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Beverage innovation comes from history

Thanks to a growing number of dedicated beverage producers, you can drink like an Egyptian, quaff like an ancient Roman or sip hot cocoa like an Aztec warrior. Some may call these marketing gimmicks, but both consumers and producers are enthralled by bibulous legends.

Thomas Jefferson’s beer
Although better known as a wine connoisseur, America’s third President also brewed a lot of beer at his home at Monticello. That’s why the Thomas Jefferson Foundation teamed up with Charlottesville, Virginia’s Star Hill Brewing Co. to recreate one of Jefferson’s recipes. Monticello Reserve Ale is brewed with malt, wheat, corn and English hops.

Shipwrecked bubbles
Swedish divers discovered over one hundred intact bottles of Champagne from a schooner wrecked in the Baltic Sea in the early 1800s. The extreme pressure and cold of the seas’ depths kept the bubbly drinkable; it still tasted fresh and lively. The divers tasted it and some bottles have been auctioned.

Roman seawater wine
When winemaker Herve Durand discovered that the Romans had also grown grapes 2,000 years ago in his vineyard in Provence, France, he decided to do as the Romans do, recreating an ancient winery following texts from ancient writers like Pliny the Elder and Cato. The Gallo-Roman estate is producing traditional wines like the Mulsum, a red with honey and spices, and Turriculae, a white enhanced with seawater.

Mayan mug of hot chocolate
Kakawa Chocolate House specializes in recreated drinking chocolates from different historic eras. Perhaps the most interesting is the Mesoamerican line, when pre-Colombian cultures invented the drink. Aztec Warrior Elixir, for example, is a blend of cacao with herbs, flowers, nuts, spices, Mexican vanilla and passillo de Oaxaca chiles.

Discovering Dr Pepper
Housed in an historic 1906 bottling plant in Waco, Texas, there’s a fountain of soft drink artifacts on display at the Dr Pepper Museum. Among the attractions is a recreation of the Old Corner Drugstore where Dr. Charles Alderton first mixed a glass of the fruity soft drink in 1885 (predating Coca-Cola by a year), narrated by a life-size animatronic robot of the doctor.

Dogfish Head’s ancient ales
With the help of an archeologist, this Delaware-based craft brewery recreated a series of five Ancient Ales. For the Midas Touch, for example, dregs in a drinking vessel recovered from King Midas’ tomb in Egypt were analyzed and the beer was recreated with ingredients from Cairo’s spice market.

Spirit of ’76
George Washington was not only the father of our country, he was a whiskey maker as well. His distillery at Mount Vernon was the largest in post-Revolutionary America, producing a record 11,000 gallons of spirits in 1799. Now the gristmill and distillery facility have been faithfully reconstructed with five copper stills. Tourists can watch demos of Colonial distilling techniques and taste the final product at the gift shop.

Petrified Irish whiskey
The Cooley Distillery in Ireland is known for its unusual whiskeys. Its latest 1,000-bottle experimental whiskey is matured in a cask with the ends made from bog oak—wood fossilized after thousands of years buried in the mire—which gives the spirit a distinctive earthiness and orange-caramel flavor.

Sumerian goddess’ suds
San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing, which itself traces its roots back to the California Gold Rush days, created an homage to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer, with a brew made according to a 4,000-year-old recipe.

Shackleton’s stash of Scotch
After nearly a century entombed in Antarctic ice, a cache of Scotch whisky was discovered at the British explorer’s 1908 base camp. Shackleton’s stash was retrieved and thawed under laboratory-controlled conditions, then tasted, analyzed and recreated by original producer Mackinlay’s Highland Malt Whisky.

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