Cheers for Eau de vie
I wanted the Earl of Hertford to share a drink with his friends in Time-Crossed Love, but I wanted it to be something other than ale, so I did a little research to see what that might be. I found that in the early 1300's the French had developed a drink they called Eau de vie or Water of Life. It would be an ancestor of our modern day brandy. They thought surely this delicious drink came from the Divinity, after all, with some believing it could prolong the life of man!
Early Eau de vie was colorless and made from fermented fruit juice. Cherries, pears, or raspberries were popular choices. Today's brandy is usually colored as if aged.
In the process of researching Eau de vie, I learned how they judged the alcoholic content of these early drinks and why we still use the word "proof" on labels. It seems they would pour gunpowder into a dish, wet it with the alcohol to be judged and set it on fire. If when the fire went out the gunpowder was gone, it was "above proof" and if the gunpowder had not been exploded, it was "below proof" or too weak. This was a less than perfect system and was probably wrong much of the time. By 1700's scientists worked out the numbers we use today to judge alcoholic content.