Lucy Worsley visits an old tavern, which once welcomed patrons through Henry VIII’s reign, to learn more about historic drinks enjoyed during the holidays. She joins two modern day brewers to try a traditional Tudor mead, also known as metheglin, which is made with a honey base.
- Another crucial ingredient
for any successful feast was alcohol.
I've come to taste some typical Tudor tipples at a tavern,
which welcomed drinkers throughout Henry's reign.
Annie's brought along two modern-day brewers
who've recreated historic recipes for us to try.
Hello brewers, may I join you?
I like the way you've brought so many drinks with you,
this is good stuff.
What've you got over here?
- So I've brought along some mead,
and mead's made from honey.
That's the base of it.
What we've made today
is from an old traditional Tudor recipe.
It's what we call a metheglin.
- A metheg.
- Metheglin, yeah.
- The word comes from the Welsh,
and Henry Tudor's quite keen to emphasize his Welsh roots.
So there's a kind of vogue for it,
which is very specific to that dynasty.
- It's the honey base, and then it's got some red sorrel,
thyme, cloves, some strawberry leaves,
there's lemon balm as well.
So, things you kind of forage for.
- Red sorrel doesn't sound like something
that belongs in a drink, but that's a Tudor thing, is it?
- It is when it comes to this particular drink,
because it is medicinal.
- Doctor's orders that you drink this, then?
- So let's try you.
Metheglin, the metheglin.
- [Male Brewer] Cheers.
- Happy Christmas.
- [Female Brewer] Cheers.
- [Annie] That's quite nice.
It's a bit like pings.
- Yeah, it's got that kind of thin, dry, perfume-y note.
- It's very refreshing.
It's a little bit lighter.
- I thought mead was going to feel sticky
and sweet like honey, but this isn't at all.
- No. So all the honey gets turned into alcohol,
so actually it'll get burned off.
- I like the way that you take mead seriously as a drink.
As a business.
Herbs and spices were also mixed into Tudor wine,
which was usually imported from France,
and into the most affordable and popular form of booze.
We'd call it beer or ale, though for the Tudor drinker,
those words meant very different drinks.
- I've made a gruit ale, which is a recipe
that would probably have been made in Tudor times.
- What's the gruit mean?
- A gruit is a bunch of herbs and spices
that you would put into your ale, instead of using hops.
- Aha. Hops did exist in the Tudor period,
but they were quite a new thing, weren't they Annie?
- They sort of started to come in
in around the 1480s, 1490s we think.
The advantage of hopping your ale is that the beer
would last a lot longer, but hops were seen
as this strange new-fangled additive from abroad.
Henry the Eighth passed various regulations
making sure that within his household,
ale and beer were very separate.
Because he said that adding hops to your ale
would stop it being wholesome.
- Can we drink some of this ale, not beer?
- Yeah, fantastic.
So we got a lively murky brown color.
- It does look a bit like gravy.
Happy Christmas, yet again!