a man consuming his doctor’s pint of Guinness intravenously, harking back to the interwar period when post-operative patients and blood donors were given Guinness for its purported high levels of iron. Gilroy produced his last Guinness artwork in 1961. By then, the winds of change had shifted and the power of a new medium was

Guinness’s famous toucan, created in the 1930s

becoming ever more prevalent. Television had reached the UK by the mid-1950s, with ITV, the first commercial channel, launched in September 1955. Once static figures looking down from billboards, the familiar guise of the hapless zookeeper and a canny, Guinness-poaching sea lion – Gilroy’s first characters – were suddenly real and moving, prefaced with the grainy flicker of text on the black and white screen: “A Guinness poster comes to life.” The Guinness advert was one of the first shown in the first ad break on the first night of commercial television in Britain. A baton had been passed from one medium to another.


Top left: The first poster created by Gilroy in the ‘My Goodness, My Guinness’ campaign Main: Gilroy’s favourite poster in the ‘Guinness for Srength’ series. Above: A sketch from his notebook



e waits. That’s what he does. And I’ll tell you what: tick followed tock followed tick followed tock followed tick.’ With perhaps one of the most memorable monologues in the history of television, ‘Surfer’ has been consistently voted one of, if not the best, TV adverts of all time. For Yvonne Chalkley, the AMV BBDO agency producer who worked on the project, it was a career-defining moment. While the contemporary discipline of advertising has changed beyond recognition since Gilroy’s

golden age of print advertising, Chalkley in many ways echoes the man who spent much of his career working on Guinness advertising. Of her five campaign adverts for the Guinness account, ‘Surfer’ has by far become the most memorable. “Tom Carty and Walter Campbell – the AMV creative team who wrote the ‘Surfer’ script – were inspired by a picture they found depicting horses as waves in the sea,” she says. “They had already written the script and story but then got the thought of making the waves into horses.”

The painting in question is Neptune’s Horses, an oil painting from 1892 by a prolific artist and illustrator of the Victorian period, Walter Crane. The association between white horses, galloping atop the crest of tsunami-like waves driven along by Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, and ‘Surfer’ is clear. But as striking as the concept is, this alone surely would not have made the advert as iconic as it was to become? “I think getting the director, Jonathan Glazer, on board really moved the idea on. He also had a vision and together they [Carty and Campbell] totally pushed the idea,” says Chalkley. “Even to having it in black and white.” Guinness initially resisted the Sexy Beast director’s monochrome stylings, Chalkley explains, preferring it to be in aired in colour. “Even at the edit stage the clients were insisting we keep it in colour. But once we got into adding the horses they came on board with our vision of black and white. I think it would have had a huge effect on the film if it had been in colour.” While filming in Hawaii, the crew were fortunate enough to make use of the largest swell in 10 years. Despite shooting with a group of skilled local surfers, they struggled to find their ideal protagonist, the face of the advert. “We finally found him sitting on a beach – he wasn’t a great surfer but had the right look. As he couldn’t surf the huge waves, we had to film another surfer and put our lead guy’s head onto him.” A further four-day shoot was needed back in the UK to film white horses against a green screen to juxtapose with the surging crest of the wave. With so many variables working against them during a long shoot – not least a reliance on temperamental animals and Mother Nature – there was a lot riding on the execution of the final piece. Of course, the creative process didn’t cease when the cameras stopped rolling. “Finding such a great track – really underground at that time – with the beat it had, made the film come alive,” says Chalkley. With so many elements needing to harmonise, the project could have failed had the script and voiceover been flat and prosaic against the distinctive beats of Leftfield’s ‘Phat Planet’. Chalkley agrees. “The inspiration of the poetic words made a big difference. This

“Even at the edit stage the clients were insisting we keep it in colour. But once we got into adding the horses they came on board with our vision of black and white. I think it would have had a huge effect on the film if it had been in colour” – Yvonne Chalkley

happened quite late in the day really. It was inspired by Under Milk Wood and Richard Burton’s voice. I think this added another layer and level to the piece.” Written by the celebrated ‘drunken and doomed’ Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood, the ‘Play of Voices’, was first broadcast on BBC radio with an all-Welsh cast just weeks after his premature death in 1954. The narrator on the broadcast was Hollywood wastrel Burton, a role he would reprise several times over the decades in subsequent radio and TV productions. Rewatching ‘Surfer’, you can imagine the euphonious baritone of the Shakespearean actor deftly replacing the voice-over in the advert. “���Here’s to you, Ahab!’ And the fat drummer hit the beat with all his heart.” n

‘Surfer’. Consistently voted one of the best TV adverts of all time



n Mark Pendergrast’s history of coffee, Uncommon Grounds, he describes how a drink that started out as a rare and exotic commodity was grown on five continents by the late 18th century and “aided considerably in the sobering of an alcohol-soaked Europe”. This bitter brew was a far cry from what we’re used to today though, with sugar, milk, spices and even alcohol added to make it more palatable. A century later and one of the earliest coffee cocktails (a spiced cocktail containing brandy and orange) was created in New Orleans, eventually leading on to familiar concoctions like the Irish

How to make a cold brew cocktail

Cofftail culture Luke Gibson wakes up to the coffee cocktail

Coffee and the Espresso Martini. Today’s bartenders have access to a huge range of coffees, with an increasing number of people seeking out signature varieties over blends. Coffee grown in different regions is exposed to a range of temperatures and climates resulting in unique flavours. A light roast like an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, for example, has light and floral notes, a great contrast to the bold and intense profile of an Indian

The Abyssinian Awakening • 45ml cold brew coffee (I used Yirgacheffe – see below) • 45ml Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum • 15ml Grand Marnier • 5ml maple syrup • A dash of Fee Brothers Chocolate Bitters • A dash of Fee Brothers West Indian Orange bitters Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a glass. Garnish with orange peel.


Monsoon Malibar. Different brewing techniques can also bring variety. One technique that has become popular recently amongst baristas and bartenders is the cold brew method, which replaces heat with time. The coffee is left to steep in cold water for 12 hours or more. Certain compounds usually found in roasted coffee beans and that are soluble at high temperatures, such as bitter oils and fatty acids, aren’t extracted during the cold brew process. This changes the flavour of the coffee as it is less acidic, and is fresher and brighter in (it shouldn’t be confused with iced coffee, which is prepared hot before adding ice). n

The low acidity of the coffee complements the citrus flavours from the Grand Marnier and bitters making for a bright, refreshing cocktail. For the cold brew The Kyoto process uses a Yama slow drip system, both sophisticated and expensive – the apparatus wouldn’t look out of place in a chemist’s laboratory. But my method for cold brewing is quite primitive, can be done with little equipment and works well.

Ingredients • 120g coarsely ground coffee • 1 litre water Add both the water and coffee to a Mason jar and, after giving a good stir, leave for 12 hours. Filter through a sieve and then a cheesecloth to remove all coffee granules. Coffee can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. If serving hot, add 1 part cold press coffee to every 3 parts hot water.



Please enjoy Auchentoshan intelligently

Salute the strange Defying the devil, wooing women and laying down loyalties – a journey into the weird and wonderful world of toasting


WORDS: Alastair Turnbull ILLUSTRATION: Ross Daniel Russell

very time you raise your glass and say a few positive words then take a drink, you are continuing a tradition that dates back into pre-history. Toasting, or ‘drinking a health’ as it was originally known, has been practised for thousands of years and is one of the very few things common to practically all countries and cultures. In Britain today, when we toast we go through certain rituals: someone says a few words, we clink our glasses together and shout, "Cheers!" – but where did these customs come from and how have they changed over time?

The thinking on clinking

We can’t be certain exactly when and where the custom of clinking glasses started but there are three main schools of thought. The first suggests that people wanted to enjoy their drink with all five senses. They could 28

use their eyes to see the liquid, their noses to smell it, their tongues to taste it, their mouths to feel it and, with the clinking of the glasses, their ears to hear it. The second maintains the early religious belief that evil spirits are scared of the sound of bells (a good reason for churches to have them). When you clink your glasses together you make the sound of a bell, which scares away the devil. This works well if the vessel is made of glass or metal but our ancestors mainly drank from a common bowl or wooden cups and wineskins. But this didn’t stop them from making a racket before drinking. Early Germanic tribes would bang their wooden tumblers on the table; Tibetans would tap loudly on the sides of their cups; Attila the Hun and his hordes even decorated their wineskins with bells and clanking metal objects, all to scare away evil spirits. The third school turns to the Ancient Greek and Roman Empires. At the time it was quite common to try and kill an enemy by inviting him into

the home and giving him a poisoned drink. So how did potential victims know if their drink was safe? If it was a large gathering the host would fill his wine goblet from the common bowl and drink it in front of all the guests, proving that the wine was safe and of good quality (this tradition still lingers on, especially when ordering wine in restaurants). If there were only a few people gathered in the house the host would pour a little of his drink into each guest’s cup, which they would then pour back into the host's cup to be drunk simultaneously – proving that the drink was safe. When a guest was sure he could trust the host he just touched, or clinked, his glass with the host’s glass.

Cheers! over the years

The word ‘cheers’ didn’t come into use until the end of the 16th century, but its happy arrival coincided with the start of the golden age of toasting in the 17th and 18th centuries. ‘Cheers’ stems from the Old French word ‘chiere’, which meant ‘happy facial


expression’, ‘good mood’, ‘good mental health’ etc. It crossed the Channel to England in the 14th century as ‘chere’. “What chere be with you?” meant, “How are you?” Over the next few hundred years this was corrupted to ‘cheers’ and was associated with hospitality and entertainment. When you said, “Cheers!” to your drinking companions you were wishing them well, wishing them good fortune and happiness. Little has changed since then beyond the spread of the use of ‘cheers’ to mean anything from thanks to goodbye and much more.

A funny way to show you care In the 17th and 18th centuries toasting became so popular that you couldn’t go to a lunch, never mind a formal dinner, without hearing a few well-thought-out and practised toasts. Indeed, it was almost rude to take a drink in company without giving a toast. This proliferation of toasting led to some strange practices. When toasting a woman the man would sometimes draw blood from himself and mix it with the wine before drinking it. This was meant to show how much he wanted her. Seventeenth-century students took this further and added such things as ink and ash before drinking the wine. Another way of showing feelings towards a woman was to fill her shoe with wine, then toast her finer qualities and drink the wine. The ‘ultimate toast’ also came into use during this period and is usually associated with the Russians. An ultimate toast had all participants first stand. The toast was given, in the case of Russians, to the Tsar, and then the glasses drained and thrown into a huge fireplace or smashed on the floor. The thought behind this was that no lesser man than the Tsar should be toasted from the same glass. This was also practised in England 30

when toasting the king. The Scots took this toast one step further as they would put their right foot on their chair and their left foot on the table and throw the glass over their left shoulder. Most of the drinking and toasting that took place at dinner parties over the past few hundred years took place after the meal. This was because the women went to one room (to keep them safe from rudeness and vulgarity), and the men went to another. If some of the men wanted to challenge each other they would have

An ultimate toast had all participants first stand. The toast was given, in the case of the Russians, to the Tsar, and then the glasses drained and thrown into a huge fireplace or smashed on the floor a toasting contest. One would say a toast then drain his glass and the others would follow suit. This would be repeated until only one of the men remained standing. In the morning the women would often enquire as to which of their ‘champions’ had won the contest.

Secret salutations

Over the years a whole host of ‘secret’ toasts have been used to bond together drinking societies, revolutionaries and secret organisations. This usually takes the form of a toast within a toast, or an action during a toast to indicate your real intent. Unsurprisingly, few of

these toasts are now known but one example is the Jacobite toast. The Jacobites were Scottish revolutionaries defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 by the Hanoverian army. Their leader, Prince Charles Stuart (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie), fled by sea to France. At official dinners in the English court when a toast was called for to the king, the Jacobites would raise their glasses and drink, but before they drank they would pass their glass over water, (usually a finger bowl on the table), signifying they were toasting their king in hiding. The king of England found out about this practice and was so angry about it that he ended up banning all finger bowls at official functions.

Diplomacy by dinner toast

Today, toasting is in decline. We seem a little embarrassed by the formality of standing and speaking in public. This may be due in part to the hijacking of this tradition by people with their own agenda, especially politicians. Many have used a ‘toast’ at formal occasions to get their political point across and others have replied with their own in mind. One such toast, 700 words long, given by Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang at the White House in 1984 was eventually used as the basis of a nuclear cooperation treaty between China and the US. Later that year Ronald Reagan was accused of “conducting diplomacy by dinner toast” but the story shows how far toasting had come from humble beginnings. Customs may have changed over the centuries but toasting has survived as a platform to express one’s thoughts and feelings. So, lift your glass, make yourself heard and add your twist to the strange custom of toasting. n




WORDS: Liz Longden ILLUSTRATION: Matt Sloe

What did the monks ever do for us? Beer, wine, spirits, mead, liqueurs – if you can drink it, and be drunk from drinking it, then monks have made it and drunk it – often in copious quantities. Trappist beers are prized throughout the world; Chartreuse – the original top-secret recipe, beating Coca-Cola by around 300 years – has been made by reclusive mountain monks since the 1600s; and some of the world’s best wines have been made in monastic vineyards. In an intoxicating combination of the earthly and the divine, medieval monks (and sometimes nuns) were instrumental in making the leap from the dark ages of drink to the enlightenment of modern libation. We take a look at their glorious, thirst-quenching legacy. CONTINUED


In the early middle ages, beer was a rather homely affair, typically brewed up by the woman of the house in a pot over a fire. It was small-scale, primitive and ad hoc. But then came the monasteries. The guidelines for monastic life laid down in the Rule of St Benedict stated that monks should be self-sufficient. They also had to provide for guests, pilgrims and travellers. Producing a steady and large supply of beer to meet the demand presented a logistical challenge, one which required planning and forethought. A brewery, in other words. The St Gall Monastery plan is a 9thcentury blueprint for the ideal Benedictine monastery and shows a leap forward in brewing. According to Richard Unger, in his book Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the plan includes three 34

separate breweries – for monks, for pilgrims and for the poor – each with a hearth room, for brewing, and a cooling room. Within the hearth room are four stoves, surrounded by four mash tuns, while the corridor contains two vats for cooling or fermenting. There is also a kiln for malting and a mill for grinding malt, cellars for storage, and the breweries are situated next to the bakehouse to ensure warmth all year round. It was, Unger notes, “a new level of beer making”, not only better organised but with better equipment, better techniques and the emergence of “artisans who developed special skills to produce beer”.   Fittingly, the claimant to the title of oldest continuously operating brewery in the world, churning out the barrels since at least 1040, is the Weihenstephan (‘Holy Stephan’) brewery, formerly of Weihenstephan Abbey, and now owned by the Bavarian authorities.

The introduction of hops was a decisive innovation in beer making. They likely improved its quality, by necessitating the boiling of the wort; they dramatically altered its flavour, bringing it close to something we would recognise today; and, thanks to the preservative effect of the hop resins, they made it last much longer, therefore making it commercially viable and paving the way for the modern beer industry. The first record of hops being used in beer goes back to 822 and the Benedictine monastery of Corbie, in Normandy. The first description of their preservative qualities in

beer comes courtesy of the Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, who, in the mid 12th century, noted that “its bitterness keeps some putrefactions from drinks”, making them last longer, despite the unfortunate side effect of “weighing down the internal organs” and causing melancholy. We can speculate that non-religious brewers may have also been using hops in beer, but we know for sure that monks and nuns were. It’s not too difficult to imagine why religious orders might have led the way in experimenting with hops. For hops to be effective in beer, they have to be boiled at length, meaning a large amount of fuel was required. Such a practice would be disproportionately costly for a small household brewing on a domestic scale. For a convent or monastery, many of which were far from poor, it would have been much more realistic, especially if it gave the possibility of stockpiling beer for times of unforeseen demand.


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Medieval wine was not, it seems, all that great. In fact, it could be very bad. In his book Inventing Wine, Paul Lukacs gives an idea of just how bad. Frequently festering with bacteria, and not just cloudy but sometimes opaque with dead yeast and gunk, medieval wine would probably be undrinkable to a contemporary palate. The practice of frequently storing it in filthy leather bags, which added more infection and other flavours besides, hardly helped. To hide the foul taste, herbs, honey and anything with a strong flavour – including mustard, pepper and garlic – were typically added. Wine was sold as quickly as possible, in a race against the clock, before it turned to rotten vinegar. Yet in Burgundy, a different kind of wine was being produced, and a reputation for excellence was being forged by the region’s monks and monasteries. Over the course of the middle ages, monasteries acquired vast tracts of land and vineyards from pious or penitent nobles and, thanks to an abundance of time, money, education, patience, cellars and a ready workforce, the monks were able to work on recording and systematically improving their

produce, leading to a wine which soon became renowned. According to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, it was the local Cistercian monks – who also produced the first Chablis wine – who were responsible for the discovery of a new philosophy which underpins wine production even today: terroir, or the varying character of different areas of land which lends different qualities to wine. It was also probably a monk who discovered the beneficial effects of pruning – although officially the St Martin of Tours’s donkey is given the credit. Legend has it that Martin – now patron saint of wine sellers – carelessly tethered his hungry donkey in a monastery vineyard and returned to find the crops embarrassingly reduced. The woes of the brothers were apparently short-lived, however, when the crop sprang back next year better than ever. The Cistercians weren’t the only monks producing wine, but they certainly were keen. According to the historian Deborah Vess, the 16th-century Cistercians at Steinberg, in present-day Germany, had a wine vat measuring 28 feet long by nine feet high, held together with fourteen ropes, and with a capacity of 22,000 gallons.


Wine, for the medieval Church, was not just a vital ingredient of the Eucharist and the miraculous transformation of the blood of Christ, it was a way of life, and part of Christian culture. In Inventing Wine Paul Lukacs argues that encouraging a love of wine amongst the “barbarians” was an important part of the Church’s expansion strategy. “The clergy worked to convert these peoples, an activity that involved introducing them not only to sacred doctrine but also to secular culture”, he writes. “Wine was a central part of that culture. Thus as Christianity spread, so too did viticulture.” New vineyards were planted and new wines were made by priests, monks, friars and nuns wherever possible, even in places where wine was previously unknown. Northern France, Germany, the Balkans, Austria and Hungary all have the monasteries to thank for the birth of their wine industries, while new vineyards were also laid by the brothers in North Africa, Burgundy and Palestine. They even had a go at growing vines in Ireland.


The origin of whisky is a notoriously slippery subject. There is very little documentation, allowing the vacuum to be filled by a number of fanciful, but nevertheless frequently repeated tales, most often that it is an ancient Celtic drink. In fact, circumstantial evidence points to Irish monks. The first reason to suspect the monks is that distillation of alcohol is a relatively modern craft – there is no record of it at all before the 12th century – and its roots lie not in folk customs, but in alchemy and the experiments of Islamic and ancient Greek scholars. A prospective distiller therefore needed to be literate, with access to books, and in the days when knowledge was stored physically in libraries, medieval monasteries were the intellectual powerhouses of the day. Thanks to the network of religious orders across Europe, monks also had greater means

than most to travel, for example to southern Europe, where alcoholic distillation is believed to have originated. Distilling equipment was also expensive – precluding the art from all but the wealthiest. And monasteries were frequently wealthy. Finally, distillation was more than a way to produce strong alcohol. It was seen as a quasi-divine process, a metaphor for the spiritual quest of the Christian soul, freeing the pure ‘spirit’ from the corruptible earthly body. It’s hardly surprising that it attracted the attention of monks – and we know that monks were distilling in the very early days of the art, because, as Seth C. Rasmussen, in his book The Quest for Aqua Vitae, points out, in 1288, only around 100 years after the earliest records of distillation, the Dominican monks of Rimini were banned from owning a still by their superiors, suggesting, perhaps, that they had been indulging a little too much.


Mashing up herbs into heady concoctions is a monastic tradition that appears to stretch back centuries. Distilled alcohol had been seen as restorative and life-giving from its inception and botanical additives were thought to give further enhancement. And we’re not talking a sprig of rosemary or sprinkle of vanilla, but a gustatory cacophony of flavourings. When it comes to herby monastic creations, more is definitely more. Les Aromas de Montserrat, for example, is a herbal liqueur originally made by Montserrat monastery close to Barcelona, concocted from 12 herbs, including thyme, juniper, lavender, cinnamon and coriander. Ettaler liqueur, of the Benedictine Ettal abbey in Bavaria, is allegedly made from ‘dozens’ of herbs. And this pales into insignificance when compared with Chartreuse, made by reclusive Carthusian 40

mountain monks from 130 different herbs, plants and flowers. It might be seen as overkill by some, but French farmers allegedly swear by it as a digestive cure for flatulent cows. Given that a 2006 UN report claimed that livestock generate more greenhouse gases than transport, this interesting quirk also makes Chartreuse possibly the only alcoholic antidote to climate change. And then of course there is Buckfast Tonic Wine, crafted by the brothers of the Buckfast Abbey in Devon and frequently linked with some less-than-saintly behaviour. The exact quantity and blend of herbs is unknown, but some of its secrets seem, nevertheless, to have been revealed, with independent tests allegedly finding the dubious party juice to contain more caffeine than Red Bull.

Christianity dominated medieval Europe and has left a lasting impression, for better or worse, on Western culture. If the fathers of the Church had eschewed booze, there’s a good chance that we might too. Instead they embraced it, drinking up to five litres of beer a day per head in some monasteries. “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world,” sighed St Arnulf of Metz, the patron saint of brewers. He is just one of many saints alleged to have miraculously produced alcohol, following, of course, the example of Christ, who was said to have turned water into wine at the wedding in Canaan. The Catholic Church to this day has an official beer blessing to be used in its liturgy, while the father of the Protestant movement, Martin Luther, was renowned for his love of good beer and, allegedly, the sage advice: “if you are tired and downhearted, take a drink”. Alcohol, in the medieval Christian world, was both a precious gift and an everyday necessity. And that is arguably a very fine legacy, even for a largely secular world. n



LIQUID LUNCH In each issue of Hot Rum Cow we challenge a top chef to cook a three-course meal with booze at its heart


Christina McPherson

Food historian, period cook and consultant Seren Evans-Charrington prepares a medieval feast fit for Hot Rum Cow’s lords and ladies


David Anderson



ushing open the heavy, bolted door of Law Castle is akin to falling through a medieval looking glass. The white tower house in West Kilbride was built in the mid-15th century by a groom for his betrothed princess; now a red velvet throne inscribed in Latin and adorned with a metal crown takes centre stage in the candle-lit Great Hall. Disguised in the corner is a murder hole where hot oil could be poured over unwanted visitors. Casually lying about are stocks, swords and a ball and chain, hinting at the hall’s past use as a courtroom that saw infamous trials like that of Lord Kilmarnock, accused of kidnapping King James III of Scotland. Fast forward 600 years, and the Great Hall is the setting of Hot Rum Cow’s medieval Liquid Lunch. In residence is food historian, period cook and consultant Seren Evans-Charrington, who is creating a feast that would have been worthy of any princess. Evans-Charrington enthuses that the medieval period was a vibrant time for food history: “They were starting to really explore where food could take us and the glamour and the excitement of food, [we began] eating with our eyes, not only our stomachs … Food is actually quite colourful. There’s lots going 44

on and they would eat things that we wouldn’t even consider now like peacocks and swans. Us British, we are great culinary borrowers. We were looking at continental food and saying, ‘You know what? That looks pretty interesting.’” From a foundation in social history, EvansCharrington studied medical herbalism and became interested in how closely food and medicine were linked in the medieval period. “Things such as cloves that we now class as food were chewed after eating to help with indigestion or with toothache,” she explains. “It is interesting that a lot of things we now regard as a spice or herb: we look at them

Crustade lumbard

from a culinary point of view. Back in the medieval period, they were interested in them as a form of medicine; herbalism was really one of the first sources of medication.” From looking at food from a “kill or cure” perspective, Evans-Charrington became interested in food history, with her knowledge on the subject spanning the medieval period through to 1970s retro food. She has appeared on radio and TV, works as a consultant on food history to large brands, holds private dining experiences for people, and regularly hosts live cookery demonstrations at events. People now have many misconceptions about medieval food, she continues: “A lot

A prune, date and parsley custard pie, this is a modern redaction of an authentic 15th-century recipe Sprinkle pieces of bone marrow with salt, place on a baking sheet and cook for 10–15 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, scoop the marrow out and set aside. While the bone marrow is cooking, prepare pastry for the pie. Sieve flour from a height into a bowl, and work small cubes of salted butter into the flour until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Add beaten eggs, strands of saffron and mead liqueur. Gently work together until you have a ball of dough, flour it lightly and put into the fridge to rest. For the pie’s filling, add chopped prunes, chopped dates and mead liqueur to a large saucepan and set over a moderate heat. Add cinnamon, ginger and ground nutmeg to the fruit and stir until most of the mead has reduced. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine double cream, fresh chopped parsley, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt. Beat them together. Add the egg and cream mixture to the cooled fruit, and stir in the roasted bone marrow. Line a tart tin with the chilled pastry and pour in the filling. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling is set. Alternatively, the pastry can be rolled out in a circle with the filling in the centre and hand-formed into a pie as Evans-Charrington did.


of people think it was very bland and not particularly appetising. It depends what level you were at and it is exactly the same today. If you have plenty of money, then your diet would be, generally speaking, better than if you were on a really tight budget.” A peasant’s diet would have been “less exciting”, revolving around food like pottage, a hotpot of boiled barley soaked in goats’ milk with leftovers and dried food added. The higher ranks of society embraced a variety of spices in their cooking to display their great wealth. “We wouldn’t think of combining some of the spices with some of the savoury foods,” says Evans-Charrington. “We have a divide today, where we tend to think of, for example, cinnamon as a sweet spice. They didn’t care: it was a spice; it showed great wealth; it showed that you were well travelled, of a status. They would use every spice they had available in every dish.” In an effort to increase profits, spice traders would invent charming, outlandish stories 46

surrounding their goods, she continues. Longgrain pepper was known as ‘grains of paradise’; cinnamon purportedly came from the nest of a phoenix; and black pepper came from a serpent-infested island that had to be set on fire to retrieve the pepper, hence its colour. Would they have cooked with alcohol, like we are doing today? Evans-Charrington says that they didn’t drink or cook with water, but not for the reasons we usually think: “We tend to think that they wouldn’t cook with water because of the idea it wasn’t very hygienic. They had no concept in the period of germs. What they believed was that water

STEP INTO THE DARK Av a i l a b l e f r o m W h i s k y S p e c i a l i s t s Fo l l o w u s o n :

w w w. h i g h l a n d p a r k . c o . u k Please enjoy our whisk y responsibly

was a cold substance. It was going to make you melancholy; it wasn’t particularly good for your constitution. They believed that ale and wine were far better because they were warming, they would actually give you vitality. Mead tended to be drunk.” Again, there was a class divide. The lower classes drank ale while the upper classes would have drunk both ale and wine: “Certainly wine was becoming more sophisticated by this period. Mead was generally brewed in this country as a local drink. Ale too was obviously brewed in this country, but wine was being imported which gave it a higher social status. They would look at getting the finest when they banqueted.” Feasts were competitive affairs and houses would try to outdo each other. Lords and ladies prided themselves on providing a unique dining experience for their guests: a chessboard made out of marzipan or a pie filled with live birds could make an appearance on a banqueting table next to, for example, a roasted swan, cheese and cinnamon pie, and sugar sculptures. Food was theatre, as Evans-Charrington explains: “It wasn’t just about eating, it was about showing your status and your wealth, and it was also for entertainment. They were very much interested in food to deceive; 48

Ale-marinated mallard with honey and ginger One mallard is enough for two people, but why not dine like real medieval lords and ladies and have a mallard each? Put the mallards in a roasting tin and rub a thin layer of butter over the ducks, then tuck a small knob of butter inside them. Using a pestle and mortar, crush juniper berries and whole peppercorns with a little coarse sea salt. Rub the mixture over the ducks. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat. Pour pale ale over the ducks, then continue roasting for 20–30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes until the skin is browned and lightly crisp. Lift out the ducks and put them in a warm place to rest. Put the roasting tin over a moderate flame, pour in the remaining ale and add honey and strands of saffron. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve any pan-stickings into the liquid. Season with salt and pepper and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. When the sauce has started to thicken slightly, pour into a small hot jug and serve with the roasted mallards.

things that weren’t quite what they looked, like sugar plates and marzipan fruits. Another dish that I’ve created was a meatloaf that looked like a giant peapod. Or you might get something that looks like an egg but actually isn’t; it is made out of sugar or marzipan. For example, the gilded mallard today, in amongst those eggs you might have had one or two that weren’t really eggs. The idea was to have something to really amuse the guests.” As Evans-Charrington puts the finishing touches to Hot Rum Cow’s feast, I ask her what was the most peculiar food eaten. “They had a lot of fish days then as they were very religious. They believed red meat, you see, would bring out carnal lust, so they limited the amount of days you were allowed red meat. What they decided, the wonderful medieval men and women, was that beavers were actually fish as they swam in the water. I don’t think it did much for the beaver population. So on fish days they could eat them. I can’t imagine us sitting down to a roast beaver.” n 50

Caudell Wine thickened with eggs for a liquid pudding In a saucepan, beat together wine, egg yolks, sugar, honey and a pinch of saffron. Heat the mixture over a low heat, stirring continuously until the caudell is thick and fluffy. Be careful not to let the mixture burn. Serve at once in small glasses. Here, Evans-Charrington has used Wincarnis Tonic Wine, a blend of enriched wine and malt extract infused with a variety of botanicals including mugwort, fennel seed and peppermint leaves.

¡Viva la resistencia! A brief homage to Mexico’s lesser-known national drink WORDS: Liz Longden ILLUSTRATION: Steven Carroll


hat is the ultimate rebel drink? A Cuba Libre? A slug of Prohibition-era bathtub gin? A dram of illicit whisky distilled far from the prying eyes of the excise man? They’re all candidates, but there is another, arguably better contender. It keeps a low profile, but its history is sacred and tells the story of a nation. Pulque, a milky drink crafted from the sap of the maguey plant, has almost 2,000 years of history behind it, and a significant stretch has been marked by resistance. As a symbol of the working classes, it has been stigmatised, censured and targeted by Mexico’s social elites since the 17th century, while in recent decades it has been hit hard by the ubiquitous reign of beer and the rise of its compatriots, tequila and mezcal. Add the fact that it becomes slimy and undrinkable within days of fermentation and you have a drink that, by rights, ought to be long extinct. Yet it has been defying the odds, and occasionally the authorities, for centuries. Because pulque is more than just a drink – it is a symbol of a people, part of the Mexican soul and psyche. “The history of pulque is the history of Mexico,” says Dr Deborah Toner, Lecturer in


Modern History at the University of Leicester, who, together with Rocio Carvajal, has written a chapter on pulque in the book Authentic Recipes from Around the World. “And what makes it remarkable is that its status and place within Mexican society has changed so much. So it’s a really good way, actually, to see changes in Mexican history and the social structure and cultural values.” Archaeologists believe that pulque’s origins go back to around AD 200 and that it was first brewed up by the Teotihuacan people – who predate the Aztecs and built Mexico’s largest pyramids – for use in religious rites. Mythical tales of its provenance abound in popular culture. These include the story of how the goddess Mayahuel, who took the form of a woman with 400 breasts, was transformed into a maguey plant, thus transferring the nourishing powers of her milk to pulque; and the belief that its invention led to the creation of the Centzon Totochtin, a band of 400 debauched, party-loving rabbit gods. However, after the social, cultural and political earthquake of the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, pulque lost its spiritual status and became instead the popular drink of farmers and the working people. Pulquerías, the


establishments where pulque was licensed to be served, sprang up in the countryside and in Mexico City, and became social hubs for the lower classes. In the 19th century, with the expansion of cities and the growth of a vibrant, urban working class, these ‘pulque pubs’ came into their own, spawning a distinct culture, which included the development of their own aesthetic, with brightly coloured decor and unique glassware. At the same time that pulquerías were booming, however, they were despised by the upper and middle classes, who saw them as a corrupting influence on the poor and as an instigator of social disorder. “Even at the height of its popularity when hundreds of thousands of people were drinking [pulque] on a daily basis, it was still controversial,” Toner says. “For the more elite social sectors running the government and trying to impose social reforms, pulque was really a target. They hated it. They wanted to get rid of it.” Pulquerías were outlawed for a time in 1692, and in later centuries seats, benches, food, music and games were all periodically banned, in an attempt to bore away the customers and strangle the life from pulque-drinking culture. The suspicion and scorn directed towards pulque mirrored the prejudice expressed towards the masses, and particularly towards the indigenous people of non-European origin: it was ‘unsophisticated’, it was ‘crude’, it was ‘backwards’. The fact that the alcohol content of pulque is similar to that of beer, which was positively viewed as a modern drink, and that it is actually very nutritious, lends weight to Toner’s claims that the anti-pulque crusades were more about a power struggle between the classes than genuine concerns about the well-being of the poor. “Rather than really understanding the inequalities within Mexican society [the upper classes] blamed pulque and a few other things for, in their eyes, the backwards condition of the Mexican lower classes. So it’s built into really quite hostile class politics that have shaped Mexican society.” 54

One of the drink’s peculiarities is that it can only keep for a matter of days, before it begins to become first thick and then slimy and, ultimately, undrinkable


ulque weathered the storm, but some of the negative connotations have stuck and, since the mid-20th century, modern consumer trends have also contributed to its demise. Although pulque still survives and retains an iconic status in Mexican culture, its consumption has been on the decline as beer, wines and spirits have moved in to partially take its place. That trend is far from unique. There are many regional speciality drinks threatened by the tsunami of globalised commerce, which in the 21st century can sweep across even the most geographically isolated markets. Products which can be made quickly and cheaply, and transported easily, will always have a decisive economic advantage over local products made more slowly and on a smaller scale. But often the same pressures that threaten these drinks can also come to their rescue. As the global drinks market experiences a backlash against products perceived as generic, many producers have been able to market their own, region-specific drinks as an ‘authentic’ or more interesting alternative and, in doing so, expand their customer base.

Pulque cannot make such a pact with the devil, even if it wanted to. One of the drink’s peculiarities is that it can only keep for a matter of days, before it begins to become first thick and then slimy and, ultimately, undrinkable. Its traditional reach, the absolute furthest it can be transported, is around 100km into Mexico City. And while attempts have been made to produce tinned, pasteurised pulque for the ex-pat Mexican community, they have been met with disdain by many – Toner says she is yet to meet someone who believes it to be anything close to the fresh original. And it’s here, perhaps, that pulque’s true rebel spirit comes out: it is a drink that refuses to march to the beat of globalised commerce. It can’t be marketed, packaged or exported – if you want it, you have to go and get it, at the point of production, where it is crafted by hand, in small batches. And it has to be enjoyed there, in the moment, with no stockpiling or taking bottles away as souvenirs. It is the antithesis of modern consumption, proudly and almost absurdly anachronistic. “In contrast to things like craft cider and craft ale, where you could make those products into well commercialised ones that can still be distributed over a large geographical area, with pulque you really can’t,” says Toner. “Pulque can’t adapt to those kinds of changes, so it almost has to resist.” There are parallels in pulque’s plight to that of medieval ale. Locally made in small batches and highly perishable, that drink didn’t survive the arrival of hops and the birth of the commercial drinks industry (see p56). Yet pulque is older and has held out for longer. Can it defy the odds and stretch out into a third millennium? Perhaps surprisingly, Deborah Toner says there is “cautious optimism”. One reason, she says, is the growing appreciation of Mexican cuisine, and, within that, a recognition, “for the first time”, of the indigenous contribution to food and drink. There is an increasing

interest and pride in indigenous heritage, manifested in regional food festivals, in which pulque plays an important role. The importance of the maguey plant to sustainable agriculture is another factor in pulque’s favour. Not only can the plant grow in poor-quality soil unsuitable for other commercial crops, but in doing so it helps to prevent soil erosion. This makes it worthwhile for farmers to continue to grow maguey – and make pulque – even if on a smaller scale than in the past, and even if only for consumption within local co-operatives. There are also signs that a new generation of Mexicans are beginning to take an interest in this quirky sweet-and-sour drink that has played such an important part in their national history, and which is becoming once again a source of regional pride. But above all, there is a sense that pulque is just too deeply a part of the soul of Mexico for it to die now. “It’s been a part of Mexican culture, albeit in different ways, for the best part of 2,000 years,” Toner says. “So regardless of the market forces that have led to the decline in pulque, it’s difficult for it to disappear entirely because it’s so embedded.” n

FIND OUT MORE: ▼ Consuming Authenticity is a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The book Authentic Recipes from Around the World is one off-shoot from the project, and includes articles not only on pulque, but also on Welsh cider, Cypriot flaoune pies and Brazilian acarajé. Free copies are available for all, subject to availability. E-mail Dr Deborah Toner (dt151@ to get yours.



“It is my design to die in the brewhouse, let ale be placed in my mouth when I am expiring”



Allison Kunath


– The 7th-century Irish saint Columbanus (allegedly)


t sounds reasonable enough, but, in fact, no one is really sure what an early medieval ale tasted like. It may have been awful, the last thing you would want swilling around your tongue as you breathed your last. Beer histories wax lyrical about the drink’s ancient and illustrious lineage, but it has been a long evolution from ancient Sumarian bread-beer to a crisp pint of lager. Would we even recognise what Columbanus was drinking as beer, let alone like it? How would a medieval ale compare with, for example, a modern IPA? I would like to find out and to help me I enlist the help of Dr Kristen Burton, a researcher at the University of Texas who has written on, amongst other things, beer in England in the middle ages and early modern period. She kindly supplies me with a recipe and instructions based on her research, and a bit of a briefing on the ins and outs of medieval beer.

The first thing to be clear on, she explains, is that, in the middle ages, ale and beer were totally different drinks. In today’s usage, ‘ale’ typically means a beer which is ‘topfermented’ – as opposed to lager, which is ‘bottom-fermented’, with a different kind of yeast. For medieval English drinkers, however, ‘ale’ was a traditional drink flavoured with herbs, and ‘beer’ an innovation from the continent flavoured with hops. This apparently small detail had a huge impact. For a start, Burton says, adding hops gives “radically different flavours”. Today, almost all beer styles are hopped, even those, such as Mild, which are not particularly bitter. It’s therefore difficult for us to imagine how an unhopped ale might taste, but we know that the difference was significant because evidence shows the English initially rejected ‘beer’ when it began to appear in the 1400s. Hops also contain preservative resins,


which prevent the beer from souring, potentially for months. An unhopped ale, in contrast, had to be drunk within a couple of weeks. Brewing records also suggest that beer required much less grain than ale – while one bushel of malt would typically produce around eight gallons of ale, the same amount could be stretched to up to twenty gallons of beer. Beer was, consequently, an economically superior product, lending itself to large-scale production, storage and even export. Ale, which had typically been brewed up in the home in small batches, could barely compete. This is probably why beer eventually went on to eclipse ale. English drinkers, in spite of their initial grumbling, soon became used to and acquired a taste for hops, and as the sun set on the middle ages, humble, traditional, kitchen-brewed ale began to disappear. Now, six centuries later, it is but a faded footnote in history. Can we resurrect it?


etailed written records about domestic brewing are relatively scarce and Burton warns that a lot is not known. The gaps have necessarily been filled in with supposition, based on what we know was available. Even so, the instructions seem ludicrously simple. Far from the world of contemporary home brew, with its boilers and mash tuns and wort chillers and hydrometers and temperature control units, all that is needed is a big pot, a stove, a bucket and a bag. It seems so easy. What could possibly go wrong? The first thing to come to terms with is a total lack of sterilisation. With no concept of microbes or bacterial contamination, looking clean was clean enough, and a scrub with a brush and some hot water is all that’s allowed. For a contemporary home brewer, for whom sterilising solution is the near constant companion, this is some mental hurdle to clear. My scepticism is doubled when I see the ingredients list – a barley-heavy mix, with a bit of wheat and rye thrown in, weighing in at just 2.5 kilos, for a batch of 20 litres. A modern-day recipe for homebrew would use more like between four and seven kilos. It’s a struggle to imagine how the ale is going to be anything other than watery and rancid. But then comes the exciting part. Before hops boringly conquered the beer world, brewsters apparently improvised with just


about whatever they could find in order to enhance, or maybe mask, the flavour of their ale. In his book Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Richard W. Unger gives a list of known additives which would give the most attention-seeking ‘experimental’ craft brewers a run for their money: ginger, cumin, mint, sage, acorns, bay leaves, ground ivy, thistles, wormwood, juniper and tree bark, among others. The most common additive, however, was ‘gruit’, a specific mixture of herbs, which remains a mystery to this day. Medieval documents are full of references to gruit, which was so important that they even introduced a gruit tax, but no one knows exactly what it was – Burton says that individual recipes were prized, and a closely guarded secret. Bog myrtle is thought to be one important ingredient, along with rosemary and yarrow, although no one knows for sure. Burton recommends using these three herbs in equal parts, mixing them up with the grain in a mesh bag. The bog myrtle – which turns out to be surprisingly difficult and expensive to get hold of – has a pungent, musty smell. It reminds me of mistletoe. Yarrow smells a bit like tea. And rosemary smells like a Sunday roast. None of it smells like anything I would want to put in a beer. Undeterred, I heat up a huge pan of water to boiling point, drop in my mesh bag, filled with grain and herbs, and leave it to steep, like a giant teabag, for a few hours. In conventional modern brewing, the grains would be heated up in a ‘mash’ to an optimal temperature to release the enzymes from the malt, which convert its starches into sugars, and the resulting ‘wort’ would then be boiled. This not only clears the beer but, most importantly, kills off bacteria. However, Burton says that this practice appears to have been introduced with the arrival of hops, which need to be boiled to release the resins. Ale brewsters apparently didn’t waste their fuel with such fancy, fangled, foreign faff, and so instead I just leave the bag to soak, and watch with trepidation as the water turns first yellow, then khaki green, until finally, after three hours, it settles on muddypuddle brown. It looks and smells not like beer, but like herby gravy. After four hours, when the wort has begun to cool, it’s time to transfer it to a plastic bucket. Since yeast wasn’t discovered until the 17th century, the pitching of yeast is not

allowed. Instead, I’m instructed to leave the pot uncovered to allow the wild yeast – and any other bacteria that happen to be floating in the air – to casually drop in. I can’t help but be nervous and when I come back to the bucket after four more hours, my fears seem to be confirmed when absolutely nothing has happened. My big bucket of murky, lukewarm gravy sits in the corner of the kitchen, as sad and as still as a stagnant pond. It’s not until around six or seven hours later that what look like little flecks of spit start to accumulate on the surface. Twelve hours later, they are joined by two dead flies. When I lean in to fish them out, I notice that the gravy smell has completely

When I glumly dip in a glass beneath the surface – which is by this point covered with many more dead flies, lots of dust and a few stray hairs – the ale has transformed from muddy-puddle brown to amber


disappeared and in its place is a little whiff of alcohol and some tangy, sour tones. Tiny, tiny bubbles, almost too small to see, are discreetly popping at the surface. Yet even this modest activity appears to die down over the course of the day, and the pot returns to its glum, silent state. Disappointment begins to seep in – with a batch of modern homebrew, there would be a thick cushion of froth on the surface by this stage, and rich, yeasty smells filling the room. The experiment appears to have been a failure. Two weeks later, however, when I glumly dip in a glass beneath the surface – which is by this point covered with many more dead flies, lots of dust and a few stray hairs – the ale has transformed from muddy-puddle brown to amber. Even more bizarrely, it smells a bit like ginger beer. Encouraged, I decide to bravely take a sip. And, admittedly on the basis of very low expectations, I am pleasantly surprised. Strangely, it doesn’t taste anything like it smells. The initial flavour is delicate, dry and lemony, with a slight tang. And then comes a powerful herby aftertaste, that spreads across my whole mouth and up my nose. It is not an exaggeration to say it is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. Sampled alongside a

modern IPA, the difference is dramatic. Without a doubt, the ‘medieval’ ale is more subtle and more aromatic, and the startling differences between the smell, first taste and aftertaste are confusing. The modern beer is more two-dimensional, but the flavours that it does have are clearer and more pronounced. Do I still empathise with Columbanus’s last request? I am mostly just impressed that the ale doesn’t smell and taste as if it might make me ill. Nevertheless, it’s hard to shake the knowledge of the many flies that have festered in the brew and, even if it tastes okay, I can’t quite completely convince myself that it won’t make me sick. The flavours are also a bit too unfamiliar for my 21st-century palate. In short, no, it’s not something that I would want to drink a pint of. Yet modern beer is an acquired taste for most people. Perhaps the ale would grow on me, just as beer eventually won over our ancestors. There is, however, another kind of pleasure to be had from drinking it – in the idea of experiencing something, the banal taste of everyday life, which has been lost for centuries. Brewing up this ale feels like creating a tiny wormhole into our distant past. And that, at least, is pretty cool. n

Brew your own medieval ale If Liz’s attempts at brewing a medieval ale inspire you to attempt one yourself, then use the following as a guide. You’ll need a large pot, a large mesh bag and a container for the ale to brew in. Ingredients • 4lb /1.8kg barley • 1lb /450g wheat • 1/2lb /230g rye (crushed and malted, measures can be approx) • 2oz /60g bog myrtle • 2oz /60g rosemary • 2oz /60g yarrow (all dried)


Method Do not sterilise equipment. Scrub clean with a brush and hot water.



Boil up 5 gallons/ 20 litres of water to boiling point in a large pot.


Once water is boiling, remove heat source and add the grains and herbs in a large mesh bag. Do not boil, but instead leave the bag to steep in the hot water for a few hours.


Carefully remove the bag, transfer the wort to another container and leave to ferment. Do not pitch yeast – the beer should ferment using the yeast naturally available in the air.


Leave for about two weeks, then drink – quickly, before it sours.

Belhaven – or “Beautiful harbour” – nestles among the rolling barley fields of the beautiful East Lothian coast, around 20 miles east of Edinburgh. For nearly 300 years, we have brewed in this place using only the finest barley and choicest hops. Continuing that long tradition, we are proud to launch a range of speciality beers. With big, bold flavours and aromas in a range of tastes and styles, together they represent the very best of Scottish brewing.

Clean Crisp Refreshing

Rich Nutty Smooth

Bold Bitter Juicy

Complex Layered Polished

Deep Dark Intense


Perpetually playful potations Ancient Greek beer pong, Tang dynasty spin-the-bottle and medieval European redneck beer hats – a journey through the ages via the medium of drinking games


WORDS: Malcolm Triggs ILUSTRATIONS: Owain Kirby

uillaume de Pyrenees knows a thing or two about traditional games. As a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), he’s spent years researching, teaching and playing them and is one of the directors of Dragon Con, a science fiction and fantasy convention held in Atlanta each year. Meet him at a party and he’ll break the ice by asking you what your favourite game is. ‘Guillaume de Pyrenees’ is the name he takes in a costume party that the SCA will have been running for 50 years as of this year. But in his day job as an IT security contractor, currently working for the US Coast Guard, he goes by the more prosaic Sam Wallace. Games, Guillaume tells me (for we’ll stick with his nickname here), be they sport, card, dice or board, are found throughout every walk of life. “No matter where you go,

it’s something that people share in common all over the world.” And games of the drinking variety epitomise this. However, they have long suffered from an image crisis. Pictures of inebriated frats partaking in raucous sessions of beer pong or potentially disastrous games of ring of fire abound, doing little justice to a tradition many people are surprised to discover goes back millennia. Today they are routinely banned from university/college campuses and if you hear about them in the media (which you often do), “it’s almost always going to be in conjunction with something having gone horribly, horribly wrong,” says Guillaume. But drinking games are far from a new-fangled phenomenon in the sole dominion of college students, and they’ve not always been regarded with as much disdain as they often are today. (That said, the 17th-century game of ‘bloody buttocks’ would have surely raised a few eyebrows in its day

– more on that later.) Just as games are shared the world over, so too have they been shared across the annals of time and with roots in bygone empires, signifying the past importance of both games and drink.

Ancient Greece

Perhaps it was inevitable that these two traditions – gaming and drinking – should come together, and nowhere was the union more enthusiastically consecrated than in the Ancient Greek symposium. The symposium has no modernday equivalent, but most Athenian houses had one. It was an annexed, circular room, and housed within it were a number of upholstered podiums set against the walls where guests would lie prone. The floor was sloped to make cleaning much easier – and after a session in the symposium there was a lot of this to be done. Vice flowed freely within these walls, not least in the form of wine. “Somebody [usually the host]


In the Italian game of passatella, players had to sit down and begin consuming alcohol, pausing only to deliver verbal insults at one another. This they did with genuine drunken fervour, and games frequently led to fights coordinated the provision of wine,” says Guillaume. “He decided how much it was to be watered down depending on the activities planned. If there was some sort of plan to be made or a serious discussion was conducted, the wine would be fairly watery. If it was a social, hey-have-agood-time sort of gathering, then not so much.” It was in these latter situations that drinking games commenced, and by far the most frequently documented one from the time was the game of kottabos. Consider it a precursor of beer pong, only more potent and considerably more messy. The most common variant had players attempt to topple a precariously balanced cup by filling it with wine. They had to do this by flinging wine from their own cups – most likely the dregs as the

wine was unfiltered. Other methods involved sinking shallow bowls or plates floating in basins of water by the same means, or likewise toppling a metal disc from atop a bronze statuette designed for the game. Needless to say kottabos demanded dexterity, as well as a certain degree of chance, but to the Ancient Greeks prowess in such matters had deeper implications, specifically in terms of sex. It’s undeniably animalistic but at the same time something of a universal truth; we’d call it sex appeal, and it still plays a part in social performances in general, especially within collegiate environments. The only difference is that the Ancient Greeks considered it less taboo than we do today. Where drinking games ultimately afforded Ancient Greeks an

A precursor of spin the bottle was commonly played in Ancient China 64

opportunity to assert their prowess in matters of love, the Ancient Chinese often approached the tradition with a more intellectual mindset. That isn’t to say that drinking itself was carried out with less gusto, though – quite the contrary. In Ancient China, as in many cultures today, solitary drinking was ill-advised. Instead, drinking was approached with ‘renao’, a term which literally means ‘hot and noisy’. And fitting it was, for convivial gatherings in Ancient China, especially during the Tang dynasty, were just that. As the archaeologist Ethan D. Aines writes of the culture in his article ‘Carousing with the Ancients’, “there are notable accounts of bacchanals to rival any Roman orgy.” Nor is it to say that all drinking games in Ancient China were indeed intellectual. On the one hand, there were simple popular games (‘jiuling’) like dice, finger guessing and a variant of rock, paper, scissors called tiger, chicken, worm, board. Each could be readily adapted to incorporate alcohol, required little in the way of equipment, still less intellect, and more than fostered the aforementioned renao environment. Ironically, jiuling games were initially introduced to regulate drinking in social situations by providing guests with alternative activities, and ones which required degrees of etiquette. On the other hand, there were more elegant games, too. One such example was an ancient variation of lawn darts, which, like kottabos, shared much in common with beer pong. Images of zodiacal animals were pinned to targets in a courtyard. If a player’s sign was hit, he would

affair, with players expected to study at great length before games took place, or face dire consequences.

Medieval Europe

have to drink; if he missed, he’d have to take a drink. Rules were strict: one report even claims a player was killed for failing to comply, but this isn’t exactly hard to imagine considering the circumstances. “Play continued until no one could hold a bow,” says Guillaume. “I can’t think of a worse combination.” Other elegant games involved the use of specially crafted woodblock cards and even bespoke wooden effigies as the (loosely translated) game ‘wobbly dolls’ demonstrates. Several of these dolls, dressed in stereotypical Western garb and with fair hair and blue eyes, would be set up in the centre of a room. Players

stood in a circle around them; when a doll fell (the wooden floor presumably being uneven) the player to whom it was pointing had to take a drink of wine. A variant involved spinning one such doll in much the same fashion as one would a bottle today. These games, however, were mere child’s play to the empire’s more elite classes. Literary jiuling was an erudite affair, affording players a good opportunity to demonstrate their intellectual ability in games that involved riddling, verse composition, joking, storytelling and so on. Wine was divvied out to those whose performances were thought to be lacking. It was also a markedly serious

As in Ancient Greece, the common theme in Ancient Chinese drinking games was the assertion of prowess: sexual in the case of the former and intellectual in the latter. When we come to medieval Europe, though, things take a more practical turn. “In terms of justice,” says Guillaume, “drinking games worked out better than duelling. In settling a dispute when you have the two people in disagreement, sit them down, give them a gallon of beer, and if they get through that, then give them another. The first one to have to get up has to concede.” Particularly in central Europe, this alternative approach to duelling was commonplace, and it came in various guises. As Guillaume explains, “in one account there was a brewmaster and a knight who had a disagreement about who could in fact drink the most. They had to quaff a beer each, stand up and thread a needle on one foot, and then rinse and repeat.” The practicalities don’t end there, though. “Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘everything but the oink’?” Guillaume asks. I tell him I have, and wonder where this is leading. “So if you have a pig and you live in an agrarian society, you use ‘everything but the oink’. For example, if you slaughter a sheep, you use every single part you possibly can, including the knucklebones. Knucklebones have a really limited set of uses, but I’ve seen them used in gaming in a number of cultures. And so if you have to have something to drink …”


The penny drops. The population in medieval Europe was heavily reliant on small beer for hydration, it being a more sanitary option than water. What Guillaume believes is that a desire to get the most out of that situation, to imbue a survival tactic with entertainment value, ultimately paved the way for the popularisation of drinking games in medieval Europe. If the medieval layperson had to drink beer from morning to evening, he or she might as well have had fun doing it. Such entertainment afforded frugality of the ‘kicks-for-free’ kind,

but also an escape from what was by and large a tough existence for the vast majority, and few games better encouraged a departure from the here and now than puzzle cups. These were vessels (sometimes conjoined) that sported numerous holes. The player was expected to figure out which holes he or she needed to cover in order to successfully drink from the vessel; cover the wrong holes and the player would suffer the forfeit of being drenched in small beer. Drinking games hinging on fantasy and role-play also appeared, the best example of which was played during

In a bid to assert their Royalist loyalties, tavern players performed elective surgery, usually on their buttocks, in order to extract quantities of their own blood, which they proceeded to toast


festivals. A queen was selected and given a makeshift crown uncannily similar, Guillaume says, to the redneck beer hat – that garish red plastic offering that holds a beer can on either side of the wearer’s head. It was in the queen’s power to select a king, which she did by wandering amongst the suitors. He who got the drink from a connecting straw won the right and its accompanied perks for the day.

Early modern Europe

By the end of the medieval period in Europe, drinking games had become commonplace. The intervening period between then and the start of the Industrial Revolution – what became known as the early modern period – saw the continuous establishment of tavern culture. Games didn’t just take place in such venues – they were expected. Dice games, finger games, drinking songs – what Guillaume refers to as “eternal” drinking games – were the mainstay. Puzzle jugs, too, survived well into this period, now often detailed with lines of verse to taunt the player. But there were some games played during the period that thankfully didn’t become eternal. Take the Italian game of passatella, for example. Its most basic, primitive version had players sit down and begin consuming alcohol, pausing only to deliver verbal insults at one another. This they did with genuine drunken fervour, and games of passatella frequently led to fights. Knives were welcome, bringing a possibly fatal element to each game. A more complex (but no less irresponsible) variation involved role-play. One player was assigned the role of padrone and another the role of sotto-padrone. All players would chip in for a round, from which the padrone would consume the first drink and the sotto-padrone the second. Thereafter, players desirous of a drink had to ask for the padrone’s permission via the sotto-padrone who would accept or decline using

an explanation that would often be charged with insult. Needless to say, a particularly heady game of passatella could easily fall into fighting among the gamers involved. And, as per usual, knives were encouraged. It gets worse. I promised to return to bloody buttocks, and for this we must turn to 17th-century, post-Civil War England. That there is minimal reference to this drinking game (if indeed it can be called such) suggests it wasn’t exactly widespread, and understandably so. In a bid to assert their Royalist loyalties, tavern players often performed a form of elective surgery, usually on their buttocks, in order to extract quantities of blood, with which they could then proceed to toast to their health. Bloody buttocks is, it seems, among the wildest examples to exist of a drinking game fit for teetotallers.

Fun, fun, fun

And so we come back to the modern day, in which drinking games, despite sporting a wealth of history and culture, are now largely confined to the college campus at the hands of those ‘irresponsible’ enough to play them. Indeed, there’s much to be said about moderation when it comes to drinking in general, and excessive drinking is undeniably a common factor within most, if not all, drinking games. But it’s by no means the only one. It comes back to Guillaume’s conviction that gaming is something we share across cultures and times. “Sure, people want to explore their boundaries a little bit,” he says of modern drinking environments. “But there’s always that common theme of it being a social get-together, and you have people do what they do in social get-togethers: they almost always lead to games.”

Drinking games have been around for as long as alcohol has. Guillaume believes it: “Just because there’s no information about drinking games from, say, the Ancient Egyptians, I would still wager – and good money in fact – that they had some forms of drinking games. After all, they had games and they certainly had alcohol.” The study of drinking games – largely uncharted, it seems – can tell us a considerable amount about cultures gone by. Sexual norms, intellectual practices, practical considerations, base entertainment – it is an apparently universal tradition and it should be revered as such. But what the tradition of drinking games ultimately tells us is that at every point in history, we humans have frequently tended to approach the immortal act of drinking with a sense of fun – and we’d be fools not to raise a glass to the fact. Now, who’s for a game? n





Ask a gourmand what food he thinks links the world and his answer may well be sausages. It seems few cultures across our world have failed to realise the potential of this humble foodstuff. Britain has its banger, Germany its frankfurter, Italy its salami, Spain its chorizo, Korea its sundae, Finland its mustamakkara – the list (and the variety) seems positively inexhaustible.


WORDS: Malcolm Triggs ILLUSTRATION: Eric Campbell

ut what of booze? What alcoholic beverage has the equivalent reach of the sausage in linking the cultures of our world? Beer has a foot in this door, no doubt – but mostly in the style of lager when considering the global market. Wine, too, is no stranger, although the cultivation of grapes is mostly limited to specific climates, and the wine produced in more extreme reaches is often (although not always) regarded as novel. There is one such drink, though. It veritably boasts near-worldwide production; it demonstrates cross-border variation; it enjoys global renown; and it commands mass appreciation. It’s whisky.

For the love of Scotch

There can be no underestimating Scotland’s contribution to this end, even if we may argue over the spirit’s precise origin. Many will, of course, point to Scotland as being the spirit’s ancestral homeland. Others will claim Ireland. Spain likely played a part, too. There’s even a suggestion that the Ancient Egyptians were dabbling in whisky, or at least some manner of precursory alchemy.

But in terms of putting whisky on the map, and keeping it there for as long as it has done, Scotland has put in some wondrously hard graft – and continues to do so. As the old Scottish proverb goes, “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky,” and with every day that passes for this small nation, the rivers flow, the mills grind, the mash tuns turn, the stills run, the barrels lie asleep, the angels drink their shares, the bottles are filled and Scotch whisky is offered up to the world. Variation abounds. Scotland’s wild highlands, its remote islands, its rugged coastlines and its pastoral lowlands all imbue whisky with unique qualities. Indeed, individual distilleries are likewise capable of defining the tastes of individual products, making it all but impossible for one to say that one has experienced the whole gamut of Scotch. “Scotch is the world’s favourite whisky,” says Diageo Global Scotch Ambassador Ewan Gunn. “You’ll find a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label on bars from Boston to Beijing and every place in-between. Scotch was cool in Sinatra’s day and it’s cool now – loved in every corner of the globe. Over the past few years there has been an explosion in the number of whisk(e)y makers around the world, many modelling themselves on the traditions and



techniques of Scotch whisky production. Some have produced great whiskies, but none have matched the range and diversity of flavours that Scotch whisky offers – I genuinely believe there’s a Scotch out there for every individual and personality. One of my favourites now is Lagavulin 8 year old, our new expression.”


World Whisky Day

If the tapestry of Scotch has been richly woven over the centuries, then it’s also been shared – and the world is a richer place for the fact. Look at the history of bourbon whiskey and you’ll realise that its pioneers were very often descended from Scotland and therefore well versed in the practice of distilling. Across the globe, the pioneers of Japanese whisky went to great lengths in carefully studying the practices employed within the distilleries of Scotland. And don’t be fooled into thinking the Swedes only specialise in meatballs and flat-packed furniture, for their own whisky industry is taking off, initially inspired by Scotland’s. But it’s well to remember that these whiskies aren’t Scotches – and the fact transcends legality. From the frozen tracts of Iceland and the Great Plains of America to the bustling metropolises of India and the arid expanses of Australia, whisky producers old and new are continuing this tradition but blazing their own trails too. They are pushing boundaries, trying new styles and redrawing the whisky map. We live in a world truly saturated with whisky – and we reckon that’s cause for a celebration. So we’ve organised one. World Whisky Day is all about toasting the efforts, the successes and the downright marvels of the world whisky stage, those playing out on it, and their creations. This year it takes place on Saturday 21 May. Whether you’re new to whisky or a connoisseur of the cask, you’re invited. All it takes is some good company, some good cheer and, of course, some of the good stuff itself. So let’s raise a dram with the world together this May. n @WorldWhiskyDay #WorldWhiskyDay 70



Due to a traditional lack of consistent quality, Canadian whisky used to be known as ‘brown vodka’. It was made famous when it flowed south by the riverload to stock the back bars of Chicago speakeasies during Prohibition. WAL


The first commercial whisky production in Wales took place in 1705, led by Evan Williams. The venture wasn’t a success, and Williams emigrated to America. That same Williams later became the forefather of Kentucky bourbon. DEU


Korn isn’t just a metal band – it’s also a traditional grain spirit produced in north Germany. Many producers are now maturing it in wood and selling it as whisky, against EU regulations. TWN


The judging panel at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards described Taiwanese Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique – which they awarded the World’s Best Single Malt – as being “like bourbon infused milk chocolate” and “custard creams”. FIND OUT MORE ▼ Want to register an official event? Whether it’s a quiet backyard toast with the family or a full-blown street carnival, anything goes. Register on www.



The discovery of matured bourbon was an accident. Corn spirit destined for the bordellos of New Orleans was transported in wooden barrels which had been charred as a means of cleaning, resulting in a sweetening and mellowing of the spirit. There are now more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than people.













Although France is relatively new to the whisky scene, the country’s taste for the spirit dates back. During the Great French Wine Blight of the mid-19th century, Scotch producers rallied to the rescue of their thirsty French neighbours. TE


The whisky of Tennessee is, to a large degree, akin to the bourbon of Kentucky (just don’t say that in Tennessee). A notable differentiator – aside from the state of origin – is the legally enforced use of the ‘Lincoln County Process’ whereby new-make spirit is filtered through maple charcoal prior to maturation.



India has recently been plagued by fake whisky, and much of that produced in the country is actually made from molasses, not grain, effectively making it rum. ISL


Iceland is home to just two whisky distilleries, both of which use sheep manure in place of coal/peat as a fuel for kilning barley. FIN


The monopoly in sole charge of producing Finnish alcohol (including whisky) after the repeal of Prohibition in the country was also responsible for the production of Molotov cocktails for its military.



Legend has it that the first Arab chemists to settle in Spain brought with them the wherewithal to produce what became known as agua de vida, a spirit made from the distillation of wine, supposed to immunise drinkers against the plague. It would eventually give its name to what is now whisky. IRE


The mightily effective temperance movement in Ireland during the 19th century saw five million of the country’s eight million residents turn away from ‘demon drink’, all but demolishing its home whiskey industry, once bigger than that of Scotch.


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Perry If ever a drink was elusive, this is surely it. Champagne, but made from pears, some say. Pear cider, say others. Some aren’t confident to say what perry is period. It just is. The fact is, perry is far more often heard of than seen – and even then usually only alongside references to ‘real cider’. A younger, dainty sibling is perry to the oaken, bucolic, ‘real’ cider that is so much a part of tradition in England’s and France’s rural corners. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that this sibling, save for the odd dance in the 1960s and 70s, hasn’t seen much of the world beyond the farm gate. So we went to visit. With the help of renowned perry producer and guru Tom Oliver, we’ve herded up eight perries, each of which represents this humble category in its own distinctive way. And to help you work out which perry is for you, we’ve put them past our own inexpert panel and attributed a character to each, from the ‘peart’ and sprightly partygoer to the seasoned perry adventurer. Wellies on? Come on in. 72

PICTURES: David Anderson


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Babycham WHO: The ‘peart’ partygoer HOW: From a champagne saucer upon entering a retro-themed ball TOM SAYS: Yes, a true perry, and one that was very well made during its heyday in the 1950s and 60s. Light, bubbly and easy. Ultimately aimed at the ladies, and an outright success within that demographic. Now made


Henry Weston’s Perry in Europe, and admittedly lacking some of its previous glamour. WE SAY: Not much in the way of flavour (and certainly not pear) but truckloads of sweetness in the form of completely refined sugar. Loses its initial fizz very quickly. Fit for purpose, though, and deserving of credit for that.

WHO: The rural festivalgoer HOW: From a plastic cup, ideally at a folk festival or similar outing TOM SAYS: A commercial and consistent perry from the large independent producers who stock most of the major supermarkets with own-brand offerings. Relatively easy to get hold of and very accessible.

WE SAY: Certainly asserts the fact that it is made from fruit, but exactly which fruit isn’t immediately obvious. Apple cider qualities appear to prevail: reminiscent of student flat, sleeping bag and wet tent. That said, with a good helping of ice there’s no denying the refreshing qualities of this particular offering.

Dunkertons Organic Perry

Eric Bordelet Poire Granit

WHO: The work-tired and thirsty HOW: Straight from the fridge, relaxing in the garden TOM SAYS: A carbonated, more general, easy-going perry, which is ideal for drinking. This would be one for storing in the fridge, to be brought out when you want to put your feet up. A fully fermented perry that’s been back-sweetened and

WHO: The sweet-toothed perry virgin HOW: Works very well with a plat du jour (ideally on the French Riviera) TOM SAYS: If somebody’s never tasted perry before or isn’t the biggest drinker in the world, give them a bottle of this – it’ll make them think that perry is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s so juicy, so fruity, so easy, so light,

which has been created through an early and on-going commitment to organic produce. WE SAY: Again, difficult to decipher the pears. This one seems to react differently with each of the testers: Tixylix cough syrup to one, Barbour wax jackets to another. A pleasantly bready aftertaste was appreciated by all, however.

so everything. People just fall in love with it. WE SAY: Incredible. A really distinctive perry, this one, with a gorgeous interplay between sweet and sour going on – think liquid rhubarb and custards. Lots of tangy sherbet on the tongue and a woody backbone. The flavour and texture more than make up for the 3.5% ABV (although perhaps not the price tag).


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Farnum Hill Extra Dry Perry

Priggles Perry WHO: The gourmet HOW: Especially good when paired with light chicken dishes and cheeses TOM SAYS: This is a winestyle perry, so it’s still. Made using locally sourced perry pears, it’s got a delicate nose of pear and citrus. It’s the perfect choice for drinkers keen to explore the possibilities of pairing fine food and perry. WE SAY: What a nose;


someone’s passing around the rhubarb and custards again, or perhaps Granny’s stewing rhubarb in the kitchen. Plenty of sweetness on the palate and bags of juicy fruit. Imagine a tutti-frutti concentrate. Perhaps even some red chilli in there. Unfortunately for the squeamish, the clear glass bottle doesn’t hide the ectoplasmic sediment lurking at the bottom.

WHO: The convinced dry white wine connoisseur HOW: Matched with food as only a connoisseur knows how TOM SAYS: Farnum Hill are the granddaddies of bittersweet cider apple cultivation in the US, and very particular about everything they make. Now that their pear trees are fruiting, they’re producing top-rate perry of the very

driest kind, very much in the style of fine white wine. WE SAY: Unexpected notes of coconut and apple pie dominate. This really is like drinking a white wine, although we’re not so sure if that’d be a fine one, and it certainly wouldn’t be strong either. An unusually buttery note was also noted.

Gregg’s Pit Sparkling Perry

Oliver’s Fine Dry Perry

WHO: The well-heeled, savvy perry drinker HOW: Ideal as an aperitif, but also as a celebratory drink TOM SAYS: A rare perry and a very good-quality one at that, made using the keeving method which retains natural, unfermented pear sugars. Bottle conditioned and relatively expensive, it’s the sort you’d have to know of to

WHO: The perry drinker with a thirst for adventure HOW: Sipped and appreciated TOM SAYS: A real monster of a drink exhibiting all the facets of fine perry. It’s a big-tasting, bottleconditioned number. Goes in with a degree of sweetness followed by a whole raft of classic characteristics including elderflower and rhubarb, before finishing on

get hold of. One for a special occasion. WE SAY: We’re entering craft perry now, no question. An overwhelmingly sulphuric nose settles down not a moment too soon, making way for some distinctively yeasty, beery notes. A polarising perry – some considered the taste surprisingly watery while others began to realise the complexity of this drink.

an astringently dry note. A heck of a journey, not for the uninitiated. WE SAY: Liquid sand – like sucking a teabag. A challenging perry, no doubt, but the panel is undeniably enamoured by it (once the tongues have recovered from the initial desiccation). There’s just so much going on here. We could get to know this.


Liquid legacy Famous old family names embellish our most treasured bottles, cans and casks. Even the largest multinational drinks giant will trace its history back to humble beginnings. Lone pioneers and risk-takers passed their cottage industries to sons and daughters soaked in a lifetime of the liquid that kept shoes on their feet and food on their table, and generations of these successors gradually forged the drinks dynasties that we recognise today. But what is it like to step into the shoes of your successful forebears, inheriting all that entails – good and bad, and what does this generation want to pass on? Hot Rum Cow meets the latest in three long liquid lines.



Menabrea – based in Piedmont, Italy, but now exporting its beers to 31 countries – is the oldest existing Italian brewery, having been launched in 1846. Managing Director Franco Thedy is part of the fifth generation of his family to run the business and still lives within two minutes of the brewery in Biella. The brewery was founded in 1846 and in 1864 my ancestor, whose name was Menabrea, decided to buy it for 95,000 lira, or about 45 euros. The name became Menabrea and Sons in 1872 and it has always been a family business. I became managing director of the brewery 11 years ago when my father died, but I grew up in this brewery. I used to spend all my free time here. When I was off from school in the summer I used to come to work with my father every day because I liked to do it. I’ve worked in the cellar, I’ve been in the production area, I’ve been in the bottling plant, I’ve been on the kegging line. That gave me the feeling that beer could be my life. I know everything about this brewery – every corner. Maybe if I had been a lifeguard I would have had an easy life, but I wouldn’t have had the same personal success, and the opportunity to carry on my father’s dream. It is part of my blood and it was actually always my dream to work here. As a child, I would think about running the brewery and being involved in the business. What my family did in the past was amazing, so that is the way that I want to go on because the success of this long-running family business does definitely put an extra pressure on me. My own daughters are nine and seven now. They are so young, but they are interested. They live with an idea that beer is part of our family life so they know beer, they can even pour beer! They spend some time with me on Saturday and Sunday morning in the brewery. We have a private desk just for them and they spend time there. What happened to me is what I would like for my daughter. When I arrived the company was in a good position. That gave me an opportunity to do something more and to grow the business. I hope that for my daughter it will

“I’ve worked in the cellar, I’ve been in the production area, I’ve been in the bottling plant, I’ve been on the kegging line. That gave me the feeling that beer could be my life” be the same. That is the hope that I have for the next generation. During my time we have tried to invest more capital, export to more countries and improve production efficiency while maintaining our high standards. It is now a blend of story, heritage and high-tech manufacturing and that was part of my father’s strategy. Of course, his time was different and the opportunities were different. We have grown a lot in the last 10 years and the changes over the last 50 are even greater, but I’m lucky because I remember how

it was in the past and what it meant to be a brewer. While I don’t remember the delivery horses, I remember the stables and how we used to fill up bottles by hand. In every single area I can see the change. But we have to be careful with change – we don’t have to go into it blindly. We have to see the opportunities, how the beer market’s going to change and we have to anticipate that change. We are still a small brewery and that means that we are quite flexible, so if we want to make some changes, if we want to follow, and are able to follow the market, we can do that. Maybe we can do that more easily than a big brewer. But I think that my father would be really impressed with what changes we have made. When he died we used to sell in just three countries around the world, now we sell in 31. We created a global brand, though we remain small. In the last 10 years, we have invested more than 20 million euros to refurbish the plant here in Biella, so my father, my great-uncle and my ancestors would be really impressed with what Menabrea has become. It was always my dream that my daughter would take over the business, but who knows what will happen in the future? First of all, my dream is that my daughter will be happy with her life, and if she would be a brewer – I would be happy too.

Main: Menabrea team circa 1897. Inset: The founders of the brewery


“Still, there’s a pride in what’s happening, with your forefathers working here. You feel almost it’s a part of you. It’s like a family business”


People have been making whisky on the site at Tomatin in the Scottish Highlands since 1897 and at one stage it was the biggest distillery in Scotland. Unusually, more then 80% of staff live on the grounds in purpose-built homes for the distillery workers, with generations of families often working side by side. Head Stillman, Evan MacRae follows generations of MacRaes living and working in this unique community. I’m the Head Stillman at Tomatin and I’m also an assistant to our Site Manager. I was born and lived in company house number 10, a distillery cottage. I started working here around 1978 when I was 14, but I was still at school at the time. I was just working here on holidays, helping out with filling, painting, cleaning windows – you know, just whatever was needed just to fill a slot. I worked here on and off through the 1980s. In ’86 I moved into my own house on site, number 11. And I stayed there until I’d built my own house about a mile away from the site. My father was working here then. He started work here in the ’50s if I remember. My grandfather worked here too, more on the farming side, and my greatgrandfather also. My father started work in the cooperage, and he trained as a cooper. He eventually became the filling store warehouse manager and did various engineering jobs. Where we are geographically, we’re high up, so winter conditions are harsh and coarse. Transport was also pretty poor then, hence the houses


being on site. So, you know, if people came on they tended to stay here. My brother’s a lab technician at the distillery so when the malt or yeast comes in, he will analyse it and make small samples of whisky, just to gauge how much spirit we’re making. I don’t see him an awful lot, but most days I’ll see him in the distance or we’ll have a wee bit of banter. We’re very close and friendly. There’s never a cross word between us. It’s been good to have that family link at work. My grandparents used to organise a lot of concerts in the local hall, with singing and dancing. It was a super community to grow up in, and in a lot of ways still is. The weather in the winter can be a bit coarse and the midges can be a bit sporting in the summertime, but we get by. Dad would take me up to the distillery sometimes when I was very small, and the smell of his clothing – what a stink! He was covered in whisky half the time. It’s the smells that I remember more than anything. They really bring me back to when I was a child and coming to work. It was a harder life before. In those days, you could be coopering a cask one day, and the next day digging a hole. You had to be versatile really. You’re talking days that didn’t have health and safety as well, so the things you could be asked to do could be quite sporting. I remember my uncle John – my dad’s brother – was tasked with unblocking a pipe. We’re talking a pipe the size of three-quarters of a metre possibly, and maybe 200 yards long. And he had to climb up this

Right: Evan MacRae’s grandfather Duncan MacRae. Below right: Evan’s father (also Duncan)

pipe, and what happened was that a bag had gone down the pipe and blocked it. John burst it and he and the bag wooshed out due to the back load of the water. You didn’t know what you were going to get coming out to work. In my younger years I never saw much of my father – he was always working. He’d be away at half seven in the morning and home at half eight at night. Holidays and weekends. The distillery was very busy in those days. Inside I always knew it was probably where I was going to end up. I don’t regret it, don’t get me wrong. When I was in school, one of my dad’s cousins was a drummer. My great-grandfather was a drummer and piper in the army. But one of my father’s cousins was a drummer in a glam rock band in the ’70s. Mud. I remember in school thinking I want to be a drummer in a band. It nearly happened but it never did in the end. Still, there’s a pride in what’s happening, with your forefathers working here. You feel almost it’s a part of you. It’s like a family business. As a company just now, we’re doing very well, and to me the future’s looking good. I’m going about 50 years roughly, and I’m quite confident that I’ll see my time out. I’m sure my father and grandfather would be proud of what we’re doing now. Though I think that my greatgrandfather would be upset there’s no horses any more. I think they would be quite surprised by the biomass boilers and some of the modern technology we have – computers and things. But I’m sure they would be quite happy. I have two girls and the current thinking is that they’re both keen to go to university. My youngest is desperate to be a vet. At the moment it’s looking unlikely they’ll continue here. It would be sad to see the connection cut, but you never know.



At 73 hectares, the Joseph Drouhin Domaine is one of the largest estates in Burgundy and includes some of the most famous vineyards. It is headquartered in an 18th-century watermill near the Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis but has an estate winery in Dundee Hills, Oregon where Véronique Drouhin-Boss cut her winemaking teeth. My great-grandfather Joseph founded the business in 1880. He was from Burgundy, but his family was not in the wine business. He had no vineyards, and was only 23 years old when he started. I guess it was a risk because he probably had very little money to start, but he loved wine. Even my grandfather took a risk in difficult times with wars and after phylloxera. But Maurice is the one who really started the estate in 1918, buying up vineyards because he had the vision that in the future you would be better off controlling your own supply. Robert, my father, took over in 1957, and was the second to have a pretty amazing vision. He was also very young but he didn’t have much choice because Maurice had a stroke and could not run the business. Robert is the one that really developed the company. He had a vision for the Chablis region and another for Oregon. In ’87 we purchased our estate there, which was just fields – I mean just clear land. No one believed that Oregon would ever become what it is now. I was in Oregon in ’86 and loved it. I was very enthusiastic about doing something here and I’ve been in charge of Oregon production since the beginning. I was also only 24 years old, I was young and I was starting from scratch. It was a big challenge to start making wine. You could not find anything there; I had to bring equipment from Burgundy and buy stuff in California. I’ve been very lucky to be involved in more than one project – working on something completely new and innovative but also working with so much history here in Burgundy. Today, we’re kind of in a unique situation. It’s quite rare that all the siblings of the same family work in the same


business. But it’s fun because everyone finds the niche they like. But when there’s an important decision like buying a vineyard, it’s all done together. We don’t always agree, but there’s no big argument where anyone gets frustrated or mad. Really we get along very well and I hope it will continue. I don’t even remember when we started tasting wine but as a game my father would have us taste the wine blind, almost always wrongly, but that’s how we learned. The house where I was raised and where my parents still live is above the cellars – the boys working outside would roll the barrels and you would hear this sound almost every day like ‘boom boom’, and the smell of the winery for two months of the year was different from the rest. We would roller skate through cellars from the 15th–16th century. That was our playground. When I was little I did not think I would join the business, because it was so male orientated; there were only boys in the cellar, my father was in charge and my three brothers were

Far left: Véronique Drouhin-Boss’s father Robert Drouhin. Left: Veronique’s great-grandfather and founder Joseph and his son Maurice with their spouses

there. For me, it was not a direction I would take until Laurence Jobart, our long-time wine maker – who retired in 2006 – arrived in ’72 as an intern. She was young and my father trained her to become an oenologist, so I kind of grew up next to this woman, and thought if she was doing that, maybe I could do it too. As a family we do feel the pressure more than someone who is a director who has goals and a target and all that. We don’t have that,

“I don’t even remember when we started tasting wine but as a game my father would have us taste the wine blind, almost always wrongly, but that’s how we learned”

there’s no number that we need to reach, but I think the pressure comes from not wanting the business to go down. When I’m in France the list of what I have to do is unbelievable, so I feel a bit overwhelmed. But you are part of the family and you cannot ask somebody else to do it for you. I’ve spent so much time already in the business. In the future I am hoping to actually step back maybe more than my father has. Do I want my children to join the business? I would say yes and no. Yes because I am hoping this will stay in the family. But as I know how demanding it has been, I don’t know if I want them to have the same life. For sure, if they wish to join, great, but if they don’t, that’s fine too. It’s a challenging time. How do you keep a company growing without going to entry-level wine, and to big volume? But I think our ancestors would be proud to see our image today because my grandfather and father were very demanding on the level of quality. They would be proud of our reputation. n



NO. 10 Escubac


A heady revival of a forgotten liqueur Escubac’s roots lie in Tudor England where it was created as a ‘cordial water’, a common type of libation distilled from macerated herbs and spices, akin to the modern-day aperitif or digestif. Originally called ‘usquebaugh’, it became known as escubac in France where it and other such cordial waters enjoyed widespread popularity. The drink eventually fell from favour and was all but forgotten – although not entirely. After eighteen months of research and development, Londonbased distilling collective


Sweetdram began producing a contemporary reimagining – not a revival – of the liqueur for the discerning modern palate. Distilled in Saumur, France using rare Egrot alembics and aromatic botanicals including caraway, cardamom, nutmeg and citrus, sweetened with raisins and vanilla and coloured with saffron, Sweetdram’s Escubac is a veritable treat of a liqueur, brimming with spicy, fruity, festive notes. Drink it, as suggested on the bottle, with tonic and a lemon twist, or enjoy it neat.



Of myths, magic and mead Mabinogion is plotting a mead renaissance inspired by a psychedelic past WORDS: Jordan Harris ILLUSTRATION: Mike Hughes


any moons ago, long before the reigns of the medieval dynasties that imposed their will upon Wales, the omnipotent Beli Mawr ruled the land. A noble and powerful king, Beli the Great rose to become the Sovereign Lord of the Celtic Britons but little is actually known of the man who was widely believed by his subjects to be the God of the Sun, except for the fact he fathered four sons. With ample heirs to take his place when he finally left this world for the next, he peacefully passed his crown and his castle to his eldest son, Llud. However, upon inheriting the Island of Britain, Llud soon discovered that his

kingdom and people were stricken by three harrowing plagues. The stories of the first and third have no relevance to our tale, but the second, an unearthly scream, is significant. The blood-curdling scream that haunted every May Eve not only penetrated the ears of the young and rendered them unconscious, it also crept into the wombs of those with child causing miscarriages, as well as leaving animals, trees and soil barren. The source of the mysterious noise was eventually found to be two warring dragons, one red and one white, who fought relentlessly. As they did battle, flames licked and blistered their scaled skin and needle-like teeth burrowed into flesh, causing screams to fly from the mouths of both beasts.



Upon swapping their leathered wings for trotters, the pigs succumbed to the lure of the mead, drinking the vat dry, and soon their eyelids became heavy and they finally yielded to their fatigue A cunning king, Llud, accompanied by his younger sibling Llefelys, hatched a plan to catch the monsters and bring peace once again to the land. They dug a vast pit, filled it with a vat of mead and covered it with a sheet of fine satin. The duelling dragons tumbled into the honey-sweet brew and were magically transformed into pigs. Upon swapping their leathered wings for trotters, the pigs succumbed to the lure of the mead, drinking the vat dry, and soon their eyelids became heavy and they finally yielded to their fatigue. Llud hastily wrapped the pigs in the satin, hauled them to Snowdonia and buried them, snout and all.


he bizarre tales of Llud and Llefelys live on centuries after they were first told, recorded by medieval Welsh authors in one of the earliest examples of prose literature from Britain – The Mabinogion. This story, and many other mead-soaked myths from The Mabinogion inspired a devoted team of brewers in the heart of Caerphilly to write a tale of transformation of their own as they set out to change the outdated perception of mead. Like their forefathers, and those who brewed across Wales before them, the team at Mabinogion, whose logo displays the transformation of dragon to swine, are crafting small batches of mead, but bringing it into the modern era along with the stories that dance across the pages of their mythical manual. “The mead industry is undergoing a huge transformation in the United States,” says Mabinogion’s creator and innovator, Tom Newman, a brewer who also heads up one of Wales’s largest craft breweries, The Celt Experience. “Pioneers like Arizona’s Superstition and Michigan’s B. Nektar


are now offering beautifully crafted mead alternatives to the traditional options.” Newman himself is a pioneer, having crafted the world’s first commercial mead collaboration with Superstition Meadery. Long thought of as a drink gulped from golden goblets and horned cups by pillaging Vikings and barrelchested Baratheons alike, mead is now enjoying a renaissance on our shores with the Welsh meadery among those leading the way. Newman says: “The UK has adopted the US handmade, craft-led beverage industry with vigour. The opportunity to craft by flavours rather than by margins opens doors for innovative production.”


nd so, by brewing a range of styles using an eclectic mix of ingredients, Newman and Mabinogion hope to help revitalise and rejuvenate what is thought to be the oldest fermented beverage in the world. For mead is far from just honey, water and yeast. A range of spices, herbs, fruit and other ingredients can be added to the brew allowing a shift away from the sickly sweet perception


that mead has suffered from. Methyglin is mead with added spices. Melomels have fruit added to the brew and capsicumels have added chilli peppers, while cysers use apples. With a wide, and for many palates largely unexplored, spectrum of styles on which to experiment and innovate, Mabinogion hopes to do to mead in the UK what Superstition and B. Nektar have done in the States. “With an abundance of fruit, spices and herbs growing in Wales, we intend to make a diverse range of big-flavoured, innovative styles like melomels, methyglins, cysers and even wild braggots (beer crafted with the addition of honey),” says Newman. As such, the meadery’s range of ‘Bee Wines’ (similar in alcoholic content to more traditional meads, yet worlds apart in terms of taste) and ‘Bee Brews’ (lower ABV ‘session meads’, available in keg and bottle form) will consist of meads brewed with the likes of strawberries, bourbon-aged vanilla beans, oranges, hibiscus, apples, cinnamon and sour cherries. Regardless of additional spices and fruits used, however, the key component is, and always will be, the honey and Mabinogion is going the extra mile. In addition to sourcing all of their honey from local beehives,

the roof atop their mead hall is home to more than 20,000. “We are looking to invest in a number of Welsh honey farms and establish a sustainable and growing bee population,” Newman explains. “Welsh honey is both rare and beautiful. Rare, due to a decline in European honey bee populations and the relatively low levels of honey per hive, however beautiful due to the growth of flora.” The inspirational tales from The Mabinogion will also be introduced to a new audience. Each mead will shed light upon a different part of the book and will be accompanied by a surreal gouache painting by American artist Poxodd Walker on each bottle. The debut offering, Hounds of Annwn, highlights a legend surrounding the dogs of the otherworld whose growl

“We just want to reconnect the world with magical flavours in one of the historic homes of this bee-made beverage. This is, and will be, our legacy” foretold death to all those who heard it. It is brewed with unpasteurised Welsh honey and a bouquet of spices, and aged with Madagascan vanilla. Transformation to Eagle honours Lleu Llaw Gyffes, a hero who

transforms into an eagle and flies away when struck with a spear. The sweet, aged cyser is made from fresh apple and rested in cinnamon and myrtle pepper that gives a delicate, yet spicy finish. Each bottle bares its own unique ‘Honey Finder’ QR code that informs the drinker exactly which hive produced the honey and which blossoms, plants and flowers were harvested of their nectar to create it. Newman says: “We just want to reconnect the world with magical flavours in one of the historic homes of this bee-made beverage. This is, and will be, our legacy.” With one foot firmly in the past and the other striding forward, Mabinogion Mead is transforming the way drinkers view this age-old drink, one golden goblet at a time. n

From east coast to south of the river A visit to America’s east coast piqued Tom Gosnell’s interest in mead and led to the creation of London’s only meadery. Gosnell, a former project manager, took a big step in expanding what was a homebrew obsession and in 2015 Gosnells opened its first tap room in Peckham, south-east London. Now he and a team of three produce their award-winning product. “It was quite a hard sell to alcohol stockists,” he says. “Most of the interest has come from groundswell, and barmen as advocates.” Relying largely on word of mouth and the grassroots enthusiasm of a community already entrenched in brewing (south-east London alone has 20+ breweries of London’s estimated 74), the team are doing their bit to change perceptions of this ancient drink. CJ MONTAGUE For more information visit 92

A man of meads: Tom Gosnell, above, right

handcraft slowly,

we our Single Malt Scotch Whisky and make it the time-honoured way.

Using the

finest natural ingredients, our three distillers

orchestrate every second of the distillation process; there are no short cuts to perfection. Every cask is hand-filled, handweighed and hand-stamped before maturing for many years in our traditional dunnage warehouses. Why do we make it this classic pre-1960s Speyside way? Because it creates a


character: beautifully balanced with a light touch of smoke. Discover more at

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please enjoy benromach responsibly.

or resubscribe now PLUS ¡Viva la resistencia! Pulque as the ultimate rebel drink * Divine intervention How the monks transformed drinking habits * Honey, I drunk the meads The bee brew’s back


Exploring the origins of good drinking



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The perils of thin potations FALSTAFF I would you had but the wit: ’twere better than your dukedom. Good faith, this same young soberblooded boy doth not love me; nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that’s no marvel, he drinks no wine. There’s never none of these demure boys come to any proof; for thin drink doth so over-cool their blood, and making many fish-meals, that they fall into a kind of male green-sickness; and then when they marry, they get wenches: they are generally fools and cowards; which some of us should be too, but for inflammation. A good sherris sack hath a two-fold operation in it. It ascends me into the brain; dries me there all the foolish and dull and curdy vapours which environ it; makes it apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of nimble fiery and delectable shapes, which, delivered o’er to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth, becomes excellent wit. The second property of your excellent sherris is, the warming of the blood; which, before cold and settled, left the liver white and pale, which is the badge of pusillanimity and cowardice; but the sherris warms it and makes it course from the inwards to the parts extreme: it illumineth the face, which as a beacon gives warning to all the rest of this little kingdom, man, to arm; and then the vital commoners and inland petty spirits muster me all to their captain, the heart, who, great and puffed up with this retinue, doth any deed of courage; and this valour comes of sherris. So that skill in the weapon is nothing without sack, for that sets it a-work; and learning a mere hoard of gold kept by a devil, till sack commences it and sets it in act and use. Hereof comes it that Prince Harry is valiant; for the cold blood he did naturally inherit of his father, he hath, like lean, sterile and bare land, manured, husbanded and tilled with excellent endeavour of drinking good and good store of fertile sherris, that he is become very hot and valiant. If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack. n From Henry IV, Part II, Act IV, Scene iii, William Shakespeare


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A Russian once told me that vodka used to contain ‘fusel oil’. What is it, and why was it in vodka? Daniel, Stonehaven

➾ Fusel oil is the collective term for

harmful by-products of the distillation process, specifically soluble alcohols other than ethanol such as amyl, butyl, propyl and methyl. In fact, the word fusel comes from the German füsel meaning ‘hooch’ or ‘moonshine’. Due to a historic lack of standards governing the production of vodka in Russia fusel oil often found its way into the unfiltered vodka being consumed by the general public. In large quantities it was reputed to induce pressure headaches, vomiting, lockjaw, numbness and possible death. By the second half of the 19th century, vodka in Russia was available in two forms: ‘improved’ and ‘unimproved’. The former was markedly more expensive

 KNOWLEDGE IN  THE ART OF DRINKING Each issue, we ask our readers to pose their alcohol-related queries to our resident expert, Eric Coopers-Oxford


Why do I always end up hiccupping after a skinful? It’s damned infuriating. Jeff, Poole

than the ‘unimproved’ vodka as the impurities were filtered out. Despite this, vodka containing fusel oil had become so commonplace in the country that it came to be revered by many, even if it did look, smell and taste distinctly perverse. A far cry, indeed, from the triple distilled and filtered vodkas of today.

➾ Contrary to what cartoons and comics may have you believe, excessive alcohol consumption doesn’t give everyone the hiccups. However, the phenomenon is not completely fabricated, as you yourself evidence: alcohol is a known stomach irritant and is therefore presumed to lead to involuntary spasms for some people, made audible in the form of hiccups. There’s a good chance, too, that excessive laughing exacerbates hiccupping, as does quick drinking, smoking and overeating, activities which regularly accompany drinking sessions and involve the swallowing of air. In all honesty, though, the mechanism of alcohol-induced hiccups remains something of a biological mystery and you, Jeff, are unlucky enough to suffer from it.

It’s admittedly not to everyone’s taste, and understandably so. Sometimes though, needs must, and so here’s my take on this traditional pick-me-up: • 35ml brandy • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce • 1/2 teaspoon cider/sherry vinegar • 1 dash Tabasco sauce • 1 egg yolk Combine all of the ingredients in a rocks glass (carefully, so as not to break the egg yolk). Drink it up in one, head back to bed for an hour or two and thank me

later. Because of the egg yolk the Prairie Oyster is remarkably similar in texture to an actual oyster. Not so sure about the raw egg yolk? Just be thankful you’re not in Ancient Rome; the cure for a night of over indulgence was a serving of lamb’s lung and raw owl eggs. Needless to say, these eggs generally aren’t on the menu today and so this one’s definitely a cure of the past.


As an expert and (presumably) enthusiastic drinker, what’s your go-to hangover cure? Jade, Brighton

➾ I subscribe to the quality-not-quantity school of drinking, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never been guilty of pushing the boat out a little too far on the odd occasion. The morning after such times I can think of nothing more restorative than the Prairie Oyster (no, not that one). 98

10 - The Time Machine Issue