Almost anything can be preserved in alcohol, except health, happiness and money…
Roderick Phillips’ Ted-Ed lesson, a Brief History of Alcohol, above, opens with a bon mot from early 20th-century quote maven Mary Wilson Little, after which, an unwitting chimpanzee quickly discovers the intoxicating effects of overripe plums.
His eyes pinwheel, he falls off a branch, and grins, drunk as a monkey’s uncle.
And though the subject is alcohol, this primate is the only character in Anton Bogaty’s 5‑minute animation who could be hauled in on a drunk and disorderly charge.
The others take a more sober, industrious approach, illustrating alcohol’s prominent role in early medicine, religious rituals, and global trading.
Ancient Egyptians harvest the cereal grains that will produce beer, included as part of workers’ rations and available to all classes.
A native of South America stirs a kettle of chicha, a fistful of hallucinogenic herbs held at the ready.
A Greek physician tends to a patient with a goblet of wine, as a nearby poet prepares to deliver an ode on its creative properties.
Students with an interest in the science of alcohol can learn a bit about the fermentation process and how the invention of distillation allowed for much stronger spirits.
Alcohol was a welcome presence aboard seafaring vessels. Not only did this valuable trading commodity spark lively parties on deck, it sanitized the sailors’ drinking water, making longer voyages possible.
Cheers to that.
Educators can customize the lesson here.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her in NYC tongight, Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Cape-Coddities (1920) by Roger Livingston Scaife. Follow her @AyunHalliday.