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Generally, the term is a generic name for all types of distillates , and eventually came to refer specifically to distillates of alcoholic beverages liquors. Aqua vitae was typically prepared by distilling wine ; it was sometimes called "spirits of wine" in English texts, a name for brandy that had been repeatedly distilled.

Aqua vitae was often an etymological source of terms applied to important locally produced distilled spirits. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the video game also known as Aquatopia, see Aqua Vita video game. For the Twilight Zone episode, see Aqua Vita. Drink portal. Categories : Distilled drinks Alchemical substances Distilled drink stubs. Hidden categories: Wikipedia articles incorporating text from Grocer's Encyclopedia All stub articles.

In the early 14th century, though it was now widely available and consumed in fairly large quantities, aqua vitae was still taken primarily as a medicine, not for the effect of the alcohol it contained. But both doctors and patients soon realised that aqua vitae or rather, the various different types of aqua vitae that were becoming available was much stronger than wine and beer and could produce the same effects more rapidly and effectively.

Where did it happen?

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On the basis of what we have seen so far, we may say that consumption of aqua vitae for pleasure probably became widespread in Italy first, then in Germany and France, before spreading to the rest of Europe. Lastly, how did the custom of drinking the water of life for pleasure, along with or in place of the traditional beer and wine, originate? The merit lies with the doctors and their prescriptions: Alderotti and other physicians of his age prescribed aqua vitae not only for rubbing onto painful or diseased body parts, but above all for drinking. Physicians not only prescribed it to treat a number of illnesses, but, fascinated by its virtues, recommended drinking it regularly, every day, even when healthy, not to cure but to prevent illness, stay healthy and — dulcis in fundo — ward off old age.

Drinking aqua vitae became a habit for many well-intentioned patients, and we may well imagine they quite enjoyed it. Lastly, fear made a significant contribution to the spread of the practice of drinking aqua vitae, or rather, liquor and spirits. Physicians were practically powerless, and recommended the terrified population drink aqua vitae which many of them called aqua ardente every day not only to treat but to prevent the Plague.

In this way, corrupt air cannot harm. It was made from an infusion of gold bars or foil or even just gold filings in wine and then distilling it.

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Distillation had to be repeated to extract all the supposed medicinal virtues of gold and transfer them to the resulting liquor, which was universally viewed as a very powerful drug. People were convinced that drinking it regularly had numerous beneficial effects, including preservation of the body against the corruption of time. And of course its high price made it available exclusively to the upper classes. If you want to read my articles and to be constantly updated about the rum world, visit www.

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Founded by the Romans in B. Modern Modena is a rich and pleasant town with a genius loci for hard work and technological excellence: suffice to say that Enzo Ferrari was born there and opened his Ferrari factory in nearby Maranello and that it is also the location of the Maserati factory. Moreover, among several delicacies produced there, Modena is also the birthplace of balsamic vinegar. According to a local historian, R. Modena is not far from Bologna and has always been under its influence, especially that of its university. We know that Taddeo Alderotti made at least two important trips to Modena, in and , under rather odd circumstances.

It was not unusual for a prominent physician such as Taddeo to travel to treat wealthy patients, and it was perfectly normal for him to be well-paid to do so. But these trips were different: before the trip, Taddeo signed contracts with a number of persons who were to escort him to Modena, complicated contracts involving the handover of considerable sums of money.

Now Bologna and Modena are less than 50 km apart, on level ground. Of course he was traveling in the s, but even then, 50 km was not far; it probably took less than a day for a healthy young man on horseback, perhaps two whole days for an elderly gentleman such as Taddeo.

We know that travel was not safe in those days, but to sign two complicated contracts involving the transfer of large sums of money to be escorted for less than 50 km still seems a bit excessive.


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Evidently he multiplied the wealth brought by his profession through careful investment. He acquired real estate and a mortgage, and also, it would appear, engaged in money lending. Two curious contracts regarding excursions Taddeo made from Bologna to treat patients in Modena indicate this. Or were they perhaps investments? We will probably never know, but Taddeo definitely liked business. Just after these trips, we have certain information about the production of water of life in Modena. According to economic historian M.

In exchange, Modena provided cattle and swine, barrels of wine and water of life , raw and worked hides, lumber for construction and charcoal. In short, making it into a commercial product to be sold on the market. The earliest centers of the industries that concern us here were situated in Italy Salerno, Venice and the Po Valley. From Germany, in particular, where a series of surprising documents attribute to Modena the merit for production of water of life as early as the beginning of the 14 th century. It is certain that at the start of this century they were already exporting discrete quantities of distillate beyond the city boundaries, and over the Alps to Germany via Venice.

In a manuscript of the Burgermeister of the German city of Frickenhausen invited citizens to use the distilled wine imported from Modena as an effective defense against the plague and other common contagious diseases. Modena, like other Italian cities, initially welcomed him with all due honors.

Then things changed, but this is not our concern here. Ludwig brought with him a German physician, Hieronymus Burkhard, who stopped in Modena to study the distillation method for water of life , already renowned in Germany. Burkhard spent a considerable amount of time in the city, and later, in , received permission to open the first two Pharmacies in Berlin and the nearby Collin on Spree, with an imperial license authorizing him to distil water of life the way it was done in Modena.

Then came the taxes, the nightmare of all distillers over the centuries, which are however useful to us as proof of the existence of widespread production and sale of water of life in Modena. Lastly, F.

To conclude, as far as we know, large-scale, commercial alcoholic distillation — that is, the practice of distilling wine to produce water of life in sufficient quantities for sale, consumption, export and taxation — began in Modena, Italy, around the year And, if I may be allowed to add a personal note, I cannot help being proud of this Italian First. But while water of life had become a well-known and widely used product, at least in Italy, it was still sold and consumed above all for medicinal purposes.

When and how did water of life come to be drunk for pleasure, and not as a medication? When and how did it leave the pharmacy and enter the tavern?

The Quest for Aqua Vitae

Taddeo Alderotti is, in my opinion, a key figure, perhaps the key figure, in the origin of alcoholic distillation in the West. Also known as Alderotto, Thaddeus florentinus, Tadio, and by other versions of his name, he was born in Florence around the year and died in Bologna, probably in Living more than eighty years was exceptional at that time, and it is possible that Taddeo may have encouraged the idea that he was older than he really was in order to boost his reputation as a physician. Around the year he began teaching at the University in Bologna, where he was one of the first to consider medicine a true, highly respected academic discipline and introduce Aristotelian logic to medical theory, obtaining for professors and students of medicine all the privileges that had hitherto been reserved for students of law.

We know that he was very close to the Franciscan friars in Bologna, but it is hard to say whether this preference corresponded to a personal sentiment or should be viewed in the context of a special partnership between the Franciscan order and the study of medicine.

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He was very famous in his day and is mentioned in a number of works. Popes and lords asked to be treated by him, while the cities of Perugia and Venice attempted to lure him away from Bologna to take up residence there. Taddeo was a man of science, but also notoriously very much interested in money, and as his fame grew, his bills became very high, scandalizing many of his contemporaries.

His alleged love for profit, earned him the dubious honor of being mentioned by Dante Alighieri, who may have met him in person, as a negative example of someone who pursues knowledge for the sake of wealth and worldly honors, not out of true love of the truth.