Amongst the ‘ideal gifts for Father’s Day’ that have meandered our way over the past few days – distillery tours, halloumi making kits, loose leaf tea subscriptions and so on – comes this: the drinking horn. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the drinking horn is alive and kicking in non-medieval Britain. This particular gift idea, priced at £24.99, is billed as a ‘modern twist on the ancient drinking horn’, the twist presumably being that it didn’t once protrude from the blank, uncomprehending face of an ox. No, this modern drinking horn is styled in glorious acrylonitrile butadiene styrene with a laser-etched logo, harking back ‘to a cherished era when horns were the drinking vessels of choice.’
Let’s pick this apart. Firstly, I’d take issue with the notion of the drinking horn coming from a ‘cherished era’. In those medieval times, if you hadn’t already been slain during a raid by some marauding foe or succumbed to a nasty bout of Black Death, you’d probably be living the humdrum life of a serf, foraging for comfrey on riverbanks, flagellating yourself on Tuesdays and watching dreary morality plays while being ruled over by a bloke called Charles The Stupid. This is not a time to hark back to. For goodness sake, these people hadn’t even got to grips with double-entry bookkeeping yet.
Secondly, and more importantly, you can’t put it down. Rather like a baby, you can’t stand a drinking horn on a table without it falling over. This fundamental design flaw really should have seen the drinking horn die out during the Renaissance, but no. Listen up: beer containers should have flat bottoms. They have to. Tony Naylor didn’t include this in his checklist of What Makes A Good Pub and Meantime don’t mention it during their tasting tours, probably because they didn’t think it was necessary. But look, guys, they’re trying to sell us drinking horns! Yes, OK, the Belgians serve Kwak beer in a round-bottomed glass with a wooden stand, but that’s the exception that proves the rule; straight glass, barrel, jug glass, growler, pewter tankard – they are flat-bottomed, all. The makers of Das Horn skirt around this catastrophic problem by providing you with a neck strap, which will make you look a bit like a saxophonist who’s unwittingly fallen victim to a practical joke.
Das Horn is by no means the only drinking horn on the market. A range of ornamental horns with silver or gold rims are currently available online for the price of a Game Of Thrones box set; the accompanying sales blurbs promise that they will ‘make a good impression’ or that they’ll be a ‘conversation starter’. I can give you a quick preview of one of those conversations right now:
Q: Is that a drinking horn?
Look, the drinking horn may have its own special role in ancient toasting traditions of the southern Caucasus, and I wouldn’t want to diss anyone who fancies some light refreshment after a day spent reenacting the Second Battle of Lincoln. But don’t get one for your dad. Please. He’ll only use it. And that would be awful.
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