Drinking Horns have become increasingly popular in recent years with the Game of Thrones and Vikings TV series.
But of course, drinking horns should be sealed before you drink from them. However, in some cases, you can purchase an unsealed one. On the other hand, the sealant could have worn off from regular use.
Although it is advisable to buy a horn that is already sealed, this should not deter you if you can source an unsealed horn as you can always seal it yourself.
This article will be for those who have bravely purchased an unsealed raw horn, or if you need to reseal your sealed Viking drinking horn.
What is a Drinking Horn
A drinking horn is a bovid’s horn that is employed as a drinking container. Drinking horns have been used since Classical Antiquity, especially in the Balkans, and some regions of Europe, particularly in Germanic Europe and the Caucasus, continued to utilize them for ceremonial reasons throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern era. Drinking horns also called kantsi in Georgia, continue to be a significant accessory in the tradition of ceremonial toasting.
Drinking containers shaped like drinking horns and fashioned of glass, wood, metal, ceramic, or other materials have a long history. The word “drinking horn” in ancient Greek was simply “keras”. To be differentiated from the drinking horn in its appropriate sense is the rhyton (plural “rhyta,” “horn”), a drinking vessel with an outlet at the pointed end.
History of Drinking Horn
For thousands of years, people have used drinking horns as containers for ingesting liquids. Drinking horns have a long history and have been used for both utilitarian and ceremonial reasons by many different civilizations.
The deity Odin was renowned in Norse mythology for drinking from the Gjallarhorn, a magical horn supposed to have been fashioned from the horn of a giant. Drinking horns, which were frequently filled with mead or ale, were utilized in Viking culture at feasts and festivals.
In medieval Europe, drinking horns were also common and were used for both drinking and hunting. Nobles would frequently hunt for wildlife and then sip wine or mead from the horns of their victims.
Drinking horns were frequently used by nomadic tribes in Africa to consume milk and other liquids. Intricate carvings and patterns were frequently used to embellish the horns.
Drinking horns are still used ceremonially and by people seeking a closer connection to their ancestors today. They are frequently employed in historical reenactments and Renaissance fairs.
Overall, the drinking horn has a long history and is still widely recognized as a significant cultural icon.
Below are some different methods you can use to seal or reseal your prized possession.
Salad Bowl Finish
Putting a barrier between your drink and the surface of the horn will keep off unpleasant taste and smell. Salad bowl finish is a thin liquid resin that should carefully be applied to the horn.
It is readily available in home improvement stores and is easy to use. Apply the salad bowl finish using a foam bottle brush to every part of the surface.
Once applied, it should hang and be left to cure for at least 12 hours.
In some instances, the method is known as ‘Butcher Block’ and it should be done at least once a year for proper maintenance of your drinking horn.
This is a great method to use if your horn is exclusively for hot drinks. You have an assurance that there will be no off-flavors when this is done.
The only downside is that it needs reapplying, and you will need to check it for wear. It should be applied annually if the horn is to remain sealed.
- No foul odors
- Suitable for hot or cold drinks
- A rise in prices
- After a year of usage, wears off and has to be inspected for damage
- Require reapplication
Beer or Hard Liquor
Did you know you can seal your drinking horn using hard liquor or beer? This is one of the trouble-free methods to use. High-proof liquor and dark beer are the best to use.
Take the drink and pour it into the horn up to the brim. It should be left to settle for about seven days. It will be sealed by the time a week elapses.
The advantage of using this method is that it is not only easy to do, but it also reduces unappealing flavors. It is also cheap to use and excellent for cold liquids.
Despite it being a good method, it tends to have some cons. It is not ideal for someone who has issues with gluten. The sealant is also not fit for hot beverages, thus, you should not take coffee, hot water, or tea using the hard-liquor sealed horn.
Also, you will be required to apply the sealant at least once a month. The reason is it wears off fast and especially if you regularly use the horn.
There may also be problems with staining the horn surfaces.
- Decrease in offensive taste
- Simple to carry out
- Possible gluten problems
- Getting the Horns Stained
- Gives everything a beer flavor
- Requires reapplication around every month
- ONLY cold drinks
Food Grade Epoxy
Although it is a complicated process, it is one of the best. Whether you want to seal a horn for cold or hot drinks, this sealant is perfect.
Regardless of the temperature of the drink, you will not have issues with the flavor. Although it is pricey, the best thing is, it does not wear off. This means you will not need to reapply it, unlike many other methods.
Once the entire interior of the vessel is covered, hang it out to dry. Make sure that you give it 12 hours to dry out, and to fully cure, allow 24 hours.
If you are doing it at home, ensure you have protective gear, and you protect the floor and other surfaces. This sealant will not come out if it touches anything.
It builds a reliable barricade between your beverages and the horn material. This labor-intensive sealant is expensive but worth it.
- Suitable for hot or cold drinks
- Never needs to be applied again or to wear off
- Keeps liquids away from the horn’s substance by forming a barrier inside the horn
- Price increase brought on by labor and material costs
It is one of the most popular methods of sealing drinking horns. One reason it is popular is its ease of use.
The amount of beeswax needed will be conditional on the size of the horn. The bigger it is, the more sealant will be needed.
Once the right amount of the sealant is melted, it should be poured into the horn. Confirm that every part of the surface is covered. For it to last longer, apply a thick layer.
It should be hung upside down for it to dry out. Ensure the wax is not overheated since it can be dangerous when too hot. Also make sure you protect surfaces that you do not want to wax.
Avoid using your beeswax-sealed horn with hot beverages, as the finish will be stripped off which can result in unpleasant flavors and off-smells.
Beeswax is an all-natural sealant however, requires regular reapplication about once every month. The other downsides is that it is only fit for cold drinks.
- Sustainable, all-natural sealant
- Diminution of the horn’s off-tastes
- Cold beverages ONLY
- Apply again once or twice a year
Why Should You Seal Your Drinking Horn?
There is every reason sealing your horn is a priority. The sealant separates the horn material from your drink, and you will not experience an odor or taste from the natural horn.
The experience of odd flavor may not be pleasant if it is not what you are looking for. In ancient times this was not a problem, but it can be uncomfortable to some.
As you choose your sealant, make sure it is what you need. It will be determined by whether your horns are for hot or cold beverages or both.
Despite the authentic Viking experience that you get from an unsealed horn being unique, you may not enjoy your drink.
How to Clean a Drinking Horn
Prior to using a raw drinking horn, cleaning and curing are necessary tasks. A completed drinking horn is often already cleaned, cured, and sealed when you purchase it because those steps were done during the production process. This guarantees immediate safe usage.
The drinking horns would often emit an unpleasant scent if they were used without being coated and cleaned. You must cure the drinking horn in order to remove that odor and clean it.
It is important to regularly clean drinking horns to preserve cleanliness and stop the spread of germs. The steps for cleaning a drinking horn are as follows:
- To begin, rinse the drinking horn with warm water to get rid of any leftover liquid or dirt.
- Fill with warm, soapy water: Pour warm water into the horn and add a tiny quantity of mild dish soap. In order to make sure that every surface is cleaned, swirl the water around the interior of the horn.
- Cleaning the interior. Thoroughly clean the inside of the horn with a bottle brush or pipe cleaner. Any debris that could be adhered to the interior of the horn will be helped to remove by doing this.
- Rinse thoroughly. Use warm water to fully rinse the horn to get rid of all soap residue.
- Let the horn air dry entirely before using it once more. You may hasten the procedure by wiping the interior of the horn with a fresh, dry cloth.
- Oil the horn. Once the horn has dried, you may oil the interior of the horn with a food-safe oil, such as mineral or coconut oil. The horn will not eventually dry out and break as a result of this.
Always keep in mind that the heat and chemicals in the dishwasher might harm your drinking horn. Moreover, keep in mind that using scrubbers or cleansers with abrasives might harm the horn’s surface.
Did you know?
The custom dates back more than 2000 years
Drinking horns from the Viking era have likely existed for 2,600 years or more. Its functions have changed from being useful drinking utensils to ritual and ceremonial objects according to the culture. They were utilized by the Celts, ancient Romans, and Greece in addition to the Vikings, who are well known for their widespread use. These useful, elegant cups were used by anyone; the Vikings are merely the group we choose to connect them with.
The Whole Animal is Used
Older civilizations did not view waste as anything positive, and many people who valued hunting above all else thought that using any portion of the animal for human use was an insult to the natural world’s gods. People in these societies used a lot of work tracking, trapping, and hunting their prey; why would they go to all this bother for nothing more than tossing away something that may have been useful? Fortunately for us, Viking drinking horns undoubtedly developed as a result of old society’s sensibilities. Even if it was not always constructed with animal bones or horns, we may now enjoy the thousands of years of artwork done with horns.
Passed Through Families
If you visit a museum that displays Viking or other drinking horns, you will note that many of them have different metal tips and are almost certainly engraved. Although initially, everyone constructed their own drinking horns independently of one another, once they were shared, humans started making them without the aid of animals. They became cherished family heirlooms as well as status or ceremonial symbols. Viking drinking horns frequently have inscriptions that describe the family they come from, the people they were passed down to, or other family-related details.
By the Gods
The divine is frequently associated with significant rituals and symbols, and Viking drinking horns are no exception. For instance, it was thought that Dionysus revered the drinking horn in Greek mythology. The Scythian tribe thought the drinking horn was a gift from a god to a ruler. The Viking drinking horn was seen by other cultures as a representation of plenty or life and as an essential tool for praising the gods. Every civilization that developed a unique Viking drinking horn made a profound connection between it and their beliefs. The Viking drinking horn was connected to Christian ideas even after Christianity superseded Paganism across Europe.
Cup of Fun
Every civilization that possessed a Viking drinking horn linked it with drinking and fun. The party gods, including Dionysus, were all associated with the significance of drinking horns in paganism. With that in mind, you may assume that the drinking horns were primarily used to contain wine, but that would be incorrect. If we are talking about the Viking drinking horn, it housed mead and would include anything ceremonial and important to the culture. When fallen warriors arrived in Valhalla, they were given a Viking drink horn because this cup of fun was so closely linked to celebration.
Sealing your drinking horn is crucial if you are to prevent off-flavors and smells. If by any chance you buy a horn that is yet to be sealed, make sure it is done before you start using it.
It is only after this that you should pour your drink into it. Drinking from a raw horn may not be what you are looking for, thus, get it sealed.
Even when you purchase a sealed one, you may require to reseal it often, especially if it was sealed using a method such as beeswax. Whenever reapplication is due, make sure it is done before it is too late.
With this, you will not have to deal with unpleasant flavors and smells. Also, get to understand the sealant to be used for hot and cold drinking horns.
Without sealing the inside of the horn, you may not enjoy your drink and suffer a poor experience.