It’s no secret that Australian’s like a drink. But where did human’s love affair with alcohol start? And have we shifted from the original impetus for alcohol?
Fermented drinks made from rice, honey and fruit began as early as 7000–6600 BC in China. Pictorial evidence of clay tablets found all over the world, tell us alcohol was used for its medicinal, antiseptic and analgesic properties and in both religion and worship.
Many cultures worshipped Gods and Goddesses of wine. One could say that not much has changed. Most nights in pubs and clubs, young people are worshipping at the shrine of Dionysus (God of grape harvest) with a drink in their hand.
Alcohol usually falls into two categories, fermented or distilled. Popular fermented beverages such as Beer, (one of the oldest known alcoholic beverages made by humans), dates back to the 5th millennium in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (modern day Kuwait). Made from fermented cereals, as soon as civilisation invented bread, beer followed.
Sake has been named in ancient Japanese texts dating back as far as 712 AD. Made from fermented rice, with an alcohol content as high as 20%, sake was originally used for religious activities, court festivals and drinking games. Liberating the government’s stronghold on production, shrines and temples in Japan began brewing sake for the populace and continued to be the source of sake production for more than 500 years.
The earliest evidence of Wine comes from China circa 7000-6600, yet the Romans made the biggest influence in wine production. In Australia, vine cuttings were brought with the First Fleet. Failing initially, our viticulture industry did not start, until early in the 19th century, with the popularity of our wines not spreading until the 20th century.
Cider, made from apples, may be a boutique product these days, but historically was the drink of the people. Thought to originate in the United Kingdom, it was made popular by the Romans when they invaded in 43 AD.
Distilled beverages such as Scotch, Vodka, Brandy and Cognac are often higher in alcoholic content than brewed beverages. Scotch Whiskey (distilled from malted barley, wheat or rye) originated in Scotland and was produced and created as a royal income as early as 1498. Some 140 years later, the government taxed Whiskey, resulting in mass riots and 400 illegal distilleries popping up.
The Polish believe they invented Vodka, just as the Russians are as vehement that they created it. Either way, Vodka is one of the purest drinks in the world because it is distilled from water-ethanol. Made from fermented cereal grains or potatoes, it is traditionally drunk neat.
China’s mysterious and expensive Maotaiis made from fermented sorghum but distilled into clear liquor that has an alcoholic content of up to 53%. Consumed by China’s elite, Maotai is the only alcoholic gift presented to foreign dignitaries who visit the Chinese government. Some vintages of Maotai sell for tens of thousands of dollars. You can buy Maotai here in Australia for approximately $230 for a 500ml bottle.