Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

nectar besides meaning the sweet liquid which bees gather from flowers to produce honey, refers to the drink of the gods in classical mythology and, by extension, any particularly delicious drink. Nectar has thus a more restricted meaning than ambrosia, which can refer to both the food and drink of the gods, although commonly used of the food alone.

In the Homeric poems nectar is imagined as red (like wine) and as being served to the gods by Hebe, the divine wine-waitress (‘cup-bearer’ is the more traditional term). The ‘nectar of bees’, meaning honey, is a term first used by Euripides in the play Bacchae (c.400 bc).