With many sources of water known to be unsanitary and thus unpotable in times of yore, one would have been safer choosing an alcoholic beverage such as wine, port, or mead during and after a meal. For the upper classes, wines were served throughout dinner, while middle and lower classes would substitute expensive wines for port, sherry, ale, cider, or perhaps mead. The offering after dinner said as much about the household’s affluence as the meal’s quality and abundance. If a generous host offered whiskey or brandy to the gentlemen and wine to the ladies, that was a dinner not to be missed!
But the real question: How did they taste compared to the vintages of today? Then, as now, the enjoyment of the libation was a matter of preference. While the small batch manufacturing processes in place today may not differ much from two hundred years ago, the quality and purity of ingredients have impacted the taste of the finished goods—perhaps to the extent that your beverage of choice today may not have been the same back then.
Ladies separated from the gentlemen after dinner, leaving them to blow a cloud and drink stronger spirits. In my upcoming book, Crossing Lengths and Breadths: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary, Mary and Charlotte remain with the gentlemen for a glass of whiskey before joining the ladies in the drawing room. How scandalous even to consider the fairer sex intruding on this masculine province! I confess this was my favorite scene to write. The setting was rich with the heady scent of cigars and mingled with whiskey decanted into the fine crystal glasses. As for the discussion that ensued, I will not divulge that here!
I am particularly interested in mead. Today, as it was then, it is often made with honey, water, and spices. So, I am pleased to see its popularity resurgence and sold at many apiaries.
On a more personal note, for those who know someone who brews beer or makes wine, the Black-Briar Mead recipe in The Elder Scrolls: The Official Cookbook is as delicious as the characters in Skyrim profess.
Sources for After Dinner Drinks:
Knowles, Rachel “Drink at the Regency dinner table – a Regency History guide,” Regency History, September 30, 2021 https://www.regencyhistory.net/2021/09/drink-at-regency-dinner-table-regency.html
Rowlandson, Thomas “Regency drinks,” Jane Austen’s World, November 26, 2009 https://janeaustensworld.com/tag/regency-drinks/
Jeffers, Regina “Consumption of Alcohol During the Regency Era” Every Woman Dreams… August 1, 2022 https://reginajeffers.blog/2022/08/01/consumption-of-alcohol-during-the-regency-era/
Ford, Janet “Food and drink in 17th and 18th-century inns and alehouses,” History is Now Magazine, June 7, 2014 http://www.historyisnowmagazine.com/blog/2014/6/7/food-and-drink-in-17th-and-18th-century-inns-and-alehouses#.Y8UpgJjMK5c=
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