The Mysterious Names of Alcohol, Part II
In my previous post I talked about the history of alcohol, and the words behind beer and wine. In this post, following on from that, I will talk about the alcohols of the spirit world; together we’ll look at vodka, rum, whisky, and more, as we dissect the names, meanings and cultural influences.
First, let’s talk rum. Inspiring images of pirates swilling about on the ocean through storms while being attacked by giant squid, “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!” ringing across the deck. Ah the life of a pirate. Rum’s origins are rather groggy, it has a relative in the word ‘rumbullion,’ however this may only be the combination of the word ‘rum’
and ‘boullion,’ meaning “hot drink” in French. Said by a Mr. N. Darnell Davis, “It came from the Barbados, where the planters first distilled it, somewhere between 1640 and 1645.” He goes on to say: “the chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar-canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor.” Other theories purpose the word derives from ‘aroma’ or ‘saccharum.’
Let’s turn our attention to Russia, where you can see a cat theater, and walk in the most polluted city in the world. Russia has a long history, much of which wouldn’t be truly complete without the addition of vodka. Russia is the largest country in the world, and they like their water; no, not ‘water’ water, but vodka, which comes from the Russian word voda, meaning ‘water,’ and -ka being a diminutive suffix; therefore leaving us with “little water.”
Our next destination is Ireland, where little green leprechauns hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and everyone is incredibly lucky; lucky because they have whisky. Of course whiskey is also rooted in Scottish culture, but I wanted to mention the leprechauns. Whiskey is a drink with many relatives and varieties, some of which include barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat or corn. Using these you will find different styles including bourbon, rye, Tennessee, Scotch, Irish and Canadian. The word whiskey goes back to the Gaelic uisge beatha, ‘water of life,’ yes, another drink with a nod to water. Uisge beatha became usquebaugh in the 16th century, then whiskybae, and now whiskey. It should be noted that whiskey is to refer to Irish and American whiskies, while the Scotch variety is whisky, minus the ‘e.’
Alright let’s get the last few out of the way. Gin is derived from the French genievre, the Dutch jenever, and the Italian ginepro, these all translate to ‘juniper,’ which is the berry gin derives most of its flavor from. Brandy is derived from the Dutch brandewijn, ‘burnt wine.’ Lastly Tequila, one I simply couldn’t exclude from the list, is simply named after the city in Mexico where it was first made.
There we have it, our journey though the drinks has come to an end. What are your thoughts? Do you like or dislike any of the drinks mentioned? Do you know any other interesting ones that should be mentioned?