What is Mulsum? The Ancient Roman Drink Explained

The Italian wine industry can trace a lot of its heritage back to the Ancient Romans. The Romans loved wine with so much passion that they even had gods dedicated to it. So, it should come as no surprise that Ancient Rome was the home of some interesting drinks, many of which combined wine with other ingredients to create what we can only refer to as primitive versions of cocktails.

Take Mulsum as an example.

This wonderful drink was made by combining wine with honey to create a beverage that was generally served before dinner. So, not only do we have a primitive cocktail, but we also have a drink that could be considered an aperitif that was invented centuries before the term came into being.

In this article, we’re going to explore the history of Mulsum and provide you with a recipe for making your own with the Italian wine that you have at home.

The History of Mulsum

It’s difficult to trace Mulsum back to a specific creation date. It appears that it was basically always part of the Ancient Roman lifestyle, which may hint to it having actually been created earlier than the formation of the Roman empire. After all, when we looked at the history of the aperitif in a previous article, we discovered that we can trace the concept back to the Ancient Greeks. Perhaps we could say the same about Mulsum?

Regardless, we do know that the drink was served at the beginning of Roman meals alongside what the Romans called “gustus”, which is a course of appetizers. We also know that there were various producers of Mulsum, all of whom had their own styles of creating the drink. It’s believed that the best Mulsum was made by obtaining the must that comes from half-crushing of grapes. A part of honey was then added to every five parts of this must, with the mixture being placed in a jar and shaken much like a modern cocktail.

Ageing also appeared to be part of the production process.

Following the mixing of the must and honey, the drink was left in a jar to rest for about a month. It was then filtered before being placed to rest again until it was ready for consumption. Interestingly, it also served the same medicinal functions as many early aperitifs, with many drinking Mulsum to help them with stomach pains. Again, we see the links to Hippocrates and the Ancient Greeks.

Similarities to Other Drinks

You may have read this brief history and thought you can spot some similarities between Mulsum and several other ancient drinks. The most obvious comparison is between Mulsum and honey wine, with both using honey to add a touch of sweetness. The biggest difference between the two is that Mulsum is made using must, rather than being subjected to the full winemaking process.

Mulsum is also similar to an ancient drink called Mead, though again these similarities stem from the use of honey. Mead tended to be a heavier drink, almost like an ale, whereas Mulsum was closer to a wine.

As for the composition of Mulsum, you can think of it almost like a punch that’s been spiked with a little alcohol. The drink doesn’t contain the same volume of alcohol as a traditional Italian wine. Instead, it has just enough alcohol for it to be noticeable, though not so much as to distract from its purpose of being an aperitif that can also help the drinker with their digestive distress.

A Recipe for Mulsum

As Mulsum is essentially a simple mixture of Italian wine and honey, it is naturally fairly easy to make at home. We’re going to add a little more to the mix to create a spiced Mulsum that is an absolute joy to drink. Let’s start with the ingredients:

  • A cup of red wine
  • Three cups of lukewarm water
  • Four tablespoons of raw honey
  • A cinnamon stick
  • A whole nutmeg
  • One teaspoon of whole cloves

If you fancy adding a touch of citrus to the mix, you can also have a slice of lemon or orange for each glass.

Once you have your ingredients prepared, just follow this simple recipe to create your Mulsum.

Step One

Grab a large container and pour your wine, water, and honey into it. Stir the mixture well. Note that those using thick honey should consider heating the honey to make it thinner before adding it to the mixture. Otherwise, it will take a long time to combine.

Step Two

Add all of your spices to the mixture, which includes adding your cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Step Three

Place the container in the fridge for 24 hours and leave everything to sit.

Step Four

Remove the container from the fridge and take all of the spices away from the mixture. You’re using them to infuse the wine with some extra kick so they’re no longer needed.

With the spices removed, your Mulsum is ready to serve. This recipe produces about four cups and can be preserved in the fridge for about five days. You may also heat the Mulsum, which gives it a similar taste and feel to mulled wine. So, you can have a version of the summer and one for the winter.

The Final Word

If you are searching for a unique aperitif to add to your dining experience, the ancient Roman drink of Mulsum has been a favourite for millennia. This wonderful drink can trace its roots back to the very beginning of the concept of an aperitif and is so easy to make that you can easily create a batch using the wine you have at home and a few spices. Of course, you can’t forget the key ingredient of honey.

Of course, you just need to get your hands on an Italian red wine that can serve as the base of your Mulsum. Xtrawine is here to help with our extensive collection of thousands of Italian wines.


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