Gloss over swathes of great history by filtering through the lens of drinks! A History of the World in Six Glasses moves through the following thirst-quenching drafts: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola, with the downers followed by the uppers, although they aren’t necessarily in chronological order.
I am most fascinated by the process of discovery and cultivation of beer and wine, although we actually know very little of the who or what. People were drinking beer and wine ages before we knew what yeast were, so it was most certainly magic. We know much more about the process now, and I’d expect someone transported in time would find something familiar, which connects me in some unknowable way to our lost long ancestors of humanity.
But back to the book at hand. Beer is the common man’s drink. Wine was and still is for those who prefer pomp and circumstance, thanks to the Greeks. Distillation of alcohol into spirits came much later, and due to the higher alcohol content facilitating smaller volumes, was easily transported on ships and any other exploration vessels.
Coffee fueled the scientific revolution in Europe during the Age of Reason, and still remains today as a social drink that brings people together. Tea had a good long run in China, but really took off when Britain decided they liked it too. Tea certainly has it’s own rules and regulations, and the rich liked to think they were better for it. However, Twinnings did offer women-only tea shops (as men were only allowed in coffee houses) which offered a new social networking arena. Then there’s the tea parties and the sun set on a few British colonies, including America. Lastly, cola (Coca-cola and Pepsi-cola primarily) symbolize American innovation and their presence in war times even elevates them to the status of patriotic, but they also illustrate globalization of American ideals. (A subject not mentioned is the role cola plays in modern obesity).
I definitely enjoyed this nonfiction, as it didn’t belabor the point too much, and I learned some interesting tidbits. It does focus heavily on how these drinks served as catalysts for political or economic progress, so be prepared for a slant toward the history of drinks of as they contributed to world powers. Recommended for readers who enjoy politics and modern history.