The Story of Theodora and an Ancient Rome Cocktail

The Story of Theodora and an Ancient Rome Cocktail

A Competition? Why not…

There is an account on Instagram I have been following since I have started my blog. They have lots of inspirational ideas and creative recipes. The account’s name is Cocktail Alchemists and they ran a competition last week, asking the participants to create an Ancient Rome cocktail. The creations they asked needed to include the lifestyle and habits of those time. I got quite excited about the subject and decided to take my chance.

I already know some about those times, but not highly detailed, I knew what they ate, drank and how society was living in general but even so, I made a wider search to make sure that I can include as many details as possible by combining them in a harmony. And most importantly, reflecting the name of my drink with my creation. It was obvious that I was going to choose a powerful Ancient Rome woman’s name for the drink and I decided to go with Theodora, one of the most powerful women who lived in those times and the wife of Justinian I.

Who was Theodora?

The image below belongs to a mosaic of Theodora in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna (Source: Wikipedia)

Mosaic of Theodora, wife of Justinian the first in Ancient Rome

Theodora was an Eastern Roman Empress by marriage to emperor Justinian. Before that, she was known to be an actress. Actresses at that time were providing sexual services off stage, so was Theodora. When Justinian wanted to marry her, it was not possible due to the ranking system not allowing such marriages. In 524, Justin passed a new law, which decreed that reformed actresses could thereafter legally marry outside their rank if approved by the emperor. Soon thereafter, Justinian married Theodora and succeeded to the throne in 527. In this way, Theodora became the empress.

Theodora is known for her helps to Justinian during the rebuilding and reforming of Constantinople, building or rebuilding aqueducts, bridges and more than twenty-five churches. The most famous of these is Hagia Sophia, considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture.

Theodora was involved in the politics during the ruling of her husband. As the emperess, her involvement in helping underprivileged women was substantial, being “known for buying girls who had been sold into prostitution, freeing them, and providing for their future”.

During Justinian’s time, the rights of women in divorce and property ownership were extended, instituted the death penalty for rape, forbade exposure of unwanted infants, gave mothers some guardianship rights over their children, and forbade the killing of a wife who committed adultery. All these were by the influence and support of Theodora.

The Ingredients

All the ingredients in this cocktail have a significant place in daily Ancient Rome life. I searched through many resources to get a better understanding of the food and drink consumption of the period. With no surprise, wheat and wine were the first food and drink in their daily life, followed by meat, fish, bread, spices, vegetables and fruits. I tried to use as many elements as possible without compromising the taste.

Recipe of the Ancient Rome Cocktail

This cocktail has 3 parts that create 3 layers. The bottom layer is the Grape Syrup I made, which I later learned is called “defrutum”. I made the syrup just with some seedless Sable Grapes and caster sugar:

  • 1 cup Grape (seedless preferably)
  • 3 tbsp Caster Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Water

Blend the grapes, put all ingredients in a pan, bring to boil and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes in low heat. Use a sieve to get a smooth syrup.

The main part is the middle layer of the cocktail which consists of these ingredients:

Put all in a shaker with lots of ice, shake well but really well because this recipe has ingredients with different densities. Now that the main part is ready, we can start building the cocktail.

I used a wine glass, seeing that is the perfect fit for my cocktail. Here are the steps:

  • Pour 1 part Grape Syrup first on the bottom
  • Put lots of ice in the glass carefully
  • Use the back of your spoon to pour the main part of the cocktail into your glass. The ice will help you not to mix this main part with the grape syrup on the bottom but still, no harm to be extra careful
  • Pour 1/2 part of red wine at the top. If you want clear layers as I did, you need to be really careful this time. Even though the density of red wine is less than the main part of the cocktail, it’s quite possible ending up mixing these two layers.

Top view of a cocktail glass full of ice and with red liquid, on a marble background, grapes and dry flowers blurry on the background

This has been the most complex creation I have ever made and I’m proud of my Ancient Rome Cocktail. I didn’t think that I’d be able to make something looking that beautiful and also delicious.

There were around 30 participants in this competition and I was one of the newest ones so. The voting took place on Instagram stories of Cocktail Alchemists and with the very few followers I have, I didn’t make it to the first 8. But I enjoyed it a lot and saw that I was able to create really special cocktails if I put my mind to it. You can see my participation post here.

I also had a surprise from one of the sponsors of the competition. Posca sent me a message with very kind comments and offered me a box of their Posca Romanas. I’m very excited waiting for the box to arrive and see what I can do more with them. Cheers! =)

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