It's easy to get caught up in what's new and happening in the world of drink: what's the newest wine or varietal to sweep the nation? What's the newest craft beer to make waves? What's the cocktail we need to be dreaming about to get through the work day to happy hour? But we often forget just where our drinks come from.

It's the little inventions that basically made our world of drinks explode into the endless variety of beverage options we have today. Without refrigeration we wouldn't have such access to drinks that spoil fast, like milk; without tea bags, the art of making a cup of tea may have been lost; without the straw... OK, we just really love a good straw. While we ommitted perhaps the discoveries that made our drinks possible — fermentation for wine and beer, distilling for spirits, carbonation for sodas, even filtration for drinkable water — it's the inventions that have made drinking into a convenience.

Whether it's as small as a cork or as big as your refrigerator, we're taking a few steps towards the past to thank our lucky stars for the inventors who gave us well, all the drinks.

1. Cork


Young woman puckering lips as she struggles to open champagne bottle at nightclub. Horizontal shot (iStock)

Before synthetic corks and screw caps, there was the cork. Often the very tricky barrier for when you need that glass of wine right this second, it’s essential to the taste, and storage, of wine. As we've said before, cork is the outer layer of Quercus suber, the cork oak, a tree widely found in Portugal (which produces more than half of the world's cork) and around the Mediterranean basin. The cork, first widely used beginning in the 1700s, creates a perfect barrier between liquids and air. And fun fact: the first corkscrew, which arrived around the same time (fortunately), was apparently inspired by the gun worm, a device designed to extract bullets from rifle barrels.

2. Refrigeration



The invention of refrigeration changed what (and how) we drink forever. After all, what’s a good glass of milk to you without a fridge? Before the refrigerator, it was common practice to keep food and drinks cool with things like chilly streams, stockpiled ice or snow, and later, ice boxes, which became popular in the 19th century. Various vapor-compression and gas-absorption refrigeration systems soon followed, but German engineer Carl von Linde is often credited with developing the first modern-style refrigerator, which he patented in 1877. The first electric home refrigerator was sold around 1915, and by 1920, there were some 200 models on the market. Refrigeration has changed the way drinks are packed and shipped, and of course the way we shop and drink.

3. Straw



No seriously — straws were disastrous back before the modern straws we know today were invented in the 1880s. Marvin Stone, the inventor, apparently was not enjoying his mint julep the way he wanted to with his rye natural grass straw (seriously, can you imagine using grass to slurp up a drink?). Instead, he decided to invent a cylindrical vessel made of paper and coated in paraffin. Then came the flexible straws made for milkshakes (during the soda fountain boom), and finally, the bendy straw. Seriously — how else would we have enjoyed milkshakes without a straw?

4. Barrels



Without barrels, we may have never understood just how great a wine or aged spirit could be. As we’ve noted before, it was the French (OK, the Gauls) who may have made the first wooden barrels, figuring out how to heat and bend staves of wood and bind them into pot-bellied form with rope and later metal bands. The Romans then adopted the idea, finding barrels a great improvement over the clay pots and amphorae they had been using for wine, oil, and other substances (they were bigger and more stable, and didn't have to be sealed with resin). Barrels turned out to be ideal for storing and shipping everything from wine and whiskey to pickles, olives (and their oil), herring, and cured pork. And of course, now barrels play a big part in the flavor of a wine or spirit; different woods and aging times greatly changes how it may taste.

See all eight inventions at The Daily Meal

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