Quench Your Thirst: A Guide to Medieval Drinks in England

Quench Your Thirst: A Guide to Medieval Drinks in England

Welcome to our guide to medieval drinks in England! Here, we will explore the rich history of traditional English drinks and the unique brewing processes used to create them. From the popular ales to the luxurious wines, we will provide you with authentic historical beverage recipes to recreate these drinks in the comfort of your own home.

Join us as we journey through the drinking culture of the Middle Ages in England and discover the various types of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages that were enjoyed during this time. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a curious foodie, or simply looking to quench your thirst with a traditional drink, this guide has something for you. So, let’s raise a glass to the flavors of the past and dive into the world of medieval drinks in England!

Drink Culture During the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages were a time of great social and cultural change in England, and the way people drank was no exception. During this period, drinking was an integral part of daily life, with people drinking for a variety of reasons, including hydration, socialization, and religious ceremonies.

Popular Drinks in Medieval England

Ale was the most popular drink during the Middle Ages, brewed in almost every household and consumed by both men and women. Other popular drinks included mead, a fermented beverage made from honey, and wine, which was considered a luxury item at the time and reserved for the upper class.

Non-alcoholic drinks were also consumed during this time, such as herbal infusions and tisanes, as well as fruit juices and cordials. These refreshments were enjoyed by those who chose not to partake in alcohol or were unable to access it.

Authentic Medieval Drink Recipes

If you’re curious about what drinks were like during the Middle Ages, why not try making one for yourself? We have compiled a list of authentic medieval drink recipes that you can recreate in your own home, including ale, mead, and herbal infusions. These recipes provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and allow you to taste history first-hand.

Alcoholic Beverages in Medieval England

Alcoholic beverages were an integral part of daily life in medieval England. Ale, mead, and wine were the most popular alcoholic drinks during this time period.

Ale was the most common beverage consumed by the masses and was made by fermenting malted barley with water, yeast, and hops. The brewing process would take a few days to a week, and the result was a drink that varied in strength but was typically low in alcohol content.

Mead, on the other hand, was a fermented honey beverage that was highly regarded in medieval England. The process of making mead involved mixing honey, water, and yeast and allowing it to ferment for several weeks. Mead was often consumed during celebrations and was considered a drink fit for royalty.

Wine was considered a luxury item in medieval England and was primarily enjoyed by the upper class. The wine culture of the time was heavily influenced by the Roman Empire, and the varieties of wine imported into England were often from French and Spanish vineyards. Wine was typically consumed during feasts and other grand occasions.

The brewing techniques for these alcoholic beverages were relatively simple and required only basic equipment. However, the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the brewer were crucial in creating a satisfactory product. Beer and mead were typically brewed in large wooden barrels, while wine was stored in glass bottles or ceramic jugs.

Today, you can recreate these historic beverages in your own home using authentic medieval recipes. The process may take some time and experimentation, but the results are sure to transport you back in time to the flavors of medieval England.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks in Medieval England

While ale, mead, and wine were the popular drinks of medieval England, not everyone consumed alcohol. Non-alcoholic beverages were also enjoyed during the Middle Ages, and many of them were rich in flavor and medicinal benefits.

Herbal infusions and tisanes were popular options, particularly for their health benefits. They were made by steeping various herbs and flowers in hot water to create flavorful and medicinal beverages. Some of the most commonly used herbs included chamomile, rose petals, and lavender.

Fruit juices and cordials were also popular non-alcoholic options. They were made by pressing or boiling fruits and mixing them with sugar or honey to create a sweet and tangy drink. Some of the most commonly used fruits included apples, pears, and berries.

For those looking for a refreshing non-alcoholic option, water was the go-to choice. However, due to the poor quality of water sources during the Middle Ages, water was often contaminated and unsafe for consumption.

Authentic Medieval Drink Recipes:

  • Herbal Infusion: Steep a handful of chamomile flowers and a few sprigs of fresh mint in a pot of hot water for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy hot or cold.
  • Fruit Cordial: Combine equal parts fresh berry juice and honey in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture thickens and becomes syrupy. Store in a sterilized jar and serve diluted with water.
  • Apple Juice: Wash and quarter a few apples, removing the seeds and stem. Place in a pot with enough water to cover the apples. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the apples are soft and mushy. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth to remove solids, then sweeten with honey to taste.

Non-alcoholic drinks were an important part of medieval drink culture, offering a flavorful and healthy alternative to alcoholic beverages. If you’re looking to recreate these traditional drinks in your own home, give one of these authentic recipes a try and taste the flavors of the past!

Ale: The Beverage of the Masses

Ale was the most commonly consumed beverage during medieval times in England. It was a staple drink for the masses, and many people brewed their own at home. Ale was brewed using a combination of malted barley, water, yeast, and hops, which gave it a distinct bitter taste.

During the Middle Ages, ale was made in large quantities and consumed daily, as it was safer than drinking water. The brewing process helped to kill any harmful bacteria or pathogens that may have been present in the water. Ale was also a source of nutrition, as it contained carbohydrates and other essential nutrients.

Brewing Authentic Medieval Ale at Home

If you’re interested in brewing your own authentic medieval ale, here’s a simple recipe to get you started:


  • 1 pound of malted barley
  • 2-3 ounces of hops
  • 5 gallons of water


  1. Mash the malted barley in hot water to release the sugars.
  2. Boil the hops in water for about an hour.
  3. Add the malted barley to the hops water and continue boiling for another hour.
  4. Cool the mixture and transfer it to a fermenting vessel.
  5. Add the yeast and let it ferment for several days.
  6. Bottle the ale and let it condition for a few weeks before enjoying it.

While this recipe may seem simple, it is a great starting point for brewing your own authentic medieval ale. Experiment with different ingredients and brewing techniques to create your own unique flavor.

Ale remains a traditional English drink enjoyed by many to this day. Its rich history and unique brewing process make it a fascinating beverage to explore. Cheers to the flavors of the past!

Mead: The Nectar of the Gods

Mead, a fermented honey beverage, was highly regarded in medieval England. This sweet nectar was consumed by both the upper and lower classes and was even considered to have healing properties.

The brewing process of mead involved mixing honey, water, and yeast and then allowing it to ferment for several days. The resulting drink varied in sweetness and alcohol content, depending on the amount of honey used. Mead was often flavored with herbs, spices, or fruits, giving it a unique and complex taste.

Historical recipes for mead have been found in various manuscripts from the Middle Ages. The ingredients and brewing techniques may differ slightly, but the essence of mead remains the same – a delicious and revered beverage.

Recreating Medieval Mead at Home

If you’re interested in trying mead for yourself, why not make your own batch at home? Here’s an authentic historical recipe to get you started:


    • 1 gallon of water
    • 3 pounds of honey
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 2 cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace
    • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
    • 1 package of champagne yeast


      • In a large pot, boil the water and honey together for one hour, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.
      • Add the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, mace, and cardamom to the pot.
      • Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a sanitized brewing vessel.
      • Add the champagne yeast to the vessel and gently stir.
      • Seal the vessel with an airlock and let it ferment for 2-4 weeks.
      • After fermentation is complete, transfer the mead to bottles and let it age for several months before drinking.

With just a few ingredients and some patience, you can enjoy your very own batch of this historic and delicious beverage.

Wine: A Drink Fit for Royalty

The wine was a prized possession during the Middle Ages in England. Imported from France and Italy, it was primarily enjoyed by the upper class and royalty. The wine culture of the time was highly sophisticated, with different varieties of wine being paired with specific dishes.

The most popular wines of the time were claret, white wine, and red wine, with claret being the most highly prized. It was a dark red wine that was made from grapes grown in the Bordeaux region of France. The unique soil and weather of the region gave the wine its distinct flavor, making it a favorite among the nobility.

White wine, made from white grapes, was also enjoyed during the Middle Ages. It was typically sweeter than red wine and was often paired with fish and other seafood dishes.

Red wine was less common during the medieval period, but it was still enjoyed by those who could afford it. It was typically paired with meat dishes and was often used in cooking as well.

The wine culture of medieval England was a testament to the sophistication of the time. Wine was not just a beverage but a symbol of status and refinement. Today, we can still appreciate the rich history of wine in England by sampling some of the traditional varieties that were enjoyed during the Middle Ages.

Herbal Infusions and Tisanes

If you were looking for a non-alcoholic option in medieval England, herbal infusions and tisanes were a popular choice. These flavorful and medicinal beverages were created by steeping herbs, flowers, and other plant materials in hot water.

The use of herbs and flowers in drinks was not only for their flavors but also for their health benefits. Chamomile and lavender, for example, were known for their relaxing properties, while mint and ginger were believed to aid digestion.

During the Middle Ages, the use of herbal infusions and tisanes was not limited to beverages. These concoctions were also used in medical treatments. In fact, many of the herbs and flowers used in medieval drinks are still used in herbal medicine today.

If you want to recreate some of these traditional drinks in your own home, try steeping herbs and flowers such as lavender, chamomile, rose, and hibiscus in hot water. Add honey or sugar to taste, and you have a flavorful and healthy beverage to enjoy.

Fruit Juices and Cordials

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic option, medieval England had a variety of fruit juices and cordials to quench your thirst. These beverages were made by crushing fresh fruit, straining out the juice, and sweetening it with honey or sugar. In some cases, herbs and spices were added to enhance the flavor and medicinal properties of the drink.

One popular fruit juice during the Middle Ages was apple juice. Apples were plentiful in England and were often used to make cider. However, apple juice was also enjoyed on its own or mixed with other juices.

Berry juices were also popular, with blackberry and raspberry being the most common. These fruits were readily available in the wild and were often picked and used to make juice and cordials.

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try making your own medieval fruit juice or cordial? Here’s a recipe for a blackberry cordial that will transport you back in time:

  1. Crush 1 pound of blackberries and place them in a bowl.
  2. Add 1 cup of honey and stir until well combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large pot and add 1 quart of water.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and strain the liquid through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer.
  6. Allow the cordial to cool, and then bottle it.
  7. Store the cordial in the refrigerator and enjoy!

Medieval fruit juices and cordials were a refreshing and healthy alternative to alcoholic beverages. With a little creativity and some fresh fruit, you can recreate these authentic medieval drinks in your own home.

Brewing Techniques and Equipment

The brewing of medieval drinks required specific techniques and equipment that differed from modern brewing methods. These traditional techniques and tools were essential in creating the unique flavors that characterized these historic beverages.

Brewing Techniques

One of the primary differences between modern and medieval brewing techniques is the use of gruits. Gruits are a blend of herbs that were commonly used for flavoring and preservation in medieval brewing. Additionally, medieval brewers tended to boil their ingredients for longer periods than modern brewers, resulting in a more robust and complex flavor profile.

Another unique brewing technique used during the Middle Ages was the addition of heated rocks to the brewing process. This method, called ‘stone brewing,’ involved heating rocks and then submerging them into the mixture to heat the liquid. The heated rocks would then infuse the brew with their unique mineral properties, further enhancing the flavor and character of the beverage.

Brewing Equipment

The equipment used by medieval brewers was often simple and easily accessible. Wooden barrels were commonly used for fermenting and storing beverages, while clay pots and jugs were used for mixing ingredients and storing finished products.

One piece of equipment unique to medieval brewing was the alembic, a device used for distilling spirits. Alembics, which were made of glass or metal, were used to distill wine into brandy and were also used to create concentrated herbal infusions and tinctures.

Other brewing tools included strainers, funnels, ladles, and large spoons for stirring. These items were primarily made of wood or metal and were essential in the brewing process.

While modern brewing techniques and equipment have evolved significantly since the Middle Ages, many of the classic brewing methods used during this time are still utilized by craft brewers around the world.


Exploring the history of drinks in medieval England has provided us with a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives and customs of the people of the time. From ale to mead to wine, the range and variety of beverages available to medieval English people was truly impressive.

Through this guide, we’ve learned about the brewing techniques and equipment utilized to create these delicious and historic beverages. We’ve explored the culture of drink during the Middle Ages and uncovered both the popular alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks consumed during the time.

We hope that this guide has inspired you to try recreating some of these traditional English drinks in your own home. With authentic medieval drink recipes for ale, mead, fruit juices, herbal infusions, and cordials, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Here’s to the Flavors of the Past

Cheers to the people of medieval England and their love of flavorful and refreshing drinks. By exploring the history of beverages during the Middle Ages, we can better appreciate the rich traditions and customs of our ancestors. So why not try making a batch of your own medieval drink today and raise a glass to the past?