Alexander The Great's Favorite Way To Drink Wine Was Unlike His Time

Sure, he led one of the then-largest campaigns of conquest that built an empire stretching from Europe to Africa to Asia. And yes, he was a brilliant tactician versed in the arts and science. But was Alexander the Great's greatest contribution to modern life enjoying wine? Who's to say? What we do know is that the Macedonian general, king, and ice cream connoisseur was in many ways an iconoclast whose broad and innovative way of thinking was not applied solely to the battlefield.

Alexander ascended to the throne at the ripe young age of 20 in 336 BCE and quickly united his home country and Greece under his rule before embarking on a lifelong mission that would take him from Persia — modern Iran — to the Egyptian city of Alexandria, so named in his honor. As with any good commander, especially one who had wine-rich Greece under his thumb, Alexander fueled his vast army with wine. But when it came to his cup, Alexander didn't cotton to the trends of others, namely cutting his wine with water. Rather, he sipped unadulterated wine — straight, no chaser — in quantities that may have led to some of the more colorful anecdotes of the general and possibly even his demise.

Wine and water needed each other in ancient Greece

Mixing wine and water was the way of the Greeks, who, at the time, were the font of most culture, knowledge, and, well, good wine. Their more belligerent northern neighbors and overlords, the Macedonians, however, didn't lighten the punch of the fermented grape juice. But why was there such a difference in methods of consumption between these two peoples that otherwise had such close cultural connections?

Well, it goes back to the high-mindedness that Greeks felt. Drinking to excess just wasn't of their culture. Rather, it was a despicable and deleterious trait incumbent to the barbarous nations beyond their borders. While Greeks sipped wine and water in a rough ratio of one to three, they openly skewered drunken characters in their famous dramas and comedies. However, the reason is more manifold than simply the teetotalling superiority of the Hellenes. 

Water was a gamble in the days before modern sanitation and purification, but you still had to drink it to live. So, when a less than savory source was all that was available, a slug of wine — and possibly some other flavoring agents, such as spices Romans added — could do what the proverbial spoonful of sugar does for medicine. Feel free to give it a spin yourself, but, more than likely, your better off enjoying your water separate and your wine as is or in one of these delightful wine-based cocktails