Book 93: A History of the World in 6 Glasses



"Unlike beer, which was usually produced and consumed locally, and wine, which was usually made and traded within a specific region, rum was the result of the convergence of materials, people, and technologies from around the world, and the product of several intersecting historical forces. Sugar, which originated in Polynesia, had been introduced to Europe by the Arabs, taken to the Americas by Columbus, and cultivated by slaves from Africa. Rum distilled from its waste products was consumed both by European colonists and by their slaves in the New World."

Dates read: September 24-27, 2016

Rating: 4/10

For someone who's as fussy of an eater as I am, my taste in drinks has changed a lot over the years. I changed over to coffee, finally, from my longtime Diet Mountain Dew habit only a few years ago once I was finally convinced that my continued possession of my own teeth depended on it. I drank mostly shots and liquor in college, wine through law school and early legal practice, and have become a beer person over the past couple years. I've ever developed a fondness for some kinds of tea...especially kombucha!

Tom Standage's A History of the World in 6 Glasses examines what was going on in the world as six different drinks were developed and had their heyday: beer, wine, liquor, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. It's set in that order, too, taking us chronologically from early civilization to close to the present day. While each subject is worthy of its own full book-length treatment, honestly, shorter examinations provide an interesting lens through which to look back at history.

I think the three most interesting segments are the ones regarding liquor, coffee, and tea. While anyone who remembers history class can probably connect the dots between rum and the large-scale slave trade, I think Standage does a good job of developing both that connection and going into the larger cultural history of liquor. The coffee section details not only the beverage itself, but the role that coffeehouses played in political intrigue, which is something I'd never read about before. And he does a great job tying the British imperialism to the tea trade, which isn't a connection I would have drawn on my own but was really insightfully done.

Nothing about it is particularly revelatory...it did more to pique my interest into looking more deeply into some of the topics it covered than captivate me on its own. But it's a novel way to look at the span of human history, it's well-written, and it's an enjoyable if not mind-blowing read. A good choice for the beach or the airplane!

Tell me, blog friends...if you had to drink just one thing besides water for the rest of your life, what would it be?

One year ago, I was reading: The Other Side of the River

No comments