drink up history’s 5 most important beverages
5 Juice, Specifically Citrus
There are fewer beverages as simple as OJ or grapefruit juice. Requiring no more effort than squeezing, fruit juice is not only delicious but also rich in vitamins and fructose, a great simple source of energy. You can almost trace the history of trade itself to the orange as it spread from ancient China to the Roman Empire, then to the Iberian Peninsula in the 700s, then finally to the new world in the 16th century, where citrus growing flourished.
4 Milk (Cow’s Milk, for Our Purposes)
One of the beverages we drink today that undergoes virtually no “œprocessing,”milk has long been a staple worldwide. It is sipped as-is right after being squeezed from the udder, it is skimmed down to varying degrees, and it is mixed with everything from blood to tea. Milk is one of the best sources of protein and calcium, providing many disparate human populations great nourishment.
The wine the ancient Greeks were sipping at symposiums (“œto drink together”) and the pharaohs were quaffing in their palaces was probably a bit more harsh than the Bordeaux or zins we sip today, but they were beloved by the ancients all the same. As early as 6000 B.C. we have evidence of dedicated winemaking “œoperations,”with people all over the ancient world imbibing fermented grapes by the year 3000 or thereabouts. Wine was safer than water and stronger than beer, perfect both with dinner and for that special Bacchanalia.
Prized both for its inherent excellence as well as the fact that fermented beer was usually safer to drink than water, beer has played an immense role in shaping much of human history. Many historians and archeologists argue that the first regular cultivation of grain was not for direct consumption, but for making beer. And it is a well-documented fact that in 1620, the pilgrims landed the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock rather than hundreds of miles to the south as originally intended because they were running out of beer and had to brew more ASAP.
Sure, you saw that one coming. But traditionally a drink of water was much harder to come by than it is today, and much less reliably refreshing (read: potentially deadly). It’s little wonder that most early civilizations were built near rivers or lakes, as fresh drinking water was as much a necessity in the past as it is today. In the past, though, water was a frequent source of pathogens, and was generally pretty dirty. Without advanced purification methods (nor the understanding that they were even needed) this all-important beverage could both refresh and make violently ill. Or dead.