So I have a bit of a crossover topic for you today. Firstly, the word tankard and then the same item as part of your costume.

Tankard:  A roughly cylindrical drinking vessel with one handle.

The tankard is an old creation due tot he fact that drinking from a gourd or from your hand got old.  For civilizations that either didn’t master pottery or mastered leather or wood working first, the tankard was a primary drinking vessel.  You can find tankards made of almost any material and of varying shapes and sizes.  They have in common that they have a handle, but are usually larger then a coffee mug, so as not to be confused.  There are several basic styles of tankard base don their material – metal, leather and wooden.  You could of course make ceramic tankards and they are still made but we are going to focus on the more durable types.

One of the oldest styles of tankard is the wooden tankard.  This was traditionally made like a barrel.  The staves were held together with rings of metal and they had a handle fitted on the side.  It is no wonder that these were popular in the bear and mead halls seeing as they were dipping the mead and bear form barrels, why not make the drinking device out of the same thing.

Next would come the metal tankard – these were usually made from pewter but any metal could certainly work for making a tankard.  During the 18th century it became popular for the bottom of a metal tankard to have a glass bottom.  There have been explanations given for this but my favorite is that the glass bottom allowed you to avoid the press gang.  If you took the 2 shillings offered to people to join the British navy then you were part of the crew whether you chose to be or not.  One of the tactics that they supposedly used was to drop the coins into the pint of beer you were drinking.  When you got to the bottom and the coins hit your mouth, you had excepted an upfront to take a voyage and you were then part of the crew of whatever ship the press gang worked for.   Whether this is true or not, it still makes a great story.

The tankard was in vogue due to the fact that glass pint jars were expensive to make and in a lot of public houses and taverns you were required to bring your own drinking vessel.  Having it made of something durable means that you could take your own glass with you wherever you went.

Fast-forward to today:  The tankard is a great piece of functional costuming.  Whether you go for the sparkley pewter, the embossed leather or the old-school wooden tankard, any of them will work with a costume and also give you something to drink out of the whole day you are at the fair.  Here are a few things to look for:

  • When you purchase, see if you can get one that includes a belt strap for carrying the tankard.
  • If you go leather, make sure it has been properly sealed so that it will not leak.
  • If you go wooden make sure that it is usable, again, leaking would be bad.
  • Size, matters – you want it to be big enough to hold the same size beverage that you buy at a fair but not so large that you look like a dofus walking around with a gallon jug strapped to your waist.

Personally, I have a leather tankard with a plastic insert.  i know this is a bit of a cheat but the plastic insert is dishwasher safe and I can drink hot or cold beverages from it at that point.  Sometimes this pirate likes his mead warm!

– Bobaganush the Pirate