Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena
unclehyena

Alcoholic Anthropology

The other day we were talking about alcoholic beverages at work, and I went through the "four basic beverages" spiel (beer is fermented starch, wine is fermented sugar, whiskey is concentrated beer, brandy is concentrated wine), and that set me to thinking, once again, on the impact of alcohol on the development of human civilization. It has been a long time since Tim Powers' "The Drawing of the Dark" convinced me that alcohol was what led humans to build the first permanent settlements...

My most recent speculation was on the topic of what was the oldest alcoholic beverage, and I convinced myself that it pretty much had to be mead. Given that the first alcohol was almost certainly the result of storing a foodstuff too long, honey is the obvious choice; it has a decent shelf life and requires very little technology to store.

This led to speculation that alcohol might have been even more influential that I had thought; after all, which is a better motivator: "We need to be able to store water so that we can travel further between water holes," or, "We need to be able to store this wonderful stuff that the magic honey produces"?

This also makes it pretty clear that the first concentrated alcoholic beverage was ice honey brandy, and THAT might just have motivated any number of adaptations to the cold; when being able to survive at sub-freezing temperatures means the difference between brandy and no brandy, the ice and snow look a lot more inviting...

Uncle Hyena
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