The word vinegar comes from the French word “vinaigre” which means “sour wine.” It was probably discovered by accident thousands of years ago—after a cask of wine had gone bad. When the wine was first made, natural sugars were fermented into alcohol. Over time, bacteria in the air transformed the alcohol into acetic acid, which gave the “sour wine” its bite.
Vinegar’s role in history is well documented. This versatile product was used by everyone—from kings and conquerors to explorers and everyday people.
- The Babylonians used vinegar to preserve and pickle food.
- Hippocrates prescribed vinegar as a remedy for a variety of ailments.
- Caesar’s armies used vinegar as a beverage.
- Hannibal drenched huge boulders in hot vinegar which cracked them into small pieces, enabling his army to continue its journey across the Alps.
- Helen of Troy bathed in vinegar to relax.
- Jesus was offered vinegar before he was crucified.
- Early Europeans used vinegar as a deodorizer.
- During the Bubonic Plague people poured vinegar on their skin to protect themselves from germs.
- Cleopatra dissolved pearls in vinegar to prove that she could consume a fortune in a single meal.
- Sailors used vinegar as a food preservative during long voyages.
- World War I medics used vinegar to treat soldiers’ wounds.
Today, people are still using white distilled vinegar in hundreds of different ways—from cooking and cleaning to gardening and the laundry.