So over the weekend we did something pretty rare. We combined inebriation with education. No really. It all came together in the form of Fringe NYC’s production of The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking.
What’s that, you ask? It’s a show developed by Anthony Caporale, the director of beverage studies at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education and the U.S. brand ambassador for Drambuie that traces the story of alcohol from early human history through today.
With stories. And music. And three rounds of cocktails. Suffice it to say, it’s a pretty fun way to spend an hour and a half, and although walked out with a bit of a buzz, we managed to retain some surprising trivia. Enjoy.
1. The first beer was (probably) brewed by a woman.
As females did most of the gathering in the hunter-gatherer era, it’s likely that a woman left a basket of grain out in the rain. When she came back for it a few days later, the combo of grain, yeast, water and time resulted in a very crude brew. (Watch the lovely Nicole DeMattei act it all out in the video below.) Isn’t it fitting that a story this great begins with chicks and beer?
2. The word “alcohol” derives from Arabic.
This one is a little fuzzy in our minds, but essentially, the term al-ḡūl, which originally referred to a woman’s eye shadow, transformed into alcohol and migrated into English alchemy chatter sometime in the 1500s. Like we said, it’s a little fuzzy.
3. Back in the day, booze saved lives.
For a variety of reasons, many big cities were established along rivers. And citizens used ’em to get rid of waste, which inevitably polluted the rivers downstream. Contaminated drinking water can cause illness, but lots of germs are killed when it’s turned into booze. So provided you didn’t drink and horse, spirits could actually increase your odds of, you know, not dying.
4. British soldiers invented the G&T.
During the 1800s, the British military issued rations of tonic to help soldiers deal with a range of ailments, like an upset stomach. They also issued a ration of gin to help soldiers relax during long days defending the Crown abroad. To smooth out the taste of the gin, soldiers started to combine it with their tonic ration and just like that, the gin and tonic was born.
5. One of the few good things to come out of Prohibition? Cocktails
In the dark years between 1920 and 1933, many fine Americans snuck into underground speakeasies to get their fix. These were nothing like today’s gleaming Disney-sies, as Caporale calls them. They were grungy spots serving filthy bootleg booze that bartenders started combining with all sorts of ingredients to disguise the taste of, for example, household cleaners. On the upside, when Prohibition ended, the best recipes survived. And combined with quality spirits, as we all know, they can be downright delicious!
If you are in the NYC area, there’s still one more Imbible showing, this Saturday at 12:45. Tickets available here.