According to NASA the Universe is composed of dark energy, dark matter, and atoms which make up bodies such as stars and planets. There is also something unexpected. Deep in interstellar space there is a vast cloud of alcohol composed of ethanol and methanol measuring billions of miles across. It is located at the centre of the Milky Way 26,000 light years or 150 quadrillion miles away from earth. This proximity has raised a fascinating hypothesis about the initial formation of complex carbon molecules on this planet. Did the alcohol build up into carbon polymers and hitch a ride on comet heads that dispersed space dust on to the earth’s surface? If so then could it be that the primordial soup in which simple life developed was really a primordial cocktail? Read more
Of all human experiences the English language has more words for the state of inebriation than any other. From ankled to zombied, with expressions such as caned, ganted, glambazzled, lashed, trollied, and sloshed coming in between. Try this experiment. Make up a nonsense word then place the suffix ‘ed’ on the end and say to a friend ‘I was completely **** ed last night’. They will understand what you mean and may reply sympathetically ‘Oh dear did you end up photocopying your face on the office copier?‘
Could it be true that humans are hard-wired to seek mind altering substances such as caffeine, tobacco, psychedelic drugs, and alcohol? American psychopharmacologist Dr Ronald Siegel believes so and calls this basic desire for intoxication the ‘fourth drive’ as fundamental as food, drink and sex. Dr Samuel Johnson, 18th century essayist recognised it when he described alcohol as life’s ‘second greatest pleasure‘. Read more
Can there be a more magnificent libation than beer? For thousands of years, beer was a staple of the diet for the whole family, children included. It was a safe source of drinking water, supplied valuable nutrition, and the microflora it contained strengthened the immune system. Beer drinkers were resilient, vigorous, and the soluble nutrition they ingested increased brain power. How does nature reward such fine specimens? By making them more attractive to potential mates. Humans had discovered the magical elixir that fed, watered, fortified, gave them a social life and increased their opportunities to go forth and multiply. And a new phrase entered the lexicon – beer goggles.
In several ancient middle eastern cultures beer was central to society, an essential element of cultural identity. In Sumer (modern day Iraq) beer was a sacred gift from Ninkasi goddess of seduction, fertility, the harvest, and beer. Sumerians worshipped her at great public feasts by drinking prodigious amounts of beer and entering a spiritual state. To drink beer was to be civilized, fully human and enlightened. Read more
Imagine this bar scene. Customer (me in flippant mood) ‘May I have a pint of wine please?’ Response: ‘We don’t serve wine in that size measure’. I summon my best pantomime attitude and chorus ‘Oh yes you do!’
Cider is apple wine not apple beer but it is served in the same increments of imperial pint measures as beer. Consequently it is devalued by the majority of drinkers and has long had the reputation of being merely the rough stuff consumed in a white lightning flash on a park bench with the sole aim of getting blathered. And yet cider is the reason that Champagne exists. In the mid -17th century Somerset cider makers experimented by adding sugar to still cider to create bubbles through a secondary fermentation. Merchants in London were inspired to do the same to wine and lo and behold, what was hitherto seen as a fault by French vintners and known as le vin du diable, became a popular drink prized for its nittiness as fizziness was then known.
We regularly see these headlines: Binge–Drinking Out of Control in Britain; Millions Of Middle-Class Drinkers Putting Health At Risk With Evening Tipple; Binge Drinkers Make Town Centres No Go Areas. News outlets never splash the good news about alcohol do they? Because there is good news about booze and has been for the thousands of years that humans have consumed it. Most people drink moderately and neither they nor society suffers ill effects. So for the majority of sensible drinkers I want to celebrate the gift of alcohol and all the benefits humans have gained from it.
‘Wine is a food, a medicine, and a poison it’s just a question of dose’ Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, wrote that in the early 16th century. His observation could apply to all alcohol not just wine because in moderation it is beneficial to physical and mental health.
How often do we hear someone say about a drink that it is ‘for medicinal purposes only? We laugh and respond ‘Any excuse’. And yet throughout history alcohol has been used knowingly and sometimes unwittingly as medicine.