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Non-Alco-Bevs-art - 4/1/11


"Non Alcoholic Beverages of the Middle Ages" by HL Rory McGowen.


NOTE: See also the files: Non-Alco-Drks-art, Orng-Lmn-drks-art, infusions-msg, jalabs-msg, barley-water-msg, Bev-f-Hot-Day-art, Bottle-Labels-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



You can find more articles by this author elsewhere in the Florilegium and on the Medieval Brewers Home Page at http://forgottensea.org/medievalbrewers/


Non Alcoholic Beverages of the Middle Ages

by HL Rory McGowen


Most of us know about the common alcoholic beverages that were abundant throughout the Middle Ages and recreated in the SCA on a common basis. Alcoholic beverages such as Ale, Mead, Hypocras, Wine, Braggot, Cyser, Pyment, Perry, Brandy, Whisky, Liqueurs, and Cordials. But what about those people that don’t or can’t drink? Or what does someone serve at a feast? Or what about alternative beverages at dry sites?


Well there is hope. While it is true that ale and mead were quite prevalent beverages in the Middle Ages, there were other beverage choices. At the end of the article, I have placed several recipes from the sources that I site along the way.


The first choice, and not really the most popular was, of course, water[1]. But the water was of such low quality most of the time, that it was cut with wine or ale in an attempt to make it safer (& better tasting) to drink.


The next most popular beverage, when available, was milk. It was widely available to all classes of people in all regions of the world. Goats, cows, and mares all provided milk to those who wanted it.


Barley Tea[2] was another beverage that was brewed from time to time. This is created easily enough by steeping barley in hot water, adding honey and cutting it by half, and serving it that way.


Dancha[3] is essentially tea made by boiling tea bricks. It was served either warm or cold in ceremonies. Later in period, ground tea was used to make ice tea by beating the tea into the water.


Sage Water[4] was also a popular choice. Soaking the sage in a pitcher of water over night. Once the sage is saturated it should be able to flavor other pitchers of water in about an hour. "To make a cask of sage-flavored liquid, take 2 lbs sage, clip off the stems and put leaves in the cask...." This provides a very refreshing beverage to cleanse the palette between courses at a feast.


Coriander water was created the same as Sage Water except with Coriander seeds.


Granatus[5] was and still is a very popular beverage. This is modernly and mundanely known as Grenadine. It is essentially a thick, sweet, pomegranate syrup. In period, this is primarily an Arabic beverage, but could be found in eastern Europe by the end of our period. The Pomegranates are pressed and reduced to a syrup, and kept unrefrigerated for months before use. To serve it, dilute with hot or cold water with one part sugar, or mix in a variety of other beverages.


Sekanjabin[6] is the family of sweet vinegar beverages. There are many recipes found for various types of vinegar beverages found in period. Though sekanjabin itself is plain vinegar and sugar and water, the name sekanjabin has been applied to the entire family for practical purposes.


Clarea of Water[7] was essentially spiced honey water. The spices would depend on what was local and on hand, but they would be added to water and honey and boiled. The mixture would then be cooled and served with the meal.


Rose Soda (Water) and Lavendar Drink[8] were common among refined ladies of the middle ages. This was usually petals of the flowers soaked in a mixture of very sweet water. While thought to be a medicine, it found popularity at the dinner table and was thought to sooth a well fed belly.


Cold Almond Milk[9] was used in England in the latter part of the period. While the original recipe contained wine, references have been found that show it was also made with vinegar or grenadine for a completely non-alcoholic refreshment.


Chicory Water[10] is referred to within Cervantes' "Don Quixote", written c. 1600, at the very end of the SCA period. This is made by soaking chicory sticks in a pitcher of water or putting shavings into one's water skin.


Next is lemon drink[11]. It was essentially lemonade. The sweetener was usually honey, but the rest is just water and lemons. It was enjoyed in later period and was a refreshing beverage generally enjoyed before a meal to get the stomach acids going. 


And Finally, let's not forget all of the varieties of apple ciders[12]. Apple drinks and ciders were basically apple juice with various amounts of pulp, sweetened with sugar and/or honey.


Rose Soda / Lavender Drink


Adapted from _The 'Libre de Diversis Medicinis' in the Thornton Manuscript (MS. Lincoln Cathedral, A.5.2)_. Edited by Margaret Sinclair Ogden. Published for the Early English Text Society by Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press. Amen House, E.C. 4. England. 1938. Text circa early 1400 CE.


1 part rose/lavender petals

2 parts water

2 parts sugar/honey


Soak a number of  petals in a pitcher of water holding twice as much water as petals for one night. Press, but not squeeze, the water from the petals and reuse them as needed. Mix into the water enough honey or sugar as to taste, and serve cold.


Syrup of Pomegranate


Adapted from _The 'Libre de Diversis Medicinis' in the Thornton Manuscript (MS. Lincoln Cathedral, A.5.2)_. Edited by Margaret Sinclair Ogden. Published for the Early English Text Society by Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press. Amen House, E.C. 4. England. 1938. Text circa early 1400 CE.


Syrup of Pomegranate - Take a ratl of sour pomegranates and another of sweet pomegranates, and add their juice to two ratls of sugar, cook all this until it takes the consistency of syrup, and keep until needed.


Essentially, take equal numbers of sour and sweet pomegranates and squeeze the juice from them. Add this juice to two parts sugar (for each part juice) and cook until thick. Some tips I found while researching this drink is that you should not use the syrup for several months, so set it aside once done. Also, avoid the skins while pressing the fruit for juice.


Spiced Pomegranate Drink


Adapted from Anonymous. _An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century. A Complete Translation by Charles Perry of the Arabic Edition of Ambrosio Huici Miranda with the assistance of an English Translation by Elise Flemming, Stephen Bloch, Habib ibn Al-Andalusi and Janet Hinson of the Spanish Translation by Ambrosio Huici Miranda._ ©1992 by Charles Perry. Reprinted in A Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Cookery Books by Friedman, David (Sir Cariadoc of the Bow) Published privately. Page A-74


And also from Maimonides, Moses (1135-1204 CE). _Maqalah Fi Bayan Ba'D Al-A'Rad Wa-A;-Jawab 'Anha Ma'Amar Ha-Hakra'Ah_. edited and translated by Leibowitz, JO and Marcus, S. _Moses Maimonides on the Causes and Symptoms (Maqalah Fi Bayan Ba'D Al-A'Rad Wa-A;-Jawab 'Anha Ma'Amar Ha-Hakra'Ah [and] De Causis Accidentium)_ Published by University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 1974. ISBN 0-520-02224-6 LCCCN 71-187873 page 139


...then leave the bath and partake of a brew prepared with pomegranate seeds, sugar, many spices, and a touch of hot spices like clove and mace, or a syrup of rose or sorrel, with water of oxtongue,...


1 quart of Pomegranate juice

4 cups white sugar (or honey)

Possible additions include: clove, mace, borage, mint, citron leaves,

spikenard, lemon peel, and canel or cinnamon.


Warm the pomegranate juice over medium heat. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve completely. Keep the mixture at a simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When it is suitably thickened, allow to cool before bottling. Dilute about one part syrup to five parts water. The resulting drink will be more brownish than the original red of pomegranate. The Tacinum Sanitatis recommends eating sour pomegranates with honey to neutralize the dangers to health, so use the honey recipe if you want to replicate European diets.


Cold Almond Milk

Adapted from _An Ordinance Of Pottage: An Edition of the Fifteenth Century Culinary Recipes in Yale University's MS Beinecke 163_. Edited by Constance Hieatt.


1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar or clarified honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup blanched finely ground almonds

1/8 cup wine (use vinegar, pomegranate juice or omit for completely non-alcoholic beverage)

toasted bread


Place one cup of water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add sugar (or honey) and salt. Stir quickly so the sugar (or honey) dissolves without burning. When dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool. Add finely ground almonds to the sugar water and mix. Add wine and mix again. Toast bread, then brush it with a little wine and allow the bread to dry. Serve cool with toast.


The Recipe for Making a Syrup of Julep

From the 13th c. Andalusian cookbook:


Take five ratls of aromatic rosewater, and two and a half of sugar, cook all this until it takes the consistency of syrups. Drink two ûqiyas of this with three of hot water. Its benefits: in phlegmatic fever; it fortifies the stomach and the liver, profits at the onset of dropsy, purifies and lightens the body, and in this it is most extraordinary, God willing.


Syrup of Fresh Roses, and the Recipe for Making It

From the 13th c. Andalusian cookbook:


Take a ratl of fresh roses, after removing the dirt from them, and cover them with boiled water for a day and a night, until the water cools and the roses fall apart in the water. Clean it and take the clean part of it and add to a ratl of sugar. Cook all this until it takes the form of a syrup. Drink an ûqiya of this with two of hot water; its benefits are at the onset of dropsy, and it fortifies the stomach and the liver and the other internal organs, and lightens the constitution; in this it is admirable.


A Recipe for Making It by Repetition

From the 13th c. Andalusian cookbook:


Take the same, a ratl of roses or more, and place it in water to cover it, boiling for a day and a night. Then take out the roses that are in the water and throw them away, and go with the same quantity of fresh roses, which are to be covered likewise with this water, after boiling it a second time, and leave this also a day and a night. Throw away these roses likewise, and put in others and treat them as before, and continue doing this for ten days or more. Its benefit and the strength of its making are solely in the manner of repeating. Then clarify the water of roses and add to it as much sugar, and cook it until it takes the form of a syrup. It reaches the limit in thinning and moistening the constitution, God willing.


Syrup of Dried Roses


Take a ratl of dried roses, and cover with three ratls of boiling water, for a night, and leave it until they fall apart in the water. Press it and clarify it, take the clear part and add it to two ratls of white sugar, and cook all this until it is in the form of a syrup. Drink an ûqiya and a half of this with three of water. Its benefits: it binds the constitution, and benefits at the start of dropsy, fortifies the other internal organs, and provokes the appetite, God willing.



Fihrist of al-Nadim c10th c.


Dissolve 4 cups sugar in 2 1/2 cups of water; when it comes to a boil add 1 cup wine vinegar. Simmer 1/2 hour. Add a handful of mint, remove from fire, let cool. Dilute the resulting syrup to taste with ice water (5 to 10 parts water to 1 part syrup). The syrup stores without refrigeration.


Syrup of Simple Sikanjabîn

Andalusian p. A-74


Take a ratl of strong vinegar and mix it with two ratls of sugar, and cook all this until it takes the form of a syrup. Drink an ûqiya of this with three of hot water when fasting: it is beneficial for fevers of jaundice, and calms jaundice and cuts the thirst, since sikanjabîn syrup is beneficial in phlegmatic fevers: make it with six ûqiyas of sour vinegar for a ratl of honey and it is admirable.


Apple Drink with Sugar, Honey

"The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened"


"A VERY pleasant drink is made of Apples, thus; Boil sliced Apples in water, to make the water strong of Apples, as when you make to drink it for coolness and pleasure. Sweeten it with Sugar to your tast, such a quantity of sliced Apples, as would make so much water strong enough of Apples; and then bottle it up close for three or four months. There will come a thick mother at the top, which being taken off, all the rest will be very clear, and quick and pleasant to the taste, beyond any Cider. It will be the better to most taste, if you put a very little Rosemary into the liquor, when you boil it, and a little Limon-peel into each bottle, when you bottle it up." While Digby suggests bottling it up for months, it can be drunk right away as well for a nice refreshing, cold drink.


Also, the Manuscrito Anonimo (13th c. Andalusian) has a whole chapter on drinks. It is well worth the read. It is essentially an Anonymous Manuscript on Cooking.


[1] Canterbury Tales - Jeffery Chaucer

[2] Chinese pottery from the Hsia Dynasty dating back about 1520 BCE as well as Greek pottery and Roman texts 520 CE.

[3] "Historical Cha no Yu" by Plutchow

[4] "A Medieval Home Companion" translated and edited by Tania Bayard.  It is a translation of a 15c translation of a 14c treatise by an elderly Parisian merchant to his 15 year old bride on housewifery.

[5] 'Libre de Diversis Medicinis' c1400 CE & An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook (Manuscrito Anonimo) of the 13th Century

[6] Manuscrito Anonimo_, a 13th c. cookbook

[7] Libro de Guisados - 13th c.

[8] 'Libre de Diversis Medicinis' – c1400

[9] An Ordinance Of Pottage – 15th c

[10] "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes c.1600

[11] Andalusian p. 279 – 13th c.

[12] "The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened" edited by Jane Stevenson & Peter Davidson c.1600


Copyright 2010 by Paul Fry. <rory at forgottensea.org>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org