Friday, September 08, 2006

Alcohol, Part Two: A Brief History of Alcohol

As long as human beings have trod upon this lonely star we call Earth, alcohol has been their friend and companion. Many, however, prefer the companionship of other humans. How many people throughout history have abstained from alcohol? We may never know.

What we DO know is that alcohol itself has a long and storied history. In fact, in many ways the history of alcohol mirrors the history of humanity, so much so that Sir Isaac Newton once famously said that the popular beverage known as booze was the “universal language.”*

1492: The Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock rather than continuing to Boston because they are running out of supplies such as food and alcoholic beverages.

1782: William III orders a decorative fountain to be transformed to giant punch bowl. This "monumental" undertaking requires:

  • 560 gallons (410 liters) of brandy
  • 1,200 pounds (1,530 kg) of sugar
  • 25,000 (25,000) lemons
  • 20 gallons (2,600 milliliters) of lime juice
  • 5 (five) pounds of nutmeg.
The bartender was actually a sailor who rowed around to fountain to serve guests. Ironically, no one could drink the from the fountain due to disease concerns and the filthiness of the bartender's boat.

1812: The champagne flute was invented during the reign of Marie Antoinette. It was first formed from wax molds made of her breasts. (Of course, the molds were later elongated.) This was the origin of the phrase, “Wet your whistle.”

1849: THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE ANSWERING: Would you like some isyammitilka or ksikonewiw? These words refer to North American Indian alcoholic beverages. Now would you like some isyammitilka or ksikonewiw?

1911: FAMILY RESEMBLANCE: The Manhattan cocktail (whiskey, vodka, and Cointreau) was invented by Winston Churchill's mother.

1941: WHAT’S FOR DESSERT? An American platoon of World War II soldiers, snowed in on a treacherous Moldavian mountain pass, survived for over a month on nothing but a cask of sherry and three of their companions.

1969: President Lyndon B. Johnson's favorite drink may have been scotch and soda.

Famous teetotallers through history:

  • Genghis Khan
  • Josef Stalin
  • Nero
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Captain Ahab
  • George W. Bush (post-1986)
  • Ted Bundy

Famous Drinkers:

  • George W. Bush (pre-1986)
  • Jesus (wine)
  • Otis from The Andy Griffith Show
  • Ulysses S. Grant

*Of course, the actual universal language is Esperanto.


Tvor said...

1812? Marie Antoinette? odd that. She died in 1793. Empress Josephine perhaps? Urban legend more likely.

librarian new yorker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
librarian new yorker said...

Check SNOPES for you comment on Marie Antoinette. Also, those glasses, the wide bowl glasses, are called Champagne Coupes. The tall slender glasses are flutes.