Five drinks from science fiction and fantasy


I recently read this article on NPR by Jason Sheehan, which begins with a recollection of the scene from Road Warrior in which Max eats dog food, but soon expands into an examination of food and drink as an integral element of sci- fi and fantasy world building. After I read his article, I caught myself thinking back to all of the science fiction and fantasy I had ever been exposed to. One of the best parts of experiencing these kinds of stories is feeling like you’re caught up in a complete world, and part of that relates to what people consume. Food tells us about societies and their people. Describing a food in a story tells us what we need to know about the local economy, the ideals people hold precious, as well as a sense of place; perhaps the most famous example of this is seen in Star Wars.


When we enter the Mos Eisley Catina in A New Hope, without being told, we recognize it as a bar. We see an array of strange creatures drinking, eating and talking, while an alien band plays in the background. However, what really makes the scene is the fact that the bar’s patrons are drinking what appears to be “blue milk”. We expect aliens, after all we are watching a space opera, but this deviation from what we expect in a bar grounds the viewer in the strange new world. Mos Eisley is made believable through the mix of the exotic and familiar.

With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of five beverages from science fiction and fantasy that add to the creation of the world from which they come.


1) Butterbeer (Harry Potter series):

“Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.” 

Butterbeer first appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and has been fascinating fans of the series ever since. It is described as being served cold in bottles, hot in “foaming tankards” and tasting “a little bit like a less-sickly butterscotch”. This famous wizarding beverage is purchased in Hogsmeade at The Three Broomsticks, The Hog’s Head and in Diagon Alley at the Leaky Cauldron. In our world there are several recipes for the drink, most notably at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida.


2) Scumble (Discworld):

“A lot of stories are told about scumble, and how it is made out on the damp marshes, according to ancient recipes passed down rather unsteadily from father to son. It’s not true about the rats, or the snakes’ heads, or the lead shot. The one about the dead sheep is a complete fabrication. We can lay to rest all the variants of the one about the trouser button. But the one about not letting it come into contact with metal is absolutely true…”Scumble is a drink first introduced in the Discworld novel, Mort. 

It is said to have been mainly fabricated from apples and imbibed from very small mugs several months apart. In our world it is described as a stronger more potent version of our hard apple cider.

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

3) Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy):

“The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol. It says that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the effect of which is like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.” 

Like many of the drinks on this list, the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is a complete fabrication, made from several ingredients that don’t exist, including: “Ol’ Janx Spirit”, “Water from the seas of Santraginus V” and “Qualactin Hypermint extract.” These fictional ingredients have made it difficult for people to replicate the drink, but hasn’t kept Hitchhiker fans from trying. Many of the real world drinks created seem to be developed as very strong versions of the lemon-drop.


4) Mudder’s Milk (Firefly):

“All the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma’s best turkey dinner, plus 15% alcohol.”

Mudder’s Milk is sold in the town of Canton on the remote planet called “Higgin’s Moon”, whose main export is mud. This drink looks like an exceptionally dark beer and according to Simon, a similar drink was given to Egyptian slaves to keep them healthy enough to work, but sleepy enough not to revolt. Many real world recipes require oatmeal or protein bars making for a constancy not unlike a chocolate malt.


5) Romulan Ale (Star Trek):

Kirk: “Romulan ale, why Bones, you know this is illegal.”

McCoy: “I only use it for medicinal purposes. I got aboard a ship that brings

them in a case every now and then. Now don’t be afraid.”

Kirk: “2283.”

McCoy: “Yeah, well it takes this stuff a while to ferment.”

Romulan Ale first appeared in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, and is known for it’s blue color and strong alcoholic effects, making it illegal in the federation. This illegality didn’t stop Captain James Kirk from serving it at a state dinner in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, however. Unfortunately the resulting hangovers of everyone who imbibed the drink forced Kirk to decree that it should never again be served at state dinners. The real world cocktail almost always includes Blue Curacao to obtain the blue coloring. Romulan Ale has also been developed into an energy drink.


These are just some of the examples of exotic drinks from sci-fi and fantasy. What are some of your favorites?

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