Alcoholic drinks are made when the sugars found in plants are left to go off.
A very, very long time ago, people discovered that grains of barley, wheat and corn, different types of fruit, and even honey, could be fermented to produce a drink that did more than quench your thirst, and it could play a role in hygiene, medicine, nutrition and religion too. It was probably discovered by accident, but we don’t know when or how.
In various ancient cultures, alcohol was used in religious rites, perhaps its effects were thought to be supernatural. Many ancient societies worshiped gods of wine or beer.
It wasn’t limited to the priests, though, and there are various references to people staggering about drunk and warnings of the need for moderation in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian records.
The oldest wine ever found was discovered in a Stone Age pottery jar in the mountains of modern-day Iran. Amazingly, residues of the liquid had survived more than 7,000 years to be identified by scientists as a wine that was probably a bit like the Greek drink retsina.
Another Neolithic site in Iran contained tiny amounts of a substance that experts think is beer. It’s 6,000 years old. And the ancient Egyptians were brewing beer at least 4,500 years ago.
Today, beer is the bestselling alcoholic drink. More than 133 billion litres are sold every year around the world, that’s over 20 litres per person!
Drunk as a monk: Champagne, the poshest alcoholic tipple, was invented by a monk called Dom Pierre Perignon. He spent years trying to remove the bubbles from the wine he had made, before realizing that people seemed to like them!