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Mulsum

A honey wine very popular with the Greeks and Romans in affluent circles as a table drink alongside mead. It was lighter and milder than wine, easier to digest on an empty stomach and highly appreciated as a gustatio(aperitif). Two different recipes for its production have been handed down. The Roman author Columella (1st century B.C.) recommended to mix the must with honey directly in the press vat, then to pour this mixture into bottles and after three weeks of fermentation to decant it into new bottles. It was more common, however, to stir the honey not already into the must, but only into the finished wine. Good wine was stirred into the heated honey, ideally a Falernian, which was the top wine at that time. A variant is described by the writer Palladius (4th century AD). According to this, the already fermenting grape must is sweetened with honey and fermented further for a while (an early form of enrichment, so to speak)

The mixing ratio was 2/3 wine to 1/3 honey or one sextar (0.55 litres) honey to six sextare of boiled must. For Columella's method, 10/11 must was taken to 1/11 Attic honey and 4/5 wine to 1/5 honey for the usual mixture with wine. To make the mulsum as durable as possible, the elaborate preparation took up to fifty days. The honey wine was also enjoyed against hoarseness, against jaundice and as a generally health promoting drink. A certain Romilius Pollio, whom the Emperor Augustus (63 B.C. to 14 A.D.) personally congratulated on his hundredth birthday, when asked how he had become so old, gave the answer handed down by Pliny the Elder (23-79): "With mulsum for the inside and oil for the outside". Mulsum as an aperitif is also recommended by the poet Horace (65-8 B.C.): "Before sumptuous feasts, rinse your bowels with mild mulsum". See also under Ancient grape varieties, Ancient wines and drinking culture.

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