Festive Drinks for Giamolitus, the Roman Way

Article by Caromâros Caitogabros

Hey there, you haven’t heard from me before, but I hope you will again. My name is Caromâros Caitogabros, and I’m a Gaulish Polytheist with more trivial knowledge about the Roman Republic and Empire than I have common sense some days. I’m fairly new to the scene, having discovered Toutâ Galation and Bessus Nouiogalation at the end of October 2021
[the year I’m writing this!], and I’m still forging my practice as I learn more every day. One thing I know for sure, however, is that I definitely love holidays, no doubt about that.
At the time I write this, I’m gearing up to blunder and stumble my way through my first Giamolitus, which has me trying to find ways that I can cement my holiday observations in some kind of reality, as I’m one of those people that self-doubts my spirituality at every corner. I want
to be able to experience things that the Senogalatis, the ancient Gauls, would have experienced, which to me means using my senses; smell, sight, sound, touch and taste. I can listen to as much Greek lyre music as I want, as certainly there would have been musicians in the courts of Iron Age Gaul, and I can go look at enough Gaulish art and statues to pop a blood
vessel in one of my eyes, but at some point if I want to taste and smell things that the Senogalatis would have had in their diets, I’m going to have to get dirty, which apparently is nothing new as far as Gaulish feasts are concerned!
Athenaeus, in his accounts, relates that the noble Gauls enjoyed wine, and also beer called korma sweetened with honey, with the lower classes drinking solely the korma as-is. Drinking at a Gaulish feast made quite a mess, with most people taking a sip out of the communal cup and saying cheers to the Deuoi. [Honestly, once discovering this, I’ve added this
into my own custom; I pour a cup in offering to the Deuoi, and then take a sip and say Slanon tê (cheers to you) to whichever Deuoi I’m invoking that night- more about the Bessus Nouiogalation daily rituals at https://nouiogalatis.org/2020/12/17/dedmatas-sonnocingi/.
Eating was a similarly uncleanly event, as forks at the time mostly had long tines for holding things in place for cutting, rendering them a bit unwieldy for eating with. Real forks as we would recognize from the dinner table weren’t even a thing in Europe until the 900s CE
https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/blog/history-fork and by that point, there were writers from Northern Europe saying that forks were unmanly, or downright offensive to God! [That’s a whole
different kettle of fish, though, so I think we’re going to keep the pin in that one for now. Catholic anti fork propaganda, coming soon…]
While we know that the Gauls were an agricultural Iron Age society, we don’t really know what it was that they ate, specifically. There’s a lot of available articles about different foods that were in their diet, so I’m not going to touch into that, but suffice it to say that we are very lacking
in the recipe department, Gaul-wise. Posidonius tells us they ate cumin, and there is a Sumerian recipe written in cuneiform on a clay tablet that calls for it as well
https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20191103-the-worlds-oldest-known-recipes-decoded so clearly, it had been in use for quite some time as a spice, but strangely, cumin isn’t present in a lot of modern European cooking today. There are dishes, obviously, that still contain it, mostly
poultry and fish, but it is used a lot more in surrounding areas like Africa and Eastern Asia. So instead of trying to parse out what some Gaulish recipes might have been, why don’t we think about what dishes they may have enjoyed from other cultures?

By 1CE, the golden eagle of Rome was soaring over Gaul, from Tarraconensis down in Spain all the way North to the English Channel, and East from there to the Danube. Roman legions defended the borders; Roman garrisons, the towns. Roman engineers in Gaul were building walls, bridges, aqueducts, and waste systems. Roman appointed officials governed the
new Gallo-Roman provinces and everyone paid Roman taxes and were subject to Roman laws. Why, then, do we not have a look at a 3 Roman drink recipes from Apicius’ “De Re Coquinaria” (Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome) that the Gaulish nobility, and perhaps even those guests at their feasts, may have enjoyed, and put the measurements in the recipes into nice, easy, modern measurements that we can all follow along with at home?

Conditum Paradoxum – Fine Spiced Wine
The composition of this excellent spiced wine is as follows.
Into a copper bowl put 9 English Pints / 11 US Pints of honey and 3 English Pints / 3.6 US Pints of [wbite] wine; heat on a slow fire, constantly stirring the mixture with a whip. At the boiling point add a dash of cold wine, retire from stove and skim. Repeat this twice or three times, let it rest till the next day and skim again. Then add 4 ounces of crushed pepper (black or white, but in connection with honey the term may mean our “allspice”), 4 grams of mastic resin, 1.75 grams each of (nard or laurel) leaves and saffron, 9 grams of roasted date stones crushed and previously soaked in wine to soften them. When this is properly done add 18 UK Pints / 21.5 US Pints of light [white] wine. To clarify it perfectly, add crushed charcoal twice or as often as necessary which will draw the residue together and carefully strain or filter through the charcoal.

Conditum Melizomum Viatorium- Honey Refresher for Travelers
The wayfarer’s honey refresher (so-called because it gives endurance and strength to pedestrians) with which travelers are refreshed by the wayside is made in this manner: Flavour honey with ground pepper [again, potentially allspice, or just black or white] and skim. In the
moment of serving put honey in a cup, as much as is desired to obtain the right degree of sweetness, and mix spiced wine not more than a needed quantity; also add some wine to the spiced honey to facilitate its flow and the mixing.

Prewarning for Absinthium Romanum-Roman Vermouth: Many species of wormwood contain monoterpenoid THUJONE derivatives. In the USA, the FDA restricts any commercial product containing THUJONE to 10 PARTS PER MILLION OR LESS. THUJONE has been proven to cause seizures in those predisposed to them, and while
absinth is legal in most countries and considered mainly harmless, there is always potential that making your own following this process COULD PROVE TO BE A NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE. Mind, though, there are many blogs and websites with the following recipe and reviews, and most were pleased. This could be due to bias, as people who didn’t enjoy it most likely wouldn’t be writing an article about it. EXERCISE CAUTION, KNOW YOUR LIMITS WHEN DRINKING ALCOHOL, DON’T DRINK THIS ONE ALONE IF YOU HAVE SEIZURES, OR IF YOU’RE UNSURE AS TO WHETHER OR NOT YOU

MAY HAVE ONE. Oh, and I’m not responsible for anyone texting their exes!

Absinthium Romanum – Roman Vermouth
Roman vermouth (or absinth) is made thus: According to the recipe of Camerinum [Now Camerino, Italy- locations are rare in Roman recipes, so this must have been good stuff!]: You need wormwood from Santo [Now Saintonge, Santo was in Gallia Aquitania- This recipe references a Gaulish Gaulish ingredient!] for Roman vermouth, or as a substitute, wormwood
from the Pontus (black sea region) cleaned and crushed, 30 ounces of it, 8 grams of mastic resin, 4 grams each of nard leaves, costmary and saffron and 18 quarts of any kind of mild wine. Filter cold, charcoal is not required because of the bitterness.
This last recipe is potentially incorrect in the measurement of the wormwood, as the original Latin translates to “offer one theban ounce”, which is, at least under that name, nonexistent. I have looked at blog posts and recipes that others have made, and have decided that 30 ounces in the context of the original recipe seems to be the right
ratio of wormwood to the 8 grams of mastic resin.

Now that you have a few different recipes to choose from, as well as a potential health crisis on your hands, give them a shot! Try whichever ones speak to you, sub out ingredients for what you know you’d prefer, and imagine passing the cup to the long-haired, mustachioed Gaul sitting at the table next to you. Feel that connection through the millennia that only the 5 senses can truly evoke. If you feel like connecting with some modern Galatis as well, come join our hall in the Discord connections on the Touta Galation and Bessus Nouiogalation websites from the first paragraph, let me know what you thought of the article, maybe even stay a while and enjoy our hospitality. And above all else, Giamolitun dagon ollon, a good Giamolitus to all!