What is a Puzzle Jug?

Susan Zeller Dunn

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.

A drinking puzzle shaped like a jug that was popular during the Medieval period is referred to as a puzzle jug.
A drinking puzzle shaped like a jug that was popular during the Medieval period is referred to as a puzzle jug.

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.

The puzzle jug may be traced back to 13th century France.
The puzzle jug may be traced back to 13th century France.

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.

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Discussion Comments


@literally45-- You could contact pottery makers and ask them if they can make a puzzle jug for you. As far as I know, this was how it was done long ago in Europe as well. Puzzle jugs were not mass produced, they were usually made per special request. That's why there is little to no mention of these jugs in old European ceramic makers' inventories.


@literally45-- Since puzzle jugs are a European invention, they are easier to find in Europe. One can also find very old and rare puzzle jugs in European fairs and museums.

For purchasing, I believe there are several sellers in the US and you can find their products online. But expect to pay a lot since these ceramic vessels are difficult to make and unique.

I think most people actually buy them for a collection, although I'm sure that some use it on a regular basis in the company of friends. I have used a puzzle jug once. It's actually fairly difficult to use. I could not solve the puzzle because I could not figure out which holes to cover to be able to drink. It was a lot of fun though, everyone had a great time.


I've been wanting to purchase and try a puzzle jug for a long time but I can't find it anywhere. This drinking game seems to have lost all popularity which is disappointing. I think it sounds like great fun and I would love to play it one day.

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