Vikings were not only known for their intense combat attitude but also for constantly drinking ale from curved horns.
In fact, in the tv series Vikings (spoiler alert), Ragnar Lothbrok (portrayed by Travis Fimmel) was looking forward to from a horn right before he was thrown into a pit of snakes saying “Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns.”
But did you know the Vikings weren’t the first to practice drinking from horns?
Scientists found that drinking from horns was practised way back in the 5th and 6th centuries and it was also used for ceremonial purposes throughout the middle ages and early modern periods.
Still, that doesn’t stop Viking fans from wanting to own a drinking horn. So, in this article, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to make your very own drinking horn.
Step 1: Find a Suitable Horn
Drinking horn fragments in the Viking era were rarely preserved, but most of the drinking horns scientists dug up come from domestic cattle which hold about half a litre of liquid.
These days, cattle horns are rather easy to find. They are available in meat shops, horn stores, and even online. But do note that if you buy one from a butcher, you will most likely need to have to remove the bone marrow yourself.
Step 2: Clean the Horn
Once you have a raw horn, soak it in boiling water to soften its marrows. Then, scrape the marrow out until the boney outer structure is the only thing left.
Next, lightly sand the inner and outer parts of the horn to smoothen it out and remove whatever’s left inside.
Finally, pour boiling water inside the horn to soften any remaining marrow and continue scraping.
Once you’re confident that you’ve removed all the marrow and you’re happy with how smooth the surface is, use soap and a bottle brush to clean the inside. Don’t forget to wash the exterior too.
Step 3: Cure the Horn
Even after you’ve thoroughly cleaned your horn, it will still give you a distinct smell and taste if you were to use it straight away. This is why you should cure the horn before using it as a drinking vessel.
To do that, find a strong alcoholic spirit like vodka or tequila and pour it into the drinking horn. Keep the horn upright and leave it for a week.
Doing this helps remove the unpleasant aftertaste of drinking from a former part of an animal.
Step 4: Seal the Horn
There are different options you can use to seal your horn.
One natural way is using beeswax. It is cheap, smells good, and is easy to come by. However, you will have to reapply it fairly regularly because it comes off easily. Furthermore, you can only use beeswax if you are planning to consume cold drinks.
To apply a beeswax seal, simply melt a block of wax and pour it into the horn. Make sure you pour it in evenly.
Continue, by pouring the hot wax from your horn back into your container. Then repeat this back-and-forth process until the inside of the horn is evenly coated with the hardened beeswax.
Judging from the tools available during the Viking age, beeswax is probably the sealant of choice for the Norse because of its availability. So using this method will give you a genuine experience.
Food Grade Expoxy
Another option is a food-grade epoxy. Food-grade epoxy is harder to apply but it lasts forever. Another benefit of epoxy is that you will be able to enjoy hot drinks from your horn.
To apply food-grade epoxy, first, wipe the insides of the horn with alcohol wipes to clean it up and to make sure the epoxy will stick. Then, pour the food-grade epoxy into the horn.
Tilt the horn and roll it to spread the epoxy on all inner surfaces of the horn. Pour out any excess epoxy and let it dry out for about 12 hours.
Step 5: Decorate the Horn
Lastly, decorate your horn however you like. Just like regular drinking vessels, drinking horns can have unique individual designs that are tailored to their owner.
A few ideas that may spark your imagination are iron rings, Norse text carvings, and Norse mythology signs.
There is plenty of horn inspiration in Viking movies and tv shows, find one you like the most and apply it to your drinking horn.
Once you find a cattle horn, turning it into a drinking horn is relatively straightforward. Clean it, cure it, seal it, and turn it into the design you like.
Of course, if you want to skip all the hassle you can just purchase a pre-made one, sit back and enjoy!