Nunc est bibendum

In honor of the cherry Visinata/ Vishniak I’m making for Gulf Wars…a few historical drink recipes!

Nunc est bibendum… (now is the time for drinking)

Nunc est bibendum” (“Now is the time for drinking”), sometimes known as the “Cleopatra Ode”, is one of the most famous of the odes of the Roman lyric poet Horace, published in 23 BCE as Poem 37 in the first book of Horace’s collected “Odes” or “Carmina”. Also known as, “Drink up!”, the line is taken from Horace’s Odes book I, ode xxxvii, line 1.



I’m making two infused spirits for our next big reenactment event. One is amaretto based on the 1525 recipe di Saronno.

The legend: In 1525, Bernardino Luini (a pupil of Da Vinci) was painting a sanctuary in Saronno and needed a model to depict the Madonna. A young windowed innkeeper provided inspiration (and supposedly a love interest as well), and offered him a gift to show her affections. Being poor, she had little to offer, so made him a flask of brandy steeped with apricot kernels.

In the 1400s, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Miracles was founded in Saronno. For a later addition to the chapel in 1525, a painter named Bernardino Luini found a model for the Virgin Mary in a local widowed innkeeper and used her face in the paintings in the chapel. As a reward for this honor, the innkeeper gave the painter a present of a flask of liqueur (brandy infused with apricot kernels and sugar), which was what would become Disaronno. The brand claims that this was the first amaretto liqueur, “amaretto” meaning “a little bit bitter.”

In the 16th-century, a member of the Reina family supposedly rediscovered the old recipe, and it was commercialized in the early 1900s. The Reina family still owns the company.

Disaronno purchases 300 tons of bitter almonds (apricot pits) annually. So, the bitter almonds, which is another name for apricot kernels/seeds, are first crushed in a machine that grinds them into a flour. This flour is then soaked in hot water, which separates the flavor components from the sugars in the pits. The essential oil gained from this process is then used.

Bitter almond essential oil is one of the two main flavoring components of the liqueur. The other is vanilla. These flavors (and probably others, the recipe is a secret) are combined with water, sugar, alcohol, and coloring.

Bitter almonds are illegal to sell as a food product in the US, because they contain a chemical that converts to the poison cyanide. Sweet almonds are what we typically munch on. Neither type of almond is a true nut; they are pits of fruits.

Homemade Amaretto
takes one (inactive) month; makes 8 cups (64 oz or 1/2 gallon)
taken from Scarpetta Dolcetto Blog . 

  • 1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup bottled or purified water
  • 4 cups vodka, at least 80-proof
  • 2 cup brandy, at least 80-proof
  • 3 1/2 cups whole, unsalted almonds, skins on and roughly chopped (I found steam-pasteurized, unroasted almonds at the natural food market)
  • 1/2 cup dried apricot kernels, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries, roughly chopped
  • one cinnamon stick
  • one whole nutmeg, halved
  • half a vanilla bean pod

In a clean, gallon-sized, food grade or glass container (one with a tight lid), soak the chopped apricots in the water. Let rehydrate, uncovered, for three hours; the apricots will absorb much of the liquid. Chop the almonds and apricot kernels and sift, discarding as much “dust” as possible. Add all the remaining ingredients to the apricots. Cover and shake to combine. Find a cool, dark home (cabinet, pantry, etc.) for your container for 4 weeks, shaking about once a week.

To finish the liqueur in four weeks, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup bottled or purified water
  • 2 cup vodka, at least 80-proof
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ultra-fine cheesecloth
  • fine-mesh strainer
  • flat-bottomed coffee filters (sweet-talk your neighborhood barista)
  • individual bottles for gifting or four pint-sized glass containers


Other Period Adult Beverage Recipes

The following references in the captions take you to the Folger Shakespeare Library scanned manuscript.

Reblogged via nunc est bibendum…

Citizen-humanist @Greensleeves made a delicious sounding cherry brandy earlier this year using a recipe from Shakespeare’s World. It involved steeping cherries in brandy for months, with sugar, cinnamon & cloves. If you fancy trying out some of our ‘drinks’ recipes too, here are a selection taken from the project thus far. The main ingredients are also noted below. Most list water as an ingredient, though it is referred to differently as cold water, fair water, spring water or raw water. Another theme they have in common is time (you will need the patience of 6 or 7 days, 3 weeks…etc!). A huge thank you to all of our citizen-humanists who tagged &/or transcribed these recipes.

Grape Wine

To make Wine of graps:-
Ingredients: clusters of grapes, including the rotten ones!





Cocke Ale
Ingredients: 1 cockerel, 2 quarts of the best sack, 8 gallons strong ale, 4lb raisins, 1/4lb dates, a large nutmeg, cloves, mace & sugar.




Lemon Wine

Lemmon Wine
Ingredients: 8 lemons, 2lb sugar & spring water.




Gooseberry Wine

To make Goosberry Wine
Ingredients: 12lb green gooseberries, gallon raw water & sugar.





To make a pleasant Bitter
Ingredients: 1 quart brandy, the peel of a dozen oranges, 1 ounce gentian, a little saffron & cochineal.





to make mead. Sister Alsop
Ingredients: 1 gallon honey, 6 gallons cold water & a crust of brown bread.




A Summer Water

To make a Water to Drink in Sommer
Ingredients: strawberries, cinnamon, fair water & cloves.




Elderberry Ale & Rhubarb Ale

And finally here are the two most popular ales over on @shaxworld…






By Sarah Powell
Sarah Powell is the EMMO Paleographer at the Folger Shakespeare Library: on Shakespeare’s World Talk as @S_Powell


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