Fantasy, mystery, thrillers, horror, historical. . .I write it all, and review it too!

Aug 6, 2012

Medieval Mondays: Fuddling cups and puzzle jugs

We haven't changed all that much. Many people like to drink, and those who do like to play drinking games. Our ancestors seemed to enjoy drinking games that got them to spill booze all over themselves.

This is a fuddling cup. These cups are all connected with tubes and holes designed in a clever way that there's only one angle you can pour it into your mouth without it spilling out another part and getting all over you.

Sounds fun, doesn't it? Especially in the days before washing machines. There was no hiding the fact that you were at the pub when you got home!

Fuddling cups were known in the eighteenth century and perhaps date before then. Another variant is the puzzle jug. It looks like a normal jug with several holes in the neck. Like with the fuddling cup you have to drink from it without spilling.

The trick is that the fluid goes through a ceramic tube leading from the bottom to the spout past several holes. You have to plug those holes with your fingers in order to get a clean drink.

Many puzzle jugs, like this white one from Liverpool, bears the poem, "Here Gentlemen come try your skill,
I'll hold a wager if you will,
That you don't drink this liquor all,
Without you spill and let some fall."

Puzzle jugs seem to be later than fuddling cups, dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. I haven't found any serious studies of these cool items from the past, though, so this may not be correct.

These contraptions would fit well into one of my fantasy tales somewhere. . .


  1. Interesting ceramics. I like knowing the history behind older objects. Guess the barkeep knew this would generate sales of more beer and keep the men amused (less fighting).

    Good setting material, for any feudal-based writing.

  2. Don't think I would've won any of those drinking games. The jugs look the most challenging.

  3. I think you should keep this secret from college fraternities :)


  4. I've got a "puzzle mug" picked up from a Renaissance Faire a few years back. It's a large, stein-like ceramic mug with a flower-pattern of holes around the lip, one of which is the tube. In order to drink from it without spilling, you have to be sure to cover the right hole with your thumb.

    I'm always impressed with the skill per-industrial craftsmen possessed. Maybe I shouldn't be, of course, but the ingenuity and level of intricacy these men and women were able to achieve is just astonishing at times.

    1. Is there any chance you still know of the potter who made your mug? I got one likely from the same or a similar potter and the drinking tube sadle broke. i've been trying to track down a potter willing to make me a new one.