While it may not be advisable to substitute alcohol for water today, be thankful that booze was integrated so closely into life at sea, for some of our favorite boozy treats wouldn’t exist without this sailing tradition. These three beverages owe their origins to the Age of Exploration and the years that followed, so think like a sailor and drink up!
Fortified wines likely would not exist without the tradition of sea transport. Sailors embarking on long voyages would stop in port cities to pick up provisions for the journey: food, supplies, and, of course, wine. However, wine would often spoil on these long trips, so winemakers began adding a small amount of neutral spirit to quite literally fortify the wine to withstand the journey. Port, Sherry, and Marsala all exist in their current iterations because of this practice beginning during the Age of Exploration.
There is one wine, however, that not only became fortified as a result of sea voyages, but actually developed its distinctive style because of these sailing trips as well. Madeira, the “zombie wine” from the Portuguese island of the same name, owes its flavor profile to a method of aging that actually developed quite by accident on ships. When sailors were traveling to the East Indies, they would typically stop in the port of Madeira and pick up barrels of local wine. Though the wine was fortified, it was still subjected to intense heat as the ships crossed the equator. The more noble Port wine received the cooler storage areas, so the wine was essentially cooked by this unintentional process of heating during the day and cooling at night. Upon arriving in the East Indies, the wine was completely changed – but surprisingly, wine drinkers preferred this style of cooked, oxidized wine!
For a time after this discovery, producers would purposefully age their Madeira wines in the holds of ships, labeling and selling the wine according to the journey that it had made. The coveted vinho da roda often fetched the highest prices, as it was a wine that had made a “round trip” past the equator. This process was extremely costly, however, so winemakers began mimicking the process in the winery instead, taking advantage of Madeira’s tropical location and placing barrels in attic rooms called estufas to heat and oxidize. Today this practice continues for the best wines, all thanks to a simple ship storage accident.
India Pale Ale
While the India Pale Ale, or IPA, has taken the modern American craft beer industry by storm, its origins actually lie in England, where the style was created as a result of British sailing voyages. In the mid-to-late 1700s, British sailors were making regular trips to India, as England had large colonies there. Not only were British ships responsible for bringing exports – beer among them – to the colonies in India, but back then, sailors were drinking large quantities of beer as a way to stay hydrated. However, with a trip that long that required crossing the equator, the standard British ale would eventually spoil as well.
These beers needed a preservative, and brewers found one in the plant that defines the IPA style: hops. India-bound ales received a very high addition of hops and eventually were made in a higher-alcohol style as well – another way of helping the beer reach its destination without spoiling. This resulted in a stronger, bitterer beer. Ironically, the colonists it was intended for despised the style. It stuck at home, though, and brewers began making more IPAs for English drinkers in the 1800s. But it all started because of a necessary voyage halfway around the world.
The invention of the daiquiri, a classic cocktail made with white rum, lime, simple syrup, and ice, is a bit contested, but the origins of the cocktail have ties to the sea. A predecessor of the daiquiri is thought to be grog, a cocktail of sorts that was consumed by the British Royal Navy in the late 1700s. Water, somewhat ironically, was a constant problem faced on ships before modern technology came into the picture. Sailors needed a large source of fresh water, but it would quickly spoil as it sat on the ship. Instead, members of the British Royal Navy were given beer rations as a means of hydration. However, with a ration of a gallon of beer per sailor per day, this amount of liquid was impractical to maintain; on very long trips, there simply wasn’t enough room to store that much beer.
In the late 1600s, however, a solution appeared: Great Britain colonized Jamaica and had access to a plentiful supply of rum. Thus, the beer ration was changed to a smaller rum ration: a half-pint per sailor per day. The problem with this new system was that sailors began hoarding their rations, saving the rum for several days and getting good and drunk by consuming it all at once. So the Navy ordered the rum to be diluted with water, which made it spoil faster, and doled it out twice per day, cutting both the taste and the sailors’ fun.
One gentleman, British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon, offered a suggestion to his squadron in 1740. Sailors could trade some salt provisions for sugar and limes in order to make the watered-down rum more palatable. This was the birth of grog, and by 1795, it was part of the official Royal Navy rations, the designated recipe containing rum, water, lemon or lime juice, and sugar (the citrus, they discovered, had the bonus effect of curing scurvy). This isn’t too far off from the classic daiquiri recipe as we know it today; the water, of course, is now substituted with ice.
Light up your garden area with these adorable hanging candles. The copper grapes addition gives it the perfect wine-lover’s touch.
Be the most welcoming wine lover on the block with this wine bottle chalkboard sign.
Why house the birds when you can feed them? Throw some birdseed into this bottle and watch the fruits of your drinking help your mini-ecosystem!
These repurposed bottles look especially gorgeous with an array of plant shapes and colors. Check out how gorgeous the long, leafy plant looks!
This simple yet beautiful set of wind chimes adds a peaceful zen to any home garden.
Keep the bugs at bay with these adorable wine-bottle citronella candles! So much cuter than the usual potter bases they come in.
Crafting with bottles doesn’t get any simpler than this! Simply flip upside down, bury into some dirt, and voila. Vary up the bottle colors for a fun, festive edging.
These adorable solar lanterns are super easy to make. Simply paint, string some twine, and pop the lantern on top! As with the bottle edging, vary the colors to make your lanterns pop.
These bottle trees are a fun, festive addition to any garden or patio. Using bright-colored bottles will add a super springy touch. Bonus points for adding gems to the base like this example here!
The theory was originally put forth by Robert Dudley, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, in a 2000 article called “Evolutionary origins of human alcoholism in primate frugivory.” The hypothesis proposes that apes and early humans evolved to seek out ethyl alcohol because it led them to food. These early primates are known as frugivores, referring to their preference for fruit over any other food. But in order to locate that desirable fruit and those crucial calories, frugivores couldn’t just hit the local Whole Foods. They had to rely on their sense of smell. And one thing that routinely led them to fruit was the smell of alcohol.
That’s because natural fermentation occurs when yeast eats sugar. Yeast floating through the air attaches itself to fallen fruit, and then eats the sugars in that fruit. A byproduct of the yeast’s consumption of sugar is alcohol — and alcohol’s smell. For frugivores, that smell meant food was near. Animals that could detect the smell of fermenting fruit had a better chance of survival because it meant more calories. Ergo, we developed a taste for alcohol because its smell kept us alive. As Dudley concludes in his article, “Although diverse factors contribute to the expression of alcoholism as a clinical syndrome, historical selection for the consumption of ethanol in the course of frugivory can be viewed as a subtle yet pervasive evolutionary influence on modern humans.”
Dudley, whose father had suffered from alcoholism, eventually accumulated all the data into a 2014 book called “The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol.” “Where there is sugar in the tropics, there is alcohol,” he explained to Berkeley News. “Now, not a lot; it depends on how much you consume. They are not drinking down gin and tonics, but they are getting a long, sustained, low-level exposure.”
Though early primate ancestors may not have been drinking cocktails, Dudley arrived at his hypothesis over one. “It was in Panama, where I lived for five years,” he told Berkeley News. “It was a combination of long term exposure to the foraging biology of monkeys in the field, and the nicest experience in the world, which is sitting on the veranda at 5:30 p.m. with a Rum and Coke in hand, watching the sun go down.”
It was on the veranda, cocktail in hand, that he came up with the theory. “I remember thinking once, ‘What is it about humans and alcohol, and this triangle of monkeys, fruit and alcohol fermentation? Maybe it is just an ancestral association of fruit-eating with alcohol production by yeast.’ Then, my immediate next thought, which I remember even more clearly, was that this is a real simple and obvious idea.”
Today, humans forage for alcohol in stores, not the wild. But at its most basic, is hunting for a bottle of wine really all that different from hunting for wildly fermenting fruit and sap? The next time you’re browsing the bottles, take a second to consider the long evolutionary tradition of searching for the perfect beverage.