With a plethora of new, and sometimes seemingly useless, emojis added each year, it seems like there is now an emoji for everything. Kidney beans? Check. A Legolas-adjacent elvish man? There’s one for that. A train? There’s 12 where that came from. Red wine? Check. White wine? Now that’s where the party ends.
Despite the surprising abundance of emojis in what seems to be every other sector of culture, alcohol-related icons are surprisingly lacking on iOS with a total of just eight meant to represent all beer, wine, and liquor. However, among the obvious Champagne, beer, and cocktail glasses, there’s one alcohol-related emoji you may have overlooked: the alembic.
Added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015, the alembic emoji — a bulbous flask with a neck angled down sitting perched on a small stand — is designed to represent an ancient distilling tool that dates back to the 6th century. The apparatus, which consisted of three parts, was used in Medieval times as a vessel for fermenting various liquids for medicinal purposes, perfumes, and alcoholic beverages.
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When distillers of yore began the fermentation process, a large bulbous container called a cucurbit was heated over an open flame. Vapors from the bubbling liquids were then able to condense in a vessel above it, called the alembic, before it would trickle down a tube in the form of a distillate.
Despite falling out of use centuries ago, the alembic is widely believed to have been the first device used to distill alcohol, and its design inspired many distilling methods we are now familiar with today. In 13th- century Sicily, the alembic sparked the advent of a distillation technique used to make a beverage now known as grappa. And in the 16th century, the traditional alembic model was altered by Swiss physician Paracelsus, who incorporated a water bath in his distillation process to aid heat transfer rather than placing the still on an open flame.
While it may not be as in-demand as the still-missing white wine emoji, the alembic is no less important in boozy culture.