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  • Mary O Sullivan

(Possible) Cocktails of Irish medieval aristocracy


Irish people circa 1575

One of the most popular alcoholic drinks in medieval Ireland was metheglin, a mead flavoured with rose, thyme and rosemary. Another drink, made from sloes, honey and water fermented in barrels underground for 6 weeks, was also extremely popular. Spiced ale was also fairly common, alongside imported wine. Giraldus Cambrensis, a chaplain who accompanied Prince John to Ireland in 1185CE, wrote that Poitou was the main region in France that wine was imported from. He was brought to Ireland to write accounts of how savage the Irish were, to justify the invasion. However his is one of the few accounts, however biased, that survive from the era.


Sloe Tree, fruit ripen over the winter when leaves have been shed

During feasts, each table shared a large cup, called a mether. It was the custom to drink sparingly, as it was considered rude for the cup to reach the end of the table empty. Early version of the cup had two handles and later versions had four. Early versions were made from wood, and later iterations from pottery or precious metals.


We can see that traditionally, Irish drinkers really had a sweet tooth and enjoyed herbaceous flavours. Honey and seasonal herbs were added to drinks to enrich them and make them more flavourful.

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