Alcoholic Drinks During the Renaissance Era

May 29, 2024 4 min read

glass of ale on top of a wooden table

Heading to a Ren faire is a bit like stepping into a time machine headed to the 16th century, a period marked by artistic brilliance, scientific discoveries, and a rich tapestry of cultural heritage. But what did Renaissance folk actually eat, and more importantly, what did they drink when looking for a good time?

From the humble ale to the exquisite wine, the alcoholic drinks of the Renaissance offer a glimpse into the tastes and traditions of a bygone age. So grab your wine - sorry, your mead - and let’s take a look back at how our ancestors got their buzz on!

Renaissance Alcohol: An Overview

Ale and Beer

Ale and beer were the staples of Renaissance drinking culture; brewed from malted grains, these beverages were consumed by people from all walks of life. The brewing process was often carried out by women, known as "alewives," who played a crucial role in the production and sale of these drinks. Ale and beer were not only enjoyed for their taste but also for their nutritional value, as they provided a source of calories and essential nutrients. If only the FDA could say the same!


Wine, a symbol of sophistication and luxury, was cherished by the upper echelons of Renaissance society. Typically imported from regions such as France, Italy, and Spain, wine was served at banquets and celebrations, often in ornate goblets and chalices. The Renaissance also saw a growing appreciation for the art of winemaking, with connoisseurs seeking out the finest vintages from renowned vineyards.


man holding a cup of mead

Mead, a fermented honey drink, held a special place in Renaissance drinking culture. Often associated with mythology and folklore, mead was believed to possess magical properties and was favored by poets and artists, and the sweet, golden liquid was enjoyed both on its own and as an ingredient in various medicinal and culinary preparations. And did you know that mead is one of the most iconic Renaissance festival foods? Make sure to grab some yourself when you’re at your next Ren faire!

And whilst you’re here, don’t forget to check out our wide collection of Renaissance dresses for your next festival; whether you’re looking for something fantasy themed or quality dresses for plus sized festival-goers, we’ve got everything you need and then some.

Distilled Spirits

The Renaissance also witnessed the rise of distilled spirits, such as brandy and gin; these potent beverages were initially used for medicinal purposes, believed to cure a wide range of ailments. However, they soon gained popularity as recreational drinks, particularly among the wealthy and the aristocracy. The art of distillation evolved during this period, with alchemists and apothecaries experimenting with new techniques and flavors.

Renaissance Fair Drinks

Renaissance festivals, a modern celebration of the era's culture and traditions, offer a great opportunity for you to sample some of the tastiest renaissance festival foods and drinks of the time. You can quench your thirst with a refreshing mug of ale or mead, or indulge in a goblet of wine while enjoying the festive atmosphere. These events also showcase the craftsmanship of Renaissance-inspired drinking vessels, such as pewter tankards and ceramic cups, adding to the authentic experience.

Modern Interpretations and Availability

Today, many of the alcoholic drinks from the Renaissance have been adapted and reinterpreted to suit modern tastes. Craft breweries and wineries often draw inspiration from historical recipes and techniques, creating unique blends that pay homage to the past, and mead, once a forgotten libation, has experienced a resurgence in popularity, with artisanal meaderies producing a wide variety of flavors and styles.

Final Thoughts

In short, our ancestors liked getting their buzz on just as much as we do in 2024! So, the next time you raise a toast, remember the legacy of Renaissance alcohol and the fascinating history that lies within each sip.

And for those who wish to fully immerse themselves in the spirit of the Renaissance, donning a period-appropriate outfit is a must! At Holy Clothing, you'll find an exquisite collection of custom, hand-made Renaissance dresses for all sizes, genders, and tastes, so you can truly embrace the elegance and charm of the era while enjoying your favorite Renaissance-inspired beverages. Let’s toast to that!


What were the most popular alcoholic drinks during the Renaissance?

During the Renaissance era, some of the most popular alcoholic beverages included wine, beer, and mead. Wine was particularly favored among the upper classes, while beer and mead were more commonly consumed by the general population.

How did the consumption of alcohol differ between social classes during the Renaissance?

The consumption of alcohol varied depending on social class during the Renaissance. The wealthy and aristocratic classes often indulged in fine wines and spirits, while the lower classes typically consumed beer and ale. The quality and variety of drinks also differed, with the upper classes having access to a wider range of imported and luxury beverages.

Were any drinks invented during the Renaissance period?

Yes, there were several notable alcoholic drinks that were developed during the Renaissance era. One example is "sack," a type of fortified wine that originated in Spain and became highly fashionable in England. Another is "hippocras," a spiced wine flavored with ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, and sugar. Additionally, "aqua vitae," an early form of distilled spirits, began to emerge during this time.