A puzzle jug is a tavern game that was popular during the Medieval period, then again during 18th and 19th centuries. It is a drinking puzzle shaped like a jug. The challenge is to drink from the jug without spilling anything. This is made more difficult by the perforations that encircle the neck of the jug. A source of fun, each jug may be inscribed with a verse.
At first, drinking without spilling appears impossible, but the trick to the puzzle jug is a hidden tube that runs within the jug. One end is shaped into a spout. The other end runs around the rim of the jug and then follows the handle down to the base of the jug. This tube allows one to drink without spilling by sucking on the spout end. Of course, a puzzle jug may be simple and have a single spout or complicated with as many as six spouts from which to choose.
To make it even more challenging, before sucking on the spout, one must first close off additional holes around the tube with one’s fingers. Some puzzle jugs also have a hidden hole along the tube. This hole is usually hidden beneath the handle.
Puzzle jugs are descendants of other medieval drinking games including the fuddling cup and the pot crown. A fuddling cup is a puzzle made of three or more cups joined together by tubes with holes. A pot crown is shaped as it is called. It has a hollow ring base that holds four cups. It also has tubes that connect together on top like an English crown.
The puzzle jug can be traced back to 13th century France. There is also evidence that it was manufactured, during that same period, in Germany, Holland, and other European countries. An early example of this ceramic novelty, the Exeter Puzzle Jug, is displayed in the Royal Albert Museum, located in Exeter, Devon. The Exeter Puzzle Jug was made around 1300 in Saintonge, France. It is considered a notable example of medieval pottery.
The puzzle jug regained its popularity in homes and taverns during the 18th and 19th centuries. They continue to be manufactured today by ceramicists. Modern examples of this art form can be found in the UK, France and Germany.