DRINKS THROUGH THE AGES

In 1295/6 the Auld Alliance was formed between Scotland and France and whilst it was primarily a military and diplomatic alliance, it was also based upon a long-established friendship founded on the Scots love for French wine.  The Alliance gave the Scottish merchants the privilege of selecting the first choice of Bordeaux’s finest wines – a privilege which was eagerly protected for hundreds of years, much to the annoyance of English wine drinkers who received an inferior product.

French wine was landed on Wine Quay of Leith in Edinburgh and rolled up the streets to the merchants’ cellars behind the water front. The wine landed was mostly for the elite of Scottish society, with most commoners drinking whisky or beer, but it seems to have been popular with everyone for the renowned Scottish Hogmanay celebrations at New Year.

In the 16th century it was not safe to drink water, therefore for ordinary people, drinking ale or beer was essential.  Tudor housewives were expected to brew their own beer although it was also sold commercially.  Other popular drinks in 16th century included sherry, which was known as sack and brandy and in Scotland, whisky was a popular drink.

In the 17th century cider making reached a peak.  Wine was very much the drink of the wealthy as it had to be imported. Wine was imported predominantly from France and Germany but an increasing amount was also imported from Spain and Portugal.

Drinking rum became common in Britain in the 18th century, no doubt helped by the British navy, which gave sailors a daily rum ration, this only ended in 1970.  Drinking cheap gin became endemic in the early 18th century, however gin drinking was curtailed after 1751 when duty was charged.  In the early 18th century porter became a common drink in London and Guinness was first brewed in Dublin in 1759.

In the late 19th century there were great improvements in public health. Towns created piped water supplies and for the first time it was safe to drink water.  Many new drinks were invented in the 19th century and early 20th century. India Pale Ale was first made around 1820 with Pimms being invented in 1823.  The first golden lager was invented in Bohemia (Czech Republic) in 1842 and canned beer was first sold in the USA in 1935. However in 1923, a law was passed in Britain banning the sale of alcohol to people under 18 which somewhat curtailed consumption.

Whighams is without doubt one of Edinburgh’s gems.  As a regular customer for more than 30 years, the quality of wines and food that they offer has remained unrivalled.  The staff are charming, the food is delicious and the selection of wines, spirits and beers is outstanding.  If you’ve not visited then make sure that you do, you’re guaranteed to return again and again to this fabulous place.”

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