Thursday, April 05, 2012

the world's oldest cocktail?

When Nestor and Machaon had reached the tents of the son of Neleus, they dismounted, and an esquire, Eurymedon, took the horses from the chariot. The pair then stood in the breeze by the seaside to dry the sweat from their shirts, and when they had so done they came inside and took their seats. Fair Hecamede, whom Nestor had had awarded to him from Tenedos when Achilles took it, mixed them a mess; she was daughter of wise Arsinous, and the Achaeans had given her to Nestor because he excelled all of them in counsel. First she set for them a fair and well-made table that had feet of cyanus; on it there was a vessel of bronze and an onion to give relish to the drink, with honey and cakes of barley-meal. There was also a cup of rare workmanship which the old man had brought with him from home, studded with bosses of gold; it had four handles, on each of which there were two golden doves feeding, and it had two feet to stand on. Any one else would hardly have been able to lift it from the table when it was full, but Nestor could do so quite easily. In this the woman, as fair as a goddess, mixed them a mess with Pramnian wine; she grated goat's milk cheese into it with a bronze grater, threw in a handful of white barley-meal, and having thus prepared the mess she bade them drink it.
-from The Iliad, Book XI, prose translation by Samuel Butler (the novelist, not the poet Samuel Butler, nor the classicist Samuel Butler)

Bronze Age carousing was weird, man.  Cheese and barley in the wine?  I've spent a bit of time trying to figure out if anything resembling "Pramnian wine" is still available for purchase today.  Μethymneos wine, from the island of Lesbos, might be a good match.  The Hungarian wine Tokaji Eszencia, which is Baron Munchausen's favorite vintage, if I recall correctly, might also work.   I've heard that Tokaji Eszencia is one of the priciest wines in the world, so I'm not sure anyone would actually put feta and barley flour in it.