I would like to make Kykeon, as close as possible to the original recipe as possible.

I understand the recipes of making Kykeon, but am at a loss as to what modern wine would be considered as a close substitute.

Kykeon was an Ancient Greek drink of various descriptions. Some were made mainly of water, barley and naturally occurring substances. Others were made with wine and grated cheese. It is widely believed that kykeon usually refers to a psychoactive compounded brew, as in the case of the Eleusinian Mysteries. A kykeon was used at the climax of the Eleusinian Mysteries to break a sacred fast, but it is also mentioned as a favourite drink of Greek peasants.

It was supposed to have digestive properties: In Aristophanes' Peace Hermes recommends it to the hero who ate too much dry fruit and nuts.

Aristocrats shunned it as a peasant drink: Theophrastus' Characters depicts a peasant who goes to the Ecclesia drunk with kykeon.

The recipe I am going to use is not magical in any sense of the imagination and will be made with ordinary ingredients.

Lesbos wine is wine made on the Greek island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea. The island has a long history of winemaking dating back to at least the 7th century BC when it was mentioned in the works of Homer. During this time the area competed with the wines of Chios for the Greek market. An apocryphal account details one of the brothers of the poet Sappho as a merchant trading Lesbos wine with the Greek colony of Naucratis in Egypt. The most noted Lesbos wine was known as Pramnian which draws similarities today to the Hungarian wine Eszencia. The popularity of Lesbos wine continued into Roman times where it was highly valued along with other Aegean wines of Chios, Thasos and Kos.

Other types of Pramnian

While Lesbos is considered by some scholars to be the main source of Pramnian, there is association of the name with wines from Smyrna and Icaria. The Greek writer Athenaeus used the term in almost a generic way to refer to any dark, long lived wine of good quality. Athenaeus's description also paints a different description than of a Tokay-like wine, instead of a wine that is dry and very strong. The resulting grape must be very high in sugar and even after a brief fermentation period it still retains high residual levels and creates a viscous, honeyed sweet wine.

The recipe I will use is based on this YouTube video: Kykeon: The Drink of Greek Heroes

  • This is much more likely to get an answer on the SE Home brewing site.
    – Eric S
    Aug 31, 2020 at 1:38
  • @EricS Unfortunately, that site is dedicated to home brewing and I am interested in a modern replacement, that resembles the ancient pramnian wine!
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 31, 2020 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


I too and trying to recreate this at the moment. I have seen completely contradictory descriptions of Pramnian wine. Some very sweet like the Eszencia or Tokaji style made from dried grapes. The Greek study tool online from Tufts defines Pramnian as "raisin-wine" which is too interpretive since other descriptions are are of a dark, dry, strong wine that is not not necessarily pleasurable.

My approach is to try both. I went to my local Total Wine store with the largest selection and to their Greek wine section. Pramnian is definitely red and they had four. One was a retsina which was not a style in Homer's day. The other three were two dry table wines and a sweeter red for about $10 each. I got all three. I told the wine clerk what I was doing and he recommended a good quality dry Sardinian red (Dolia) since the volcanic soil where it's grown resembles what would be found in Lesbos. I will start experimenting this week. I may even infuse the wine with herbs like mint and oregano to get to something like a vermouth. I'm using pearl barley, raw yellow honey, and a couple goat cheese varieties (from a fresher chevre, to a drunken goat, to an unpasteurized hard Spanish goat cheese). My guess is following the recipe will result in a pretty unpalatable concoction but I will deviate as much as I need to until I get to something I like, probably like a goat cheese barley-polenta with onion and red wine.

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