On April 1 33 AD, Thirteen Guys in Jerusalem had Dinner and Wine

Scholars suggest it was a Wednesday. And, to those outside their inner circle, it was probably a Wednesday like most others. Thirteen guys were meeting for dinner in Jerusalem. Two had been instructed to go to “the city” to meet “a man carrying a jar of water.” This man would then bring them to a house with an upper room furnished and ready for dinner.  

The thirteen of them reclined on pillows and ate food that sat in stone bowls on low tables. They ate lamb, bean stew, olives with a mint-like herb called hyssep. They nibbled on dates, a pistachio and date charoset, unleavened bread, and a fish sauce called tzir. They drank wine. It was probably quite a pleasant evening until the hyssep hit the fan and the course of history was drastically altered.  

The Last Supper is one of the most famous events in all of the world, let alone Christianity. It is trumped perhaps only by the event which occurred two days later. You don’t have to be a Sunday school grad to know the rest of the evening’s events. Jesus brought his twelve disciples to dinner. He washed their feet and then predicted that Judas would betray him. Judas left to alert the Sanhedrin. Jesus then gave a lengthy farewell address during which he talked about love, hate, and that they should probably just split up the bill. He then predicted that Peter would deny him, a charge to which Peter hooted vigorously. Jesus and three of his disciples were captured later in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was suffering the Agony in the Garden. The rest, as they say, is bitterly contested, world changing, unimaginably divisive history.

So, how is this drunken history?

The better question is – how is it not?

The Last Supper has boozy night gone wrong written all over it. During dinner Jesus started making morose comments on love and hate. His friends probably figured the wine had gone to his head. They were more fully scandalized when Jesus started flinging around drunken accusations. He predicted that one would betray him and (later) that another one would deny him – pointing a finger at the first in the form of bread dipped in a bowl and he called the second to happen before the rooster crowed the next morning. The supposed betrayer left in a huff. Jesus then made odd claims while handing out bread and wine – namely that they were about to drink his blood and eat his body. Some of His friends probably got a little uneasy but they ate anyway. They had, after all, been on a long, strange trip, and sensed that it was about to come to an end. Plus, finding that guy with the jar of water had been a real pain. Do you know how many guys are carrying around jars of water in Jerusalem? Lots. Anyway, after the last supper, Jesus wanted one last one (that’s so Jesus), and so he grabbed his three most hardcore buds (Peter, John, and James) and went to an afterparty hotspot called the Garden of Gethsemane. His buddies passed out and Jesus got mopey and woe is me as the booze wore off. His friends came to, confused as to why a mob was there and Judas was kissing Jesus on the face. Peter, always flexing his wine muscles, got in a fight and cut off Malthus’ ear. Jesus – with connections in high places only fully understood a few days later – took care of the ear problem (off the record). As the mob took Jesus away, James looked at John and said, “Man, something bad always happens when we end up at The Garden.” Before the rooster crowed the next day, Peter denied his involvement in the evening’s events three times. He would feel bitter guilt about this for the rest of his life, even on his death cross. Just like any night of drinking, there are at least four versions of the events and dozens of retrospectives and revisions throughout history. One version is never agreed upon by everyone.

We’ve all been there. Of course, our nights of drinking gone wrong usually aren’t party to changing the course of history.

So, what to drink?

What wine and food Jesus and his apostles enjoyed at the Last Supper has been the source of discussion since the waiter tallied up the tab at the end of the night and groaned about the bad tipping habits of Messiahs. Archaeologists and historians have pieced together the probable menu above from records of Palestinian eating habits and culture of the time. We know they accompanied their supper with wine. Every book and story about the event comes right out and says it. It’s also part of the Eucharist and the only reason I enjoyed going to church as a kid. I always felt as though I had tricked the system into boozing up an 11-year-old on a Sunday morning. I was morbidly disappointed to learn I was only drinking God’s blood.

Also, wine was big in the Holy Land, having been made there for at least 4000 years by the time this famous supper took place. It’s mentioned in the bible more often than fire, brimstone, and Pat Robertson. The first thing Noah did after the deluge subsided was plant a vineyard, get blasted on wine, and air out his ark of five months of two of every animal on Earth.  

Wine was the drink. What is less certain is how that wine was served. But there’s a good chance it would have been mixed with something. Most wine was cut with water, but evidently Jerusalem culture preferred wine that was red, rich, and concentrated, and enhanced with things like spices, fruit, and tree resin. These resins were often meant to keep wine from spoiling, and they included Myrrh and Frankincense. This of course makes you wonder if the Wise Men were really bearing gifts or seeking out a stone jug of wine to wet their whistles after chasing a star to a remote manger during the holidays.

The bartender at the last supper might have crushed salt preserved tappauh (apples), myrrh, and debash (honey) and added it to wine that was treated with rimmon (pomegranate). To celebrate, you could add rye whiskey and oleo saccharum (syrup infused with lemon peel) to Amaro Montenegro  with a float of Amarone.  Amarone is an Italian wine whose grapes are dried on straw mats before being pressed. This results in a sweet, rich, and dark wine. The cocktail above, with rye, Amarone, and Amaro will no doubt have you accusing your friends and agonizing in the garden in no time. But please, no cutting off ears. 

A Last Supper Amarone

1.5 oz Amaro Montenegro                              .5 oleo saccharum 

1 oz rye whiskey                                             float of Amarone

.5 oz lemon juice                                             12 friends, one of whom you’re not wild about

Shake or mix Amaro Montenegro, rye, lemon juice, syrup (oleo) over ice. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and float the Amarone on top. Drink. Repeat. Say goodbye to the world. Find religion. 

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