Fact File on the History of Alcohol: Invention: Alcohol *** Date of Invention:
3000 BC *** Name of Inventor: Unknown *** Historical Period:
3000 - 1800 BC *** Category: Food and Drink *** Country of Origin: Mesopotamia ***
Definition of Alcohol: Alcohol is
defined as an intoxicating fluid, liquor, brew or pure spirit obtained by fermentation or distillation. Alcohol is obtained from various vegetable juices and infusions of a saccharine type, which has undergone fermentation to produce
beer, wine, spirits, and other drinks.
Fact 1 on the History of Alcohol: Alcohol is believed to have been invented
c.3000 BC in Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq. The Mesopotamians consisted of
several ancient civilizations who built great empires including the Babylonians
and the Sumerians. Refer to
Fact 2 on the History of Alcohol: Alcohol was discovered by accident around
7000 BC when a distant ancestor had stored fruit for too long and the sugar in
the fruit reacted with bacteria to produce alcohol. It was the Mesopotamians who
created the first beer and wine making industries.
Fact 3 on
the History of Alcohol: The ancient Mesopotamians were the first
civilization to develop life in towns which required sophisticated methods for
sustaining the population.
Fact 4 on the History of Alcohol: The Mesopotamians refined their methods
of brewing and making beer by combining Bappir bread with malted and soaked grains and keeping the
liquid in a fermentation vessel until the beer was ready to be filtered into a
container. Viticulture, the cultivation of grapevines for making wine followed
the beer making process.
Fact 5 on the History
of Alcohol: The knowledge of beer and wine making spread to the ancient
Egyptians through trade routes, then on to the Greeks and then to the Romans
across all of Europe and the Roman Empire. By the 1st century BC the wine trade
exploded across the Mediterranean and beyond.
Fact 6 on the History of Alcohol: The consumption of Alcohol featured in
many ancient religious ceremonies and important rituals. Ninkasi was the
Mesopotamian (Sumerian) Goddess of Brewing. The Ancient Egyptian goddess of beer
and brewing was called Tjenenet. Dionysus was the Greek God of Intoxication and
Bacchus was the Roman equivalent. The Viking god Aegir was the brewer to the
Gods of Asgard and Cerridwen was the Celtic Irish and Welsh Barley Goddess.
Fact 7 on the History of Alcohol: Alcohol was also used in ancient
civilizations for its medicinal, antiseptic, and analgesic benefits. Alcohol was
found to be a good medium for extracting the active elements from medicinal
plants. Herbs, spices, barks, roots, fruit peels and berries, known to have
medicinal properties, were added to wine based concoctions to create various
Fact 8 on the History of Alcohol: The ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia
used beer and wine as an antiseptic for the dressing of wounds. The Greeks and
Romans mixed wine with boiled water and vinegar to cleanse wounds and alcohol is
still used to this day as a wound cleanser.
Fact 9 on the History of Alcohol: The analgesic or "narcotic" pain
dampening effects of alcohol were known to physicians and surgeons and used to
relieve the pain intensity of patients.
Fact 10 on the History of Alcohol: Due to the relaxing nature of wine it
was viewed by many as beneficial for relieving stress and facilitating
Fact 11 on the History of Alcohol: The relaxing properties were, and
still are, used at various important occasions to promoting hospitality,
conviviality, friendliness and social cohesion to increase the pleasure of
eating and enhance the pleasures of life.
Fact 12 on the History of Alcohol: In many civilizations alcohol was seen
as an essential part of the diet and as a thirst quencher, beer was often
considered a safer alternative to water, which was often polluted with dangerous
Fact 13 on the History of Alcohol: In ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian,
Greek, Roman, Celtic and Viking religions both beer and wine were drunk and
offered to the gods in rituals and festivals. More modern religions have totally
different attitudes toward the consumption of alcohol. Many religions forbid
alcoholic consumption decrying intoxicants as sinful, others continue to use
wine such as a Christian practice during the Eucharist rite.
Fact 14 on the History of Alcohol: People began to experiment with
traditional wine and beer making techniques. The ancient Chinese mixed wine and
beer together to produce a drink made with grapes, hawthorn fruit, rice and
honey. Sake was produced by a brewing process using rice.
Fact 15 on the History of Alcohol: The Mesopotamians produced their beer
from barley via Bappir bread, a source for yeast. The Aztec and Mayan
civilizations produced Cacao-based fermented a bitter drink brewed with water,
herbs, spices and cacao beans.
Fact 16 on the History of Alcohol: In Europe a drink called mead was
commonly made from a combination of yeast, honey, and water. Ale was brewed and
fermented from malted cereal grain, such as barley) and flavored with hops.
Fact 17 on the History of Alcohol: The process of distillation is
believed to have been invented by Greek and Roman alchemists in the 1st century
AD but the methods used did not become widespread until the Middle Ages.
Fact 18 on the History of Alcohol: People began to realize that the
alcoholic content of a drink was affected by how long it was left to ferment.
They then discovered the process of distillation in which boiling was used to
separate mixtures of liquids, leaving a stronger concentration of alcoholic
content and flavor.
Fact 19 on the History of Alcohol: Alchemists believed that the vapor
given off during the distillation process released the essence or “spirit” of a
substance, and we still continue to refer to this type of liquor as "spirits" to
the present day.
Fact 20 on the History of Alcohol: Many different types of spirits were
invented. In France brandy and cognac were distilled from wine or fermented
fruit juice. Gin was made by distilling grains flavored with juniper berries and
Fact 21 on the History of Alcohol: Rum was distilled from sugarcane
products such as molasses or sugarcane juice. Vodka was produced by distilling a
mash as of potatoes, rye or wheat. Whiskey was distilled from mash of grain such
as barley, rye or corn. Scotch, a type whiskey distilled in Scotland, was
produced using malted barley. Bourbon was another type of whiskey distilled from
a mash of corn and aged in charred oak barrels. Tequila, a Mexican liquor,
was distilled from 'Agave tequilana', commonly called blue agave.
Fact 22 on the History of Alcohol: The use of alcoholic drinks in society
has a highly controversial history and features many examples of the
prohibition, and then often the retraction of alcoholic beverages. From the late
Medieval and Renaissance eras there were widespread reports of drunkenness.
Fact 23 on the History of Alcohol: During the early 1800's temperance
societies and the Anti-Saloon League were formed in America aimed at reducing
alcoholic consumption and banning its sale. The members of these societies
believed that alcohol was responsible for many problems such as poverty, crime,
abuse towards women and children.
Fact 24 on the History of Alcohol: The protests culminated in the period
in America known as the Prohibition Era (1920 to 1933) when the manufacture and
sale of alcohol was banned by the Volstead Act.
Fact 25 on the History of Alcohol: The actual drinking of liquor was
never illegal and organized crime and gangsters took the opportunity to
manufacture and sell liquor. The role of organized crime and 'Bootleggers' in
the production of liquor led to the emergence of illegal drinking clubs called
Speakeasies and increased violence between gangsters. The 'Noble Experiment'
failed and led unregulated and untaxed alcohol and massive political corruption.
The popular vote for repeal of Prohibition was 74% in favor and 26% in
opposition and the Prohibition Law was repealed on February 20, 1933.
Fact 26 on the History of Alcohol: Alcoholics Anonymous was established
in 1935 and by the end of WW2 (1939 - 1945) alcoholism was declared the
fourth-largest health problem in the United States. Laws were passed against
drinking and driving and the highly controversial history of alcohol continues
to the present day.