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What Was The First Liquor Ever Made? Explained (2022)

Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Alcoholic beverages were a staple in much of humanity’s history, from the Ancient Greeks imbibing wine during celebrations to the more recent history when soldiers partook in them during the war. 

Sit back and grab your favorite contemporary liquor as we take a trip down memory lane. 

What’s the First Liquor Ever? 

Liquor on desk

The truth is, no one knows when the first liquor came about or what the first liquor produced was.

Jugs unearthed from the Stone Age suggest that our ancestors were already fermenting beverages intentionally, dating back to 10,000 BCE. 

It’s also worth noting that the fermentation process occurs naturally, and our ancestors may have been collecting berries and storing them until they began to ferment.

Primates, birds, and other animals may have also accidentally got “drunk” by partaking in overripe fruits and berries. 

Read: Percentage of Americans That Drink Alcohol

Some of the Oldest Liquors Made 

Some of the Oldest Liquors Made 

Chinese Fermented Wine

The oldest fermented drink we have on record is the Chinese fermented wine, made from rice, honey, hawthorn fruit, and grape.

The residues of the beverage, found in Neolithic jars from Jiahu, Northern China, are said to date back 7000 to 6600 BCE and were discovered by researchers working for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 

The study, named Fermented Beverages of Pre- and Proto-historic China, was released in 2004. Find out what’s the most sober country here

Barley Beer

Barley Beer on table

The earliest confirmed beer was found in the Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains, Iran. The residues inside the jug were said to date 3400 to 3000 BCE. 

It is unclear as to what exact type of beer was inside the jug, but the supply room where the jug was found had barley in it — probably grown locally and used in the brewing.

Furthermore, the jug had a yellowish tint on its grooves that turned out to be calcium oxalate, otherwise known as beerstone — a known byproduct of brewing with barley. [1

The early Mesopotamians were also famous for being big beer lovers — they enjoyed different varieties, including light, dark, amber, and specially filtered beers. Find out which age group consumes the most alcohol here

Georgian Wine

It’s no secret that the Georgians love grapes, and there is evidence that the wooded hillsides in the Gadachrili Gora, about 20 miles south of Tbilisi, were once decked with grapevines. 

A team of archaeologists had discovered what exactly they were using all those grapes for: winemaking.

Tartaric acid was found in many of their jars, a known chemical byproduct of wine residue. [2] The same jars were adorned with grape decorations, and ample grape pollen was found in the site’s fine soil. 

The Neolithic people may have been producing wine on a large scale and transporting it to the nearby village when it was ready to drink. 

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Chicha

Chicha

Chicha is a prominent alcoholic drink in modern Latin America, but did you know that it has been around for over 6000 years?

This fermented beverage was (and is still) made from maize, and archaeologists discovered pottery dating back to around 5000 BCE that was used to make and store the drink. 

Chicha was a sacred drink offered to gods and ancestors. Mummies of previous kings were bathed in maize flour and presented with chicha offerings, and human sacrifices were first dredged and rubbed with chicha before the official ceremony. 

Cacao Wine

With cacao in its name, you would be right to assume that this fermented drink has something to do with chocolates. It is said that the cacao seeds were used for cacao wine — more specifically, the sweet pulp surrounding it.

The residues, which tested positive for theobromine, were found from pottery vessels obtained from Puerto Escondido, or what is now known as Honduras. Theobromine is a chemical compound found only in cacao. 

Cacao was a hot commodity amongst the Aztecs and was often found on social and ritual occasions. If you were in possession of a lot of cacao, you were considered wealthy. Cacao beans were even used as currency. 

Read: How Much Alcohol Does An Average American Drink?

Brief Alcohol History Timeline

Brief Alcohol History Timeline

  • 8000 BC – A fermented drink made from wild yeast and honey is allegedly produced in the Middle East.
  • 7000 BC – Evidence of early alcoholic drink in China. 
  • 3000 to 2000 BC – An alcoholic beverage called Sura was distilled in India.
  • 2700 BC – Babylonians worshipped a wine goddess. 
  • 16th Century – Spirits were largely used for medicinal purposes. 
  • 18th Century – The British parliament passed a law encouraging the use of grains for distilling spirits. 
  • 19th Century – The Temperance Movement began promoting the use of alcohol. 
  • 1920 – The US passed a law prohibiting the manufacture, import, export, and sale of intoxicating liquors. 
  • 1933 – Prohibition of alcohol was canceled. 
  • 1930s to 1980s – US consumption of alcoholic beverages increased gradually.
  • 20th Century – Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was formed.

FAQs 

What is the oldest hard liquor?

The oldest hard liquor was possibly brandy (not that it was called that at the time). Abu Musa Jabir, an Arabic alchemist, designed the first alembic pot still in the 8th century, which was one of the first pot stills to distill wine effectively.

He didn’t do so for recreational purposes, though — the first hard liquor was used for medicinal purposes. 

What is the rarest liquor?

Probably the rarest liquor is The Dalmore 50, of which there are only 50 bottles.

It was distilled in 1966 to commemorate Master Distiller Richard Paterson’s 50 years in the whiskey industry. Each bottle costs around $60,000. 

In Summary 

Liquor has a long line in history, dating back thousands of years.

Of course, no one knows what the first alcohol produced was or when it was first produced — just that our ancestors have been fermenting it for a long time, whether for religious, social, or spiritual use. 

Some of the oldest liquors include the Chinese fermented wine, made from rice, honey, hawthorn fruit, and grape; cacao wine, made from fermenting the fleshy pulp surrounding the cacao seed; and the oldest produced beer from Iran, said to have been made from fermenting barley. 

Today, liquor is a prominent figure in many fun gatherings and social occasions and is said to bring people closer together. 

References: 

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/j.2050-0416.2011.tb00445 
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/tartaric-acid

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