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Thread: Kykeon...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    On the farm, in southern BC

    Default Kykeon...

    I'd love to see if anyone has a recipe for Kykeon (no ergot-infested barley, nothing too scary). I've searched the web, and there's not much info out there...

    Kykeon was made by the Elusians and Greeks, with barley, water and pennyroyal...just wondering about amounts. This'll be my 1st beer.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Between Jackson and Detroit


    Yipe, another questionable herb. This one is listed as toxic.
    Bees stole my signature file!

  3. #3


    Never even heard of it, but a search produced this
    Not sure if it is what you're looking for since it says it's an ancient Roman Drink, so it might be different than what you are trying to make.
    " sense hauling empty carboys around when full ones take up just as much space. " -TheFlyingBeer (on HomeBrewTalk)

  4. Default

    wasn't kykeon a ceremonial drink used in persephone's mystery religion initiation?

    I'm pretty sure the Romans would've have a similar drink, up until Theodorus I, being that they worshipped a very similar pantheon.

    I'd love to find a recipe for kykeon, too. As authentic as possible, though if pennyroyal is considered toxic, you could substitute spearmint or sweet mint...

  5. #5


    This sounds pretty interesting. I found a document here that has some historical references:

    On the top of page 17 is this reference:

    The κυκεώv which “fair-tressed Hecamede” mixes for Nestor and his comrades in the Iliad (xi. 624-641) contains barley-groats, grated goat cheese, and Pramnian wine. In the Odyssey, the κυκεώv which Circe mixes to transform Odysseus’s companions into swine (Odyssey, x. 234-235) similarly consists of “cheese, barley-meal, and Pramnian wine”
    I wonder if the barley was prepared more like a barley water than the malted barley used in today’s beers. A reference in Wikipedia seems to suggest that.

    Pramnian wine seems to be described as a late harvest style wine, however no one seems to know what grapes were used. The idea of goat cheese in mead doesn’t sound very appealing to me. I'd pass on that one and maybe suggest goat cheese as a food pairing.

    Other references make mention of pennyroyal in Kykeon. As others have pointed out, pennyroyal oil known to be toxic. This site suggests that pennyroyal is similar to Lemon Balm or a weak peppermint.

    So, that would leave this possible list of ingredients. Barley is the only ingredient mentioned in all the references, and it’s up to you to determine how it was used.

    • Barley
    • Peppermint
    • Lemon Balm
    • Honey
    • Late harvest grapes
    • Goat cheese

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    near a lake


    I thought they used ergot amines in the Elusinian Mysteries. I believe pennyroyal is an abortifacient and I know (yes, from experience) that its oil, coupled with lavender and citronella oil, can be used to rid the cat and home of fleas.
    Making Mead With TLC since 2010

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Ottawa, ON


    Pennyroyal oil is poisonous, but the amount of oil you'd get from using the herb in a wine is not going to hurt you unless you're pregnant. In which case, you shouldn't be drinking wine anyway.

    Right from wikipedia: "Pennyroyal was commonly used as a cooking herb by the Greeks and Romans. The ancient Greeks often flavored their wine with pennyroyal. A large number of the recipes in the Roman cookbook of Apicius call for the use of pennyroyal, often along with such herbs as lovage, oregano and coriander. Although still commonly used for cooking in the Middle Ages, it gradually fell out of use as a culinary herb and is seldom used so today."

    It's like saying alcohol is toxic (which it is), yet here we are making it with the intention of ingesting it. In small quantities. The amount you'd use for flavouring is like the cyanide in apple seeds...

    I've had pennyroyal tea myself and it's pleasant, my mom used to grow it, and for a while was calling it "ratnip" because I had a pet rat that would go bugnutz for the fresh stuff. We also used the essential oil (very, very diluted, it IS toxic) as an ingredient in a flea spray for the dog.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  8. Default

    I'm not sure exactly what the ingreditnes or recipe was, but kykeon was definately used in the Eleusinian mystery initiations. Supposedly, it DID make the initiates more susceptible to religious experience.
    That being said, it may very well have had ergot in it as well.
    Although, I'd recommend leaving that portion out of anything made at home...

  9. #9


    I´m not sure about how the recipe should be, anyway that herb isn´t that dangerous at all. Here it´s called "menta poleo" and it´s one of the most common herbs to make an infuse.

    Maybe, since infuses aren´t dangerous and take the aromas and taste of the herb, you could add an infuse to the secondary and you´ll get the character without the "poison".

  10. Default

    I think that the reality of our situation is that these herbs were used specifically because they were poisons.
    Problem is, the recipes have been lost to time *ahem* and Christianity

    If you're going to try it, less is probably more. But I personally would either spend the next few years researching anything you can find to recapture the method correctly, or just use something similar in its stead, like mint.

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