Traditional Viking Drinks: From Mead to Ale

viking drinks

Viking culture is known for its love of adventure, exploration, and warfare, but did you know they were also passionate about their drinks? From honey-based mead to hearty ale, Viking beverages were a crucial part of their daily lives and played a significant role in their rituals and traditions.

In this comprehensive guide, we explore the rich history and cultural significance behind traditional Norse refreshments. Join us as we uncover the secrets of Viking drinks and the fascinating journey they have taken throughout history.

Key Takeaways:

The Rich History of Viking Drinks

Before we delve into the world of Viking drinks, it’s essential to understand the rich history behind these beloved beverages. Drinking has been a significant part of Nordic culture for centuries, with mead and ale being the most commonly consumed beverages.

Mead, known as the “drink of the gods,” was a staple in Norse mythology and was believed to have healing and magical properties. It was made from fermented honey and water, and the addition of various fruits, spices, and herbs created an array of flavors. Mead was served at weddings, funerals, and other important celebrations.

Ale, on the other hand, was made from barley and other grains and was a staple in everyday Viking life. It was brewed in large quantities and was often consumed during meals. Due to the harsh Nordic climate, the brewing process required specific techniques, such as heating the mash with hot stones.

Viking drinking rituals were a crucial part of Norse society, as they were believed to have strong social and cultural significance. Toasting was an essential part of these rituals and was often accompanied by feasts and drinking songs.

As Viking culture spread across Europe and beyond, their drinks became popular worldwide. The influence of Viking beverages can still be seen in brewing cultures today, and the resurgence of mead in recent years is a testament to the lasting legacy of Viking drinks.

Overall, understanding the history of mead and ale and their role in Viking culture is crucial to appreciating the significance of these traditional Norse beverages.

Mead: The Nectar of the Gods

Mead, also known as honey wine, is a sweet and potent beverage that held great cultural significance to the Vikings. As one of the oldest alcoholic drinks known to man, mead has a rich history that dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt.

Despite its widespread popularity throughout history, Viking mead was unique in its own right. Unlike other meads, Viking mead was made with a combination of honey and water, and sometimes flavored with herbs or fruits. The brewing process was slow and deliberate, taking up to a year to produce a single batch.

The importance of mead in Viking culture was evident in many of their myths and legends. It was believed that mead was created from the blood of the god Kvasir, who was murdered by two dwarves. The mead was then stolen by the god Odin, who brought it to Asgard, the land of the gods.

Drinking Viking mead was not simply a method of intoxication; it was also a means of celebration and socialization. Large feasts and banquets were common, where mead was served in large bowls and passed around the table for everyone to enjoy.

Today, mead has seen a resurgence in popularity, with craft meaderies producing a variety of styles and flavors. From traditional honey meads to fruit-infused or spiced varieties, the modern interpretations of Viking mead continue to pay homage to this ancient and beloved beverage.

Exploring Ale: Viking’s Beverage of Choice

Ale, a beloved beverage in Viking culture, was a staple in their daily lives. Brewed using a process of fermentation, this frothy and flavorful beer had a distinct taste that set it apart from other beers of the time. The Vikings brewed their ale using a combination of malted barley and hops, and sometimes added other ingredients like juniper berries or bog myrtle to create a unique flavor.

The fermentation process in making ale is an essential element in bringing out the flavors and aromas that the Vikings enjoyed. This process involves adding yeast to the mixture of malted barley and hops, allowing the mixture to sit for several days in a warm place for the yeast to do its job. The yeast eats the sugars in the mixture, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide in the process. This results in a frothy, fizzy drink that the Vikings loved to indulge in.

Ale was not just a drink but also a vital part of Viking society. It was consumed during feasts, celebrations, and even in battle. The Vikings believed that drinking ale from the same cup, known as a “drinking horn,” was an act of bonding and loyalty. It was common for the chieftain or leader of the clan to raise a toast, and the others would respond with a hearty “skol!” before drinking from the horn.

Viking ale, with its unique ingredients and brewing methods, became a significant part of Norse culture and continues to be celebrated today. Craft brewers and meaderies around the world have revived the traditional Viking ale recipes, bringing this ancient beverage to modern-day drinking culture.

The Role of Skalds: Keepers of Drinking Songs

In Viking society, the role of Skalds was highly regarded, as they were considered keepers of Norse poetry and storytelling traditions. These masterful bards were responsible for both preserving historical accounts and entertaining crowds with their vivid descriptions of epic battles and cultural tales.

The Significance of Drinking Songs

Drinking songs were an essential part of Viking culture, and Skalds played a crucial role in the creation and performance of these lively tunes. These songs were typically performed during celebratory events such as feasts and weddings, and often included humorous anecdotes and tales of heroic deeds.

“He sat at the banquet and drank through the night,
amidst all the warriors he boasted his might.
The mead flowed like rivers, the fire roared with light,
and the Skalds sang songs of the gods and their might.”

These songs were meant to inspire and entertain, but also to honor the gods and celebrate the achievements of the community. Skalds used their poetic skills to craft intricate rhymes and rhythms that would entertain the crowd while also conveying important cultural values.

Preserving Norse Poetry

Skalds were not only performers but also scholars who dedicated their lives to the preservation of Norse poetry. They passed down stories and songs from one generation to the next, ensuring that the cultural heritage of the Vikings was never lost.

Their stories were woven into the fabric of Viking society, and their skills were highly sought after by kings and chieftains. A skilled Skald could bring honor and prestige to their patron, and their words had the power to influence political decisions and sway public opinion.

The tradition of Skalds and drinking songs lives on today, as modern-day performers continue to celebrate and honor the rich cultural heritage of the Vikings.

The Rituals of Drinking: Toasts and Feasts

In Viking society, drinking was accompanied by intricate rituals and traditions that emphasized the importance of communal drinking. These rituals were often part of elaborate feasts held to celebrate special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and religious ceremonies.

The role of toasting was significant in Viking drinking rituals. A toast would typically be made by the host, who would hold up his drinking horn filled with mead or ale and take a sip. He would then offer the horn to his guests, who would take turns making a toast and passing the horn around the table. To ensure that everyone had a chance to drink, the host would refill the horn after each round.

The toasting tradition in Viking society was not just about drinking; it was a way to honor the gods, ancestors, and heroic deeds. It was also used to seal agreements, settle disputes, and forge alliances.

Feasting was another significant aspect of Viking drinking rituals. The feast would often involve the consumption of large quantities of food and drink, with the host providing ample provisions for his guests. The food served was typically hearty and included meat, fish, and vegetables. The drinking vessels used were often made of horn or silver, adding to the festive and communal nature of the feast.

Drinking in Viking culture was more than just consuming beverages; it was a way to strengthen social bonds, celebrate life’s milestones, and honor the past. The rituals of toasting and feasting underscored the importance of communal drinking in Viking society.

Exotic Alternatives: Nordic Herbal Infusions

Beyond the popular mead and ale, Vikings enjoyed a variety of unique, Nordic herbal drinks and botanical beverages. These lesser-known Viking drinks were often brewed with therapeutic herbs to offer extra benefits beyond their lovely taste.

The Vikings’ deep understanding of the medicinal properties of plants was evident in their crafting of these botanical beverages, which ranged from refreshing infusions to strong tonics. Many herbs were believed to have healing effects on the body, and Vikings made use of them to create drinks that could help with everything from digestion to sleep.

Some of the popular herbs used in Viking botanical beverages include juniper berries, which were known for their antiseptic properties and used to flavor gin; angelica root, believed to promote good digestion; and yarrow, which was brewed as a tea to promote restful sleep.

Additionally, Vikings used elderflowers, chamomile, and mint to create refreshing drinks, many of which are still popular today. These Nordic herbal infusions are the perfect alternative for those looking to expand their palates beyond the typical mead and ale.

Crafting Viking Drinks Today: Modern Interpretations

While the Vikings may be long gone, their drinks live on. With the resurgence of mead in recent years, craft breweries and meaderies around the world are reviving traditional Viking beverage recipes for contemporary tastes.

The art of brewing Viking drinks has evolved, with modern interpretations using innovative techniques and ingredients. Brewers experiment with different hops, fruits, and botanicals to create unique flavor profiles that pay homage to the ancient Viking recipes.

Modern Viking Drinks Description
Modern Mead Mead has seen a resurgence in popularity with craft meaderies creating unique variations of the traditional honey-based drink. Some use local honey, while others experiment with different fruits, spices, and herbs for added complexity.
Viking Ale Craft breweries are also taking inspiration from Viking ale, creating their own interpretations with different malts, grains, and hops. These ales often have a distinct earthy flavor and are brewed using traditional methods, such as open fermentation.
Nordic Herbal Infusions Many craft breweries and meaderies are also experimenting with Nordic herbal infusions, such as spruce tips, juniper berries, and chamomile. These botanicals add a unique twist to traditional Viking drinks, and can also have medicinal properties.

Modern Viking drinks not only pay homage to the ancient recipes but also provide a unique drinking experience for contemporary beer and wine enthusiasts. With a growing interest in Viking culture and history, these traditional Norse beverages are becoming more popular than ever.

The mead resurgence, in particular, has seen a significant increase in production and popularity. In North America alone, there are now over 400 meaderies, with the number continuing to grow.

Whether it’s a sweet and honeyed mead or a hearty and earthy ale, modern Viking drinks offer a taste of history and a glimpse into the drinking culture of the ancient Norse people.

Influences and Legacy: Viking Drinks Around the World

The Vikings may have roamed and settled in far-off lands, but their drinks have traveled even further. Today, Viking beverages continue to influence brewing cultures around the world, from Europe to America, and beyond.

The global popularity of mead and ale can be attributed to the Vikings’ significant role in spreading these drinks around the world. As they traded and raided across Europe, they left behind a legacy of brewing traditions that endure to this day.

In England, for example, mead became the favored drink of the Anglo-Saxons after the Vikings introduced it during their invasions. Today, mead has once again become a popular beverage in countries such as the United States, where meaderies have sprouted up across the country.

Viking ale also had a significant influence on the development of beer, particularly in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Many of the brewing techniques and ingredients used in Viking ale have survived to the present day, shaping the modern craft beer movement.

But the legacy of Viking drinks extends beyond the borders of Europe. In the United States, Viking-inspired breweries pay homage to the ancient traditions of mead and ale, infusing them with modern flavors and techniques.

From the Nordic-inspired botanical ales of Scandinavia to the honey-based meads of America, Viking drinks continue to inspire and delight beer and wine enthusiasts worldwide. They remain a testament to the cultural significance of beverages in shaping civilizations, and a reminder of the rich history and traditions of the Viking Age.


The world of Viking drinks is as vibrant and fascinating as the cultures and traditions that produced them. From the beloved honey-based mead to the hearty ale, these traditional Norse refreshments hold a special place in the hearts of beer and wine enthusiasts worldwide.

As we’ve explored the recipes, history, and cultural significance of Viking drinks, we’ve discovered a world of delightful secrets and captivating stories. We’ve learned about the role of Skalds in preserving drinking songs and the importance of toasting and feasting in Viking drinking rituals.

Legacy and Modern Interpretations

The legacy of Viking drinks extends far beyond the shores of Scandinavia. The Viking travels and raids spread their drinks across the globe, leaving an indelible mark on brewing cultures around the world.

Today, modern craft breweries and meaderies are reviving the traditional Viking beverage recipes for contemporary tastes. The mead resurgence has captured the imagination of brewers and drinkers alike, bringing this ancient drink back into the mainstream.

Appreciating Viking Drinks

After journeying through the history, recipes, rituals, and legacy of Viking drinks, we emerge with a newfound appreciation for these traditional Norse refreshments. From the divine mead to the hearty ale, the world of Viking drinks is a testament to the cultural significance of beverages in shaping civilizations.

So the next time you raise a glass of mead or ale, take a moment to reflect on the rich history and cultural traditions that produced these beloved Viking drinks.


What are Viking drinks?

Viking drinks refer to the traditional beverages consumed by the Vikings, including mead and ale.

What is mead?

Mead is a honey-based alcoholic beverage that was often referred to as the “nectar of the gods.” It holds a special place in Viking folklore.

What is ale?

Ale is a type of beer that was the beverage of choice for Vikings. It was brewed using fermentation methods and had distinct flavors.

What is the history of Viking drinks?

Viking drinks have a rich history that is deeply intertwined with Viking culture and rituals. They have been enjoyed for centuries and continue to influence brewing cultures around the world.

What are the ingredients used in mead?

Mead is primarily made using honey, water, and yeast. Additional ingredients such as fruits, spices, and herbs may also be added for flavor variations.

How was ale brewed by the Vikings?

Ale was brewed by the Vikings using barley, water, and yeast. It underwent a fermentation process which resulted in its distinct taste.

What were the drinking rituals of Vikings?

Drinking in Viking society was accompanied by intricate rituals and traditions. Toasting, feasting, and socializing were important aspects of their drinking culture.

Did Vikings have special drinking songs?

Yes, Vikings had special drinking songs called skalds. Skalds were Viking poets and chroniclers who played an essential role in the world of Viking drinks.

Are there any modern interpretations of Viking drinks?

Yes, there are modern craft breweries and meaderies that revive traditional Viking beverage recipes, catering to contemporary tastes.

How did Viking drinks influence other cultures?

Through their travels and raids, Vikings spread their drinks across the globe, influencing brewing cultures in different regions.