Read Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by Iain Gately Online


A spirited look at the history of alcohol from the dawn of civilization to the twenty first centuryFor better or worse, alcohol has helped shape our civilization. Throughout history, it has been consumed not just to quench our thirsts or nourish our bodies but also for cultural reasons. It has been associated since antiquity with celebration, creativity, friendship, and daA spirited look at the history of alcohol from the dawn of civilization to the twenty first centuryFor better or worse, alcohol has helped shape our civilization. Throughout history, it has been consumed not just to quench our thirsts or nourish our bodies but also for cultural reasons. It has been associated since antiquity with celebration, creativity, friendship, and danger, for every drinking culture has acknowledged it possesses a dark side. In Drink, Iain Gately traces the course of humanity's 10,000 year old love affair with the substance which has been dubbed the cause of - and solution to - all of life's problems. Along the way he scrutinises the drinking habits of presidents, prophets, and barbarian hordes, and features drinkers as diverse as Homer, Hemmingway, Shakespeare, Al Capone, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Covering matters as varied as bacchanals in Imperial Rome, the gin craze in 17th century London, the rise and fall of the temperance movement, and drunk driving, Drink details the benefits and burdens alcohol has conveyed to the societies in which it is consumed. Gately's lively and provocative style brings to life the controversies, past and present, that have raged over alcohol, and uses the authentic voices of drinkers and their detractors to explode myths and reveal truths about this most equivocal of fluids.Drink further documents the contribution of alcohol to the birth and growth of the United States, taking in the war of Independence, the Pennsylvania Whiskey revolt, the slave trade, and the failed experiment of National Prohibition. Finally, it provides a history of the world's best loved drinks. Enthusiasts of craft brews and fine wines will discover the origins of their favorite tipples, and what they have in common with Greek philosophers and medieval princes every time they raise a glass.A rollicking tour through humanity's love affair with alcohol, Drink is an intoxicating history of civilization...

Title : Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781592403035
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 560 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol Reviews

  • Rick
    2019-06-12 04:50

    As I was reading this book, I kept developing a prodigious thirst for both the text and the subject matter. Ah, alcohol! I cannot even try to read about your glories without falling prey to your allure!Ahem, sorry... Anyway, this popular history covers the entire history of the drink of poets, madmen, working men and gods, but the keenest focus is on how cultures -- from the ancient Sumerians to modern-day Americans and all in between -- view the water of life. Each new type of alcohol is introduced in the text with a brief history of how it came about, but the meat of the book is how these beverages fit into the world around them, what impact the drinks had and how various people viewed them. Thus, if you are looking for a history of alcohol that focuses primarily on the origins, creation, manufacture, etc. of the drink, you are best to look elsewhere. However, if you wish to learn the glorious and inglorious history of mankind's favorite drink, this is the book for you.Whiskey rebellions! Gin scares! Prohibition! Drys vs. wets! Religion! War! Sex! It is all here, mashed up and fermented to near perfection by the author, who is clearly sympathetic to the subject matter. Prost!

  • Peter
    2019-06-10 00:27

    Very entertaining, fascinating details, impressive scope. The breadth of research here is amazing, from Europe to Asia to Australia, from Sumeria at the beginning of recorded history, through the age of the Pharaohs, up through Russia in the 1990s, and the rise of craft brewing in America in the 2000s. Understandably, the second half of the book slows down a bit, as we reach time periods with more recorded history. I enjoyed reading about the Whiskey Rebellion in the early days of American independence, the rum-soaked founding of Australia, the hybridized whiskey culture of Japan ("Make mine, Santori time"), and the twin saviors of the cognac industry: Hong Kong weddings and 90s rap musicians.This book is strongest when talking about how people drank, and drink. I was unsatisfied by the author's explication of the why, the psychology of drinking and intoxication. Still, an amazing book, and a pleasure to read.Three more random facts from the book: 1) The North American Indians were one of the only recorded cultures who did not have alcohol in their culture. Researchers speculate that this historical fact may have created a genetic weakness in regards to alcohol, and a trend toward alcoholism in Native Americans following European contact.2) The slaves who built the Egyptian pyramids had a daily beer allotment of 10 pints (!). King Tutankhamen was buried with 40 bottles of wine in his sarcophagus: 20 whites and 20 reds.3) During the 1990s there was a vodka shortage in Russia, and citizens resorted to making cocktails from "alternative intoxicants", including brake fluid. Tens of thousands died annually. Suspect moonshine produced in America during Prohibition claimed thousands of lives annually as well.

  • Kirk Battle
    2019-06-04 23:34

    Easily one of my favorite books of all time. An endless source of trivia and handy facts for when you're out socializing and have nothing to add to the conversation. It's also written in a frank and forward style that had just enough wit to it without being cute.It's essentially an object-oriented history, looking at the world from the perspective of alcohol as religious, economic, and social actor. It's why people grew crops, it's why they went to war, and it's why they put so much hops in the beer. This is obviously a bit myopic but the perspective is so unusual yet informative that it ultimately altered my thinking on a lot of history. Seeing things from just an economic perspective or social perspective is one thing, but you get a sometimes superior window by reading about what people were eating and drinking day in and out.An excellent read.

  • Liz Barr
    2019-06-07 02:38

    It’s a sad reflection on the state of popular histories in general that I got really excited when Iain Gately’s Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol devoted an entire chapter to Australia and the Rum Rebellion. And then split a chapter between China and Japan. And, um, mentioned Africa.Okay, what I’m saying is that if you’re setting out to write a history of [something] in a Euro-American context, you should say so upfront and not go around calling it something silly like “a global history”. That way, people won’t be pathetically grateful when you remember there are other parts of the world.Vague observations on the state of popular non-fiction aside, this was a light, breezy read that actually didn’t contain much that I didn’t already know, but it seemed generally accurate and sensible.

  • Nathanial
    2019-06-24 03:50

    This book has some really great historical tidbits in it, and the style is clear and very enjoyable to read.My main criticism is that I can't help but think about all the things missing from this book. It attempts to look at drinking all over the world, but in practice anything outside of Western Europe and U.S. history (and the Greek and Roman classical eras that they claim lineage from) is pretty pathetically covered. A few-page dip here and there into Japan or Brazil as encountered by Westerners really gives nothing more than a snapshot with little contextualization.At the end of the day, this is "a" cultural history indeed, and although nowhere near complete, still a fun and informative read.

  • Robert
    2019-06-26 23:32

    Read around in this book. It was research for work. Somewhat dry for such a fun subject.

  • Matt Simmons
    2019-06-03 01:50

    Gately writes an engaging and intriguing history of one of the very few cultural (near-)universals: drink. While the book is perhaps over-long, it never feels plodding, yet its narrative is also not something that compels the reader to keep reading--one can taste and sample at will. Too much can be overwhelming, as Gately packs the information in this book tightly, and it feels like a glass overflowing at times. Perhaps subconsciously, his work began to take on the character of his subject matter, then, and we as readers need to take it in this way: a work to be savored and enjoyed, and not something we can just run through without our heads spinning.If there are any complaints about Drink, they are related to the book's deep focusing on the effect of alcohol on the development of the Anglo-American world over the last 300 years; but, this is not surprising considering Gately's own heritage, and one has to choose something to focus on. Continental Europe and the Far East get a fair shake, all things considered, and they figure as interesting counterpoints to the story of the English-speaking peoples' relationships to Bacchus.The book excels in several places, though, and the book deserves reading by both those interested in alcohol as a cultural phenomenon, and those interested in several other things, too:1--Gately is able to use alcohol to provide one of the clearest, most succinct, and fascinating histories of Antiquity and the early Middle Ages I've yet encountered, and in so doing he reminds us of how interconnected Western and Eastern cultures once were--something we should consider more seriously in our own day.2--As he presents it, alcohol had just as profound an effect on the establishment of modernity as the horse or gunpowder, with the emergence of the European colonial powers in the 15th and 16th centuries being deeply tied to drink, its usefulness, its enjoyments, and its potential for profits (slavery, for instance, is shown to be at least as much a consequence of the rum trade as anything else).3--Drink's antimicrobial qualities form a subnarrative throughout the work, and Gately insinuates that much of the development of modern science owes much to these qualities, and the attempts to replicate and understand them--and how the conflicting information we receive about alcohol even in the 21st century shows science to not be the perfect, stable thing we often erroneously credit as being.4--Finally, and most interestingly to me, Gately examines the many different attitudes towards alcohol that have existed throughout civilization. While he gives a fair shake to the attitudes, ideas, and feelings of 'drys,' Gately ultimately comes down in favor of the moderate, enjoyment-focused, and life-affirming use of alcohol, and he shows that when government or cultures try to deny individuals the pleasures of Bacchus, it only removes the Dionysian pleasures, and exacerbates the madness and danger of the god and his followers.A lovely, enjoyable, though somewhat narrowly focused and at times overwhelming book, that is about economy, capitalism, colonialism, faith, philosophy, government, science, and art as much as it is about a product. When you finish reading this work, you feel that a simple chemical compound might be the most important thing on the face of the earth. And you feel incredibly thirsty, as well.

  • Stephen
    2019-06-01 02:24

    "We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them." - G.K. Chesterton, OrthodoxyA substance that a third of the world institutionalizes as a religious sacrament and another third expressly forbids on religious grounds is one to be reckoned with. Since time immemorial, humans have been getting themselves sloshed in one way or another, putting their ingenious minds to work creating alcoholic beverages from whatever plants were available. Drink is a sweeping history of the potent brew in its many forms, created and consumed by every culture and on nearly every continent. It's a social history of a sociable subject -- for when people drink, they rarely do so alone. Alcohol's roots extend to the beginnings of civilization itself; where there were grains, there was booze. Wheat rendered beer and rice, sake, and both beverages were the staple of many civilizations' diets. This owes not only to the human race's fondness for getting itself knackered, but to the fact that bacteria-killing alcoholic content made beer a safer source of water than water itself. Processing wheat products into potable beverages extended their lives, and sometimes gave people an edge, especially as distillation created drinks with long shelf lives. Beyond economic contributions, the communal consumption of alcohol created social ties as well. Not only was wine considered a doorway to inspiration from the muses -- a place later assumed by absinthe -- but drinking it together at feasts loosened tongues and allowed for more honest conversation. Not for nothing did the Romans say "in wine, there is truth.” Not that true and alcohol were steady partners; mead-drinking also went hand and hand with vigorous boasting about deeds in battle. Abuse of alcohol has existed since its cultivation, something it lends itself to in affording an escape. Early industrial mill workers steeled themselves with ale to ensure the day, and the Romans were absolutely riotous. While the prevailing view expressed by people throughout the book is that alcohol is an exquisite complement to life, in moderation, in view of its power some have attempted to ban it altogether. Islam, for instance, forbids it, and has for centuries. Far less successful was the west's own attempt at prohibition, which led to the rise of organized crime and contempt for government. Drink, like those who have imbibed a bit too much, is outstandingly ambitious in trying to render a comprehensive history of alcohol and culture. While he's most thorough covering the western world, recurring chapters also address alcohol in China, Japan, the middle east, and South America. A 'cultural' history verges on the literal, as Gately examines alcohol's depiction and relationship with art, literature, and the movies. Yet for all the ground to be covered, Gately does rather well; the book's bar is well-stocked with stories, and if one doesn't suit your taste another setting and different subject are right behind it.Related:A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage. A history of the world as told over wine, beer, coffee, tea, rum, and Coca-Cola..http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....

  • Christopher
    2019-06-27 04:31

    My wife saw this book on the shelves of a used bookstore and pointed it out to me. I'm a big fan of reading historical non-fiction, and a big fan of booze in all its myriad forms (I'm a cocktail author and a beer brewer ... and I'm not against a glass of wine on occasion either!), so this one definitely called to me.Drink traces the evolution of alcohol--the drinks, our attitudes about it, our understanding of it--from the dawn of recorded history to very nearly the present day (it finishes up in 2008). It's a fascinating look at just how much of mankind's history is wrapped up in the production, distribution, and enjoyment of booze. We learn how beer and wine came into being as a form of liquid nutrition, but rapidly became much more than that. Gately adeptly traces alcohol's religious, spiritual, psychedelic, and other aspects.He does all this with a steady, straightforward, highly readable voice. Drink is consistently interesting, frequently amusing, and often outright funny. Gately seems often to arch an eyebrow at the antics of those he's describing, while simultaneously passing no judgment (at least, not toward the drinkers ... he seems unable to pass up throwing a bit of scorn in the direction of the various temperance movements that have periodically derailed man's attempts to stay well-lubricated).The only complaint I have with the book, and it was enough to knock a star off, is that it is incredibly Eurocentric. While some small amount of time is given to Africa and the Middle East (principally during the age of the great Egyptian kingdoms), and a little attention paid to Asia, the book mostly reads like a history of white people's relationship with Alcohol. While trying trace the history of alcohol throughout every nation and culture would probably be impossible, I would've liked to have seen a bit more about Central and South America, Asia, Africa, India, and other areas.Overall, though, Drink was a great read. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I strongly recommend it to anyone else who loves a good, accessible history with which they can sit down--preferably with a glass of bourbon or beer in hand--and be entertained.

  • Barrett
    2019-06-08 01:40

    absolutely fascinating. granted, at 500 pages, it's not a quick read -- but it is easy to read and chock full of historical tidbits. i think the only limitation is that the book isn't entirely global, beyond ancient times: there are passages on the Aztecs, or the rise of rum and eventually wine in Australia, and a bit about sake or the popularity of cognac in Japan and China... but mostly, we're talking the US, Britain, and France. however, the chronology is thorough -- he starts with the dawn of civilization and runs right through Jay-Z and P. Diddy. yes, seriously. some of my favorite factoids:- Ancient Persian lawmakers made political decisions in the evening, over heavy drink. if the idea still sounded good in the morning, they acted upon it. likewise, if an idea sounded good while they were sober, it was reexamined while drunk. - Captain Morgan (of rum fame) wasn't really a pirate, per se, but a privateer. he sacked Panama, was Deputy Governor of Jamaica... and was said to have died of drink. - alcohol was used to buy votes in early America. and the amount of money George Washington spent per vote was actually more than Bush Jr. spent per vote in 2004 (once prices were adjusted). - the phrase "the real McCoy" comes from the name of a rum runner in the Prohibition era who sold only quality product. - during WW2, the French were required to supply the Nazis with their best wines and champagnes. Taittinger was imprisoned for swapping out the good champers with the crap. when accused, he fired back, "Who cares? It's not as if it's going to be drunk by people who know anything about champagne.”highly recommended. might have to buy a copy for my own shelves, in fact.

  • John
    2019-06-12 01:39

    This was fun. Gately really covers just about everything I could think of for him to cover. The book is heavily weighted towards Europe and North America, but he does get in some talk of South and Central America, and East Asia, and little bit about Africa.I never really thought about the importance of alcohol calorie-wise before, that was interesting. I thought people in New England back in the day drank a ton of hard cider because they liked booze. I feel dumb, in retrospect; obviously you convert the apples to hard cider because it keeps all winter without going bad. Apples rot, but hard cider provides the calories from the apples for months and months. Similarly with whiskey, I hadn't realized this either, but it makes perfect sense: if you have a surplus grain crop, you have to get it to market fast or it will rot. But if you change it to whiskey, it will still be worth a lot of money and it will keep forever. And it will still provide calories. Everyone wins when you make whiskey!This book was also an interesting reminder of the forever bizarre relationship that America has with drinking. Prohibition and all that, but also things like those "Surgeon General Warnings" on every can of beer and bottle of wine. Gately writes about how, when doctors started coming out with these studies that red wine and other kinds of alcohol, in moderation, actually might help your heart a bit, the government wouldn't let them put anything positive on the bottle. Only warnings. God forbid anyone should get it into their head that moderate drinking isn't so bad.

  • Ken
    2019-06-16 03:41

    This is one remarkably well-researched, well-written, and fascinating book. This is basically a history of the (mostly Western) world, told through the broad lens of alcohol. It's remarkable to realize how deeply rooted Western civilization is in alcohol. It's particularly interesting to see attitudes change over time: drink is good; no, it's bad. Wine is good but spirits are bad. Spirits are good, wine is bad. Beer is food, but spirits are "different"; wait, no, they are the same. Then prohibition: all alcohol is bad. Some societies drink to get drunk, others drink constantly without seeming to get drunk at all.Some interesting glimpses: early America was all about cider and rum, then later whiskey. England had a "gin craze" in the early 1700s, which was in some ways similar to our recent "drug epidemic." Gin and tonics were invented because British troops in India needed to take quinine to prevent against malaria. And so much more.A lot of this is stuff I knew before, but it is truly fascinating to see it all put together in one place. From the role of rum trade in the US revolution, to the MADD campaigns of the 1980's, to Boris Yeltsin's antics as a public drunkard. Alcohol is everywhere a part of society.Overall, one of the most interesting books I've ever read.

  • Amanda
    2019-06-10 04:46

    Easy book to read a little bit at a time and then put down for a while. I almost feel like there is too much information. Gately tries to cover absolutely everything about alcohol, although he can admittedly be a bit Euro-centric, I think I would have appreciated it more were it a bit more focused and jumped around less. I think he could have been a bit more concise and to the point... what was the point anyway? Drinking has a very long history. "Religious enthusiasm toward brewing resulted in part from the understanding that ale, having the same ingredients as bread, could be drunk without sin when on a diet of bread and water, and that therefore the fasts that littered their calendar need not be too unpleasant. They were, however, limited to an allowance of eight pints per day." p. 79

  • Raymond
    2019-06-17 04:51

    Informative, witty and never boring, this is a good starting point for getting into the history of alcoholic drinks. It covers the history of their manufacture from the Sumerians all the way to the craft beer revolution in the 90s, and as the title indicates there's an emphasis on the changing place of alcohol in society and cultural attitudes towards it. Be warned however that this is not a global or general history of alcohol, but mainly a history of alcohol in the Western world, with occasional asides to other cultures. This is of course fine as the author is free to limit its scope to his area of interest and competence, but I must withhold one star for not having a more thorough treatment of whiskey.

  • Declan
    2019-06-01 00:45

    Great peice of social history , and fascinating to read of the central part alcohol has played in human history. Also an excellent grabbag of "QI" type facts for aspiring pub bores. Useful as well in placing modern moral panics about alcohol in context: at the same time, i feel the pro-alcohol evangelising in thr closing chapters to be a bit much, the fact that small ampunts of red wine can be good for older peoples cardio health, needs to be weighed against the awesome damage done to people's social , physical and mental health by this highly addictive, (and if judged by fair criteria) hard drug.

  • rachael gibson
    2019-06-19 23:33

    A fascinating romp through the popular history of booze, from Vikings to Victorians and beyond.There were a few sections that I wish Gately had gone into more detail on, but I suspect that's more down to my personal interest in certain eras rather than any failing on his part. He kept every section lively and interesting and the book was genuinely laugh-out-loud in parts. Also packed full of (honestly!) fascinating facts which I bored my colleagues/friends/family with at length - and bookmarked, so I could tell people more in the future.A great read for anyone with an interest in popular culture, as well as those with an interest in booze!

  • Sesana
    2019-05-29 23:21

    The entire history of alcohol in 500 pages? It's very thin in spots, of course, but that's because it's just trying to fit in way too much. An enjoyable read, but I probably would have liked it even more if I hadn't already read full-length books on whiskey, rum, gin, wine and absinthe already. I certainly read a lot of books on booze for somebody who doesn't drink. You're really much further ahead to simply read a book just about a specific type of alcohol, or one with a much narrower focus than this. In the end, you read a lot about a lot, but you don't get much about any one thing.

  • Adrianne
    2019-06-01 22:28

    I picked this book up mostly interested in seeing what they had to say about the history of mead. But I was reading the ebook version (with no useful index) and was frustrated I couldn't jump to the sections I wanted. (Chapter 5, "Barbarians" is what I was looking for, thanks to a quick Google Books search of the text). I started reading cover to cover but got bored by the parts that weren't relevant to my current interests and started and stopped reading several times. So to be fair, my review isn’t a true reflection of the book, just my experience at the time.

  • Scott Rhymer
    2019-06-08 02:46

    Well-written and engaging, Drink takes us through the use and misuse of alcohol throughout history. There are some good insights into the folkways surrounding the use of alcolhol, such as the assumption in Japan that business deals made while drunk assure that the real intentions of the people involved in the deal will out; or that in England (and much of feudal Europe), one's libation was linked to class. It's worth a read.

  • Greg
    2019-06-17 06:40

    A very interesting book. Because it covers the entire history of alcohol, it skips around, which sometimes makes it read like a collection of anecdotes. A little long, but it was worth getting through the slow parts to find the good parts, since there are some fascinating and hilarious stories included.

  • Jake
    2019-06-05 04:48

    Such a thorough and absorbing look at the history of alcohol and its place in human culture since it was first discovered. Gately does a remarkable job of researching his subject and weaving a story out of his staggering amount of information.If anything, it makes you want to grab a pint or a cocktail or even a glass of Pinot Noir. Well done, I would recommend this book to anyone.

  • Austin Amonette
    2019-06-16 05:26

    Frequently in the last half of the book, the author writes more about patterns of social alcohol consumption than alcohol itself, material which is not as engaging as the details about the alcoholic drinks themselves. However, the chapter about the American 1920s, with its speakeasies serving bathtub gin, was almost as much fun as the decade itself must have been.

  • Rachel Scollon
    2019-06-24 01:42

    Highly entertaining and informative. Slightly careless, but you can usually tell where the possible inaccuracies lie, and the sort of insouciant attitude that produces statements like that the USSR's "leaders started to lurch toward capitalism, intending to embrace it" is apt to put one in a forgiving mood.

  • Alyssa
    2019-06-01 00:47

    I bring up things I've learned in this book all the time. It's incredibly interesting. I feel better about alcohol now that I understand it. I feel that I have a better grasp on what "healthy" consumption of alcohol means, now that I've read this review of how consumption has varied over time and between cultures. I highly recommend this to anyone- whether or not you're a drinker.

  • Kevin Kosar
    2019-06-18 04:37

    An often funny and very useful book to a booze writer like myself. It's a bit unwieldy---Gateley chucks in everything but the kitchen sink. I reviewed the book for The American at

  • Dru
    2019-06-14 05:33

    The first twenty pages lay out the history of booze from prehistoric cultures to the Ancient Egyptians, and, then, the Greeks. It's mostly about wine so far, though there was a little beer in there. They still haven't discovered Wild Turkey yet. While highly readable, I'm not sure this book could hold my interest all the way to the Yager years.

  • Mandy
    2019-06-21 01:50

    this book is full of TONS of strange information... which I LOVE. :) Still reading...Okay I finished it and it was amazing to the end. I loved all of the tidbits of information and stories, backgrounds, and connections to literature and film... beautiful, really.

  • Chelsea Olson
    2019-06-13 06:35

    Gately veers off topic frequently and is a fairly inefficient writer. The subject material is fascinating and despite my perceived shortcomings of his work, I am reading his follow up, Drink: A Social History of America.

  • MT
    2019-05-26 22:29

    Top notch, reading about booze in the times when I can't drink booze. The best part about it is I can now half-remember all sorts of fun facts about alcohol, which will make me the delight and wit at any number of fancy soirees.

  • Benjamin
    2019-05-30 22:51

    An interesting look into the history of alcohol and its affects on the development of civilization. Some of the information is inaccurate, to wit the conflicting information on the origin of the term "The Real McCoy".