This was a really great idea that fumbled on the execution. Don’t get me wrong it was well written and clearly well researched but I felt short changed by the length- but I usually feel short changed by the length of books I like. Tom Standage discusses six drinks, three alcoholic and three caffeinated, which span from beer in Mesopotamia to Coca-Cola in the 19th Century. He explains how each manmade drink helped shape the world and was its own version of technology.
The most interesting chapter was spirits and how they, namely rum and brandy, spurned on the Age of Discovery since early cocktails would include lemon or lime juice which staved off scurvy for the British seamen unlike the wine that the French were drinking on long voyages. Next time I get an Armadillo Punch at Texas Roadhouse I will think of colonization!
“The inclusion of lemon or lime juice in grog, made compulsory in 1795, therefore reduced the incidence of scurvy dramatically. And since beer contains no vitamin C, switching from beer to grog made British crews far healthier overall. The opposite was true of their French counterparts, for whom the standard drink ration was not beer but three-quarters of a liter of wine.”
I also didn’t realize that coffee predated tea; it seems so much more modern than tea! But there were coffee houses in the 18th century that helped push along the Age of Reason. Each coffee house had their own vibe like politics or sciences and sounded infinitely more interesting than modern Starbuckses.
“Like modern Web sites, they were vibrant and often unreliable sources of information, typically specializing in a particular topic or political viewpoint. They became the natural outlets for a stream of newsletters, pamphlet, advertising free-sheets, and broadsides.”
I learned about Coca-Cola on Drunk History, like most scholars, so I knew it started as a crackpot potion to “cure” a variety of illnesses. What Drunk History didn’t expand on was that the unbreakable connection classic Americana and Coca-Cola have was cemented by WW2 when soldiers would bring the carbonated beverage with them overseas for a piece of home. It was easier to bottle the drink on base which helped Coca-Cola expand its reach.
“But [Coca-Cola] was also genuinely welcomed by the servicemen in far-flung military bases: Coca-Cola reminded them of home and helped to maintain morale.”