'Drink' follows the model established by its predecessor, 'Wine Snobbery', which was described by one reviewer as "a book to hurl against the floor but which bounces back, demanding your attention". (Preface)

Note: I recommend reading the page for the original British edition of the book before this one.


Introduction - Drink and Drugs
Chapter 1 - The Americanization of European Taste
Chapter 2 - "Stranger, You'll Take Hash"
Chapter 3 - Drink and Sex
Chapter 4 - "No Nation is Drunken where Wine is Cheap"
Chapter 5 - The Failure of Controls
Chapter 6 - 'The True Friends of Liberty'
Conclusion - Social Drinking


The contrasting purposes for which Europeans and Amerindians used tobacco were exemplified by the different strains of the plant they developed. Europeans did not like Indian tobacco, nor Indians Virginia tobacco, because they were different. Whereas the Indians had deliberately, over successive generations, developed strains of tobacco with the highest nicotine content and the greatest hallucinatory powers, European planters took care to produce tobacco with a lower nicotine content. They had no interest in using tobacco to enter a trance, but as a means of obtaining stimulating and tranquilizing effects.
Nicotine, the principal drug in tobacoo, exerts a biphasic effect. Different doses act differerntly. A small dose (a short puff) excites the smoker, while a large one (a long drag) calms him down. Both of these effects - stimulation and sedation - were ones that Europeans found helpful in coping with the outside world.

Approximately one third of Americans (according to opinion polls) abstain from alcohol, fearing that this will cause then to lose control. They believe that alcohol is an addictive drug, just like heroin and cocaine. It cannot be consumed in moderation. Only if you do not drink can you be sure of being safe. One drink, and you risk becoming an alcoholic. This notion has been encouraged by health campaigners.
An additive drug is one that creates dependency in the user, who comes to rely on the drug to improve or maintain his sense of mental or physical well-being. This reliance amounts to a compulsion.
It is hard to see how alcohol can be described as an addictive drug when the vast majority of people who use it suffer neither from feelings of compulsion nor from symptoms of withdrawal.
Alcohol is certainly a drug, which is substance that affects the body in some, but it is a less addictive one than caffeine.

There is no doubt that spousal abuse is linked with abuse of alcohol. But this does not mean that husbands are induced by the consumption of alcohol to beat their wives, nor that they would necessarily refrain if they remained sober. The statistical connection between drunkenness and wife beating exists principally because households predisposed to violence are also predisposed to abuse of alcohol, as well as the abuse of drugs and many other social problems. In one test, blood samples were taken from a group of men who had been arrested for assaulting their wives. According to verbal reports, half of them had been drinking excessively at the time. Yet the results showed that fewer than one in five had sufficient alcohol in their bloodstream to be regarded as unfit to drive.

Today we blame our own failings on an external compulsion, which we call a 'disease'... the modern habit of blaming our wrongdoings on some power beyond our control is no different from the pre-modern habit of blaming it on witches.


At the time the first English immigrants arrived on the eastern seaboard of North America, the Indians who then occupied the country drank very little alcohol. It is not true (as is often supposed) that they had no alcoholic drinks, but not all tribes made them, and the ones they did produce were low in alcohol. They preferred in the winter to brew tea from sassafras and wild mint, and in the summer to make a refreshing drink from sumac berries called sumacade. The lack of fermented drinks on the eastern seaboard of America posed a major problem for those arriving from Europe, who were not accustomed to drinking water, which they considered unsafe. Even when water was not contaminated, it was scorned by the English because it was free. People drank water only if they could not afford to buy ale.

Ordinary Americans of the colonial period did not, however, become beer drinkers, as they might have have they remained in England. Instead they became great guzzlers of rum, which had originated as a by-product of sugar plantations on the island of Barbados, an uninhabited island in the West Indies that had been claimed by the English in 1625. The British in Barbados discovered how to produce rum from molasses, the sludge left over from the process of refining the sugar.
Much of the molasses was not distilled in Barbados itself but exported to New England for distillation there. The first commercial distillery was opened in Boston in 1700.

Rum is an abbrevation of 'rumbullion', itself a term of unknown origin, perhaps an old English country slang word that attempted to produce an onomatopoeic imitation of the noise that the drink seemed to set off in the head of the drinker.

It has since become a popular notion that rum played a role in a "triangular trade," in which molasses was exported from the Caribbean to New England, rum from there to Africa, and then slaves back to the West Indies, all in the same boat. In fact, the existence of such a trade should largely be regarded as mythical: New England merchants played only a minor role in the slave trade. The idea of a triangular trade has taken hold because it panders to the popular concept of hypocritical, self-righteous Puritans who prayed for their own souls while trafficking in the bodies of others. The popularity of rum in colonial America in fact owed much less to economic motives—the so-called "triangular trade"—than to climate and convenience.

Rum was a versatile spirit, being equally well suited to mixing with water and fruit juice, to make a refreshing long summer drink, and to warming with sugar and spices, to make a fortifying winter one. This versatility helps explain why it was so much more popular than beer in the changeable American climate. It also kept well, whereas, especially in warm weather, beer turned sour quite rapidly.

In the colonial period, the same kind of beer was drunk in America as in Britain. Some of it was imported from Britain, some of it was brewed in America. But wherever it was produced, it was the same dark, nutritious beer that ideally suited the damp climate of England. It was less well suited to the much drier climate of New England, wholly inappropriate for drinking in the summer, or at almost any time of year in the much warmer climate of the southern colonies.

The distinction between the drinking habits of English workers, who consumed beer, and American laborers, who preferred spirits, reflected the relative sizes and population of the two countries. In England, a lot of people lived close together, so it made economic sense to brew beer, which had to be served directly from cask in a pub and did not keep well. In America, which was much larger and more sparsely populated, beer could be provided only in a few large towns.

In today's air-conditioned world, there is no need any longer to serve beer at the freezing point of water. Unfortunately, after more than a century producing beer in a style that enables it to be served as cold as possible, it is too late. By focusing exclusively on its refreshing qualities, American brewers have ended up by making a beer - by European standards - tastes of nothing at all. If it were served any warmer, its absence of flavour would be evident. Beer drinkers who lament the blandness of most American beer have only themselves (and their predecessors) to blame. They asked for a beer that was light and refreshing and that is what the brewers gave them.

>> Read Chapter One online at the "New York Times"


Before the Revolutionary War, most Americans accepted the indoctrination of their English masters and regarded the French with hostility and their cookery with contempt. After they had won their freedom, those who visited France found that they had been misinformed.

Restaurants in the booming cow towns and mining camps of the West used menu cards copied directly from those of Delmonico's. Any corresponence in the food they served was, however, accidental. In his novel, 'The Virginian', Owen Wister related the story of a traveler who saw vol-au-vent on a bill of fare in Texas and ordered some. The proprietor pulled out his six-shooter and told him, "Stranger, you'll take hash".

American usage, which distinguishes alcoholic 'hard cider' from nonalcoholic 'cider', is at odds with the rest of the world here. If unfermented apple juice is intended, then the proper term is not 'cider' but 'apple juice'.

An aspect of French dining habits that many people considered undemocratic was the introduction of the a la carte service of meals in hotel restaurants. In colonial times it had been the practice for inns to serve meals to all their guests together at long tables at fixed hours and to charge them an all-inclusive daily price. The first hotels in the early 19th century had simply continued this custom. The entire meal was placed on the tables at once, and the guests helped themselves.
In the 1830s, however, the larger eastern hotels brought some degree of order by dividing their meals into courses. Next, some of the larger hotels discarded the fixed courses in favor of menus from which each guest ordered separately. Still, however, guests paid a fixed price for bed and board, regardless of the amount of food they ordered, or indeed whether they ate their meals or not. This system, known as the American plan, was challenged by the importation from France of the European plan, according to which the guests ate the food they wanted when they wanted and paid for that. The poet and journalist Nat P. Willis, writing in the New York 'Weekly Mirror', argued that this proposal directly contradicted American ideals of democracy, and engendered the spread of dangerously aristocratic habits.
Outside the large eastern cities, the European plan spread only gradually. After the 1870s it became more common for hotels to offer their guests a choice of either plan, although the fixed-price American plan remained standard outside the cities. And it survives todat in the form of fixed-price, all-you-can-eat meals in mass market chain restaurants such as Denny's and Shoney's.

It would be more reasonable to attribute the poverty of American cooking in the 19th century to an excess of supplies than to a shortage of them. There was so much good food available that they was very little incentive to make the best of it.

The food that the majority of the people ate, and the manner in which they ate it, hardly encouraged the consumption of wine of any kind. The monotony of a diet based on salt meat and corn bread and the national preference for fried and oily foods found their liquid complement, not in wine, but in whiskey. Fried corn cakes, salt pork and whiskey were all made from the same raw material, since the pigs had been fed on corn and the whiskey distilled from it. And only whiskey was strong enough to cut through all that grease, and sweet enough to neutralize the excessive saltiness of the  pork.

Champagne was the perfect instrument of the conspicuous consumption in which the moneyed class indulged at this period. This new class had emerged as a result of the great growth in wealth in America after the Civil War. This prosperity was divided so inequitably that by 1890 1% of the population possessed half the nation's wealth. The  new rich sought to distinguish themselves from those above whom they had risen in the social order by acquiring as many goods as possible, and by demonstrating their ownership and consumption of these goods in the most public manner.
One means by which the members of the new moneyed class sought to demonstrate their assumed superiority was by eating as much as they could, and by putting on weight to show that they had done so. Fat was sexy in the late 19th century; indeed, fashionable clothing emphasized the size of busts and bottoms rather that the reverse, as it does today.
But in a country where food was abundant, it was not enought to eat a lot in order to consume conspicuously; it was necessary to favor a different kind of food from ordinary people. The moneyed class therefore took with great enthusiasm to French haute cuisine.

Prohibition did not, however, give nearly as much encouragement to dinner parties as it did to cocktail parties. People could also drink cocktails in speakeasies, but these charged a lot for drinks, and were often raided by the police. It was cheaper and easier to attend a cocktail party in someone's house.
Impetus was given by Prohibition to the development of cocktails, largely because of the necessity of devising mixtures in which the bad taste of bootleg spirits would be obscured.
People who had previously drunk in restaurants but were now compelled, if they wanted to drink anything at all, to choose spirits instead took their new habits home with them.

Bootleggers focused their efforts, quite naturally, on trading in alcoholic drinks in the form in which they were most concentrated and most profitable, as spirits rather than in the relatively dilute form of wine or beer. This can be compared to drug dealers today who prefer to sell their clients more concentrated heroin rather than more bulky marijuana. People who go to dealers in search of marijuana often find themselves cajoled into trying heroin instead. Thus, by making marijuana illegal, the government has encouraged the trade in heroin.

It has been suggested that American troops fighting in Italy brought home with them a taste for pizza. But pizza was not yet generally available in Italy. It was a Neapolitan speciality that was popularized by Italian immigrants in America in the 1950s.

Diners simply do not know which wines to drink with fusion food; they cannot follow rules that they have learned so carefully, such as that white wine goes best with fish or that Bordeaux or cabernet sauvignon combines well with lamb. No wonder many of them give up and make do with what water instead. Others ignore any attempt to match what they are drinking with what they are eating and stick with what they know they like.
On the whole, it would seem that most people order whatever they want to drink when they dine out in restaurants, regardless of whether it complements the food or of any recommendation they might have been given.

Since consumers appear to judge wines on price, it may seem a little harsh to blame restauranteurs for charging as much for their wines as they can get. They take advantage of their customers' ignorance about wine in order to offload their food costs onto their wines. As a result, people who drink wines in restaurants, and especially people who drink expensive wines, end up subsidizing those of their fellow diners who simply drink water with their meal. Restaurants in fact make little money on food. The standard markup on wine is much the same as that on food. But the service of wine involves restaurants in little expense beyond a few breakages, so they make a huge profit.

Drinking habits in restaurants today do not differ significantly from those of the 19th century, when most people drank iced water with their meals, and only a few people were so bold and so extravagant as to order a bottle of wine. Just as they chose to do a hundred years ago, and were forced to do during Prohibition, most people would apparently prefer to drink cocktails before a meal than wine with them. For this reason, much of the wine boom of the last generation should be regarded as illusory.

On the whole, restaurants are the only places where people spend time over their meals and thus have a proper chance to drink wine. In their own homes, people are increasingly turning to rapidly cooked 'convenience' foods, and appear largely to have abandoned the habit of communal family dining in favor of individual 'refuelling' whenever the tank appears to be running low. This has been made possible principally by the introduction of the microwave oven, which has turned each member of the family into his own personal chef.

People eat just as rapidly in the fast food restaurants of the late 20th century as they did in the inns and taverns and ordinaries of the 19th. It remains an American characteristic to bolt one's food... by eliminating the social conventions of more formal restaurants, fast food establishments satisfy not only the popular desire for convenience but also the popular obsession with democracy. It is a fundamental part of national mythology to imagine that the United States is a claseless society, whever everyone indulged in the same food or drink or at least the same food and drink are available to all. Fast food is considered to be democratic in nature. It can be ordered without a knowledge of arcane restaurant ritual or obscure foreign food terms.
The enjoyment of elaborate meals accompanied by fine wines, on the other hand, is regarded by many people as elitist and therefore un-American.
Popular attitudes to the enjoyment of food and drink thus hark back to the first Puritan immigrants from England. The Puritans were not 'puritan' in the sense in which that word is now used. They did not object to pleasure per se - merely to those activities that interfered with their effort to fashion their own version of civilization. If they objected to overindulgence in food and drink, it was because this wasted time that could have been devoted to helping to conquer the wilderness. Even today many people avoid lingering over their meals because they prefer it to be thought that they are spending their time working to create a better country.


The restaurant had developed in late 18th century Paris as an institution specifically designed to cater to men away from home. Although it had originated just before the French Revolution, it received its main impetus from the revolution itself, which led to the arrival in Paris of large numbers of deputies from the provinces, who lodged in borderinghouses and needed somewhere to go out to eat.

For the first half century or so of their existence in America, restaurants catered exclusively to a male clientele.

While (in the late 19th century) a number of middle-class women preferred to take drugs rather than alcohol, many respectable working-class women were perfectly happy to consume alcoholic drinks as long as they were able to do so in the privacy of their own (or other people's) homes. In the Irish immigrant community, women operated as the providers as well as the consumers of alcoholic drinks in kitchen grog shops, unlicensed drinking places that were known in Ireland as 'shebeens'. Back in the old country, the keeping of a shebeen had been a 'recognized resource of widows'; in America, irish immigrant women continued to insist on their right to make a living from selling liquor, despite the failure of the local laws to recognize it. They sold alcoholic drinks at all hours to friends and neighbors of both sexes.

Prostitutes had always touted for business in places where people congregated to drink and socialize, but by the end of the 19th century the connection between prostitution and the saloons had been formalized in many of the big cities into a symbiotic relationship in which prostitutes made a good living from commissions on the sale of drinks (quite apart from the money they charged their clients afterward).
No wonder, in this period, respectable young women crossed streets or even took detours of several blocks in order to avoid walking past the entrances to saloons.

The English had found that the presence of women in bars, serving drinks to customers, in fact made the customers behave in a more civilized manner than they otherwise would.

The Puritans were not puritannical about sex. Far from being a taboo subject in 17th century Massachusetts, copulation was discussed so openly that Puritan writings required heavy editing before they were thought fit to print even in the mid-20th century.
It was assumed that if healthy adult men and women met alone together, they would probably engage in sexual relations. Therefore, married men and women were generally forbidden to meet privately with others of the opposite sex, unless they were related. Unmarried people were carefully watched by the community, and offenders were publicly denounced.

The principal influence in changing attitudes toward female sexuality had been evengelical Protestant reformers, who believed that the best means of achieving a religious regeneration lay in appealing to women, who were generally more pious than men, and who were in a position to inspire not only their husbands, but also the next generation. In the early 19th century, evengelical reformers successfully transformed the popular view of women from sexual beings into moral ones, who elevated 'passionless' into a virtue and who provided the source of spiritual reward. It was now considered that respectable women should engaged in sexual relations only for the purpose of procreation within marriage.

It is not possible to substantiate an assertion that moderate drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects... it would be surprising if moderate drinking did produce fetal damage, given that in many European countries women continue to drink when pregnant without producing increased numbers of affected children.
Yet American doctors still tell pregnant women that they should not drink alcohol at all. They justify persisting in this advice on the grounds that there is no proof that light drinking is not dangerous... then logically they should also be prevented from taking part in other human activities for which no safe level has been established.


"It is an error to view a tax on [wine] as merely a tax on the rich. It is a prohibition of its use to the middling class of our citizens, and a condemnation of them to the poison of whisky, which is desolating their houses. No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitues ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey."
        - Thomas Jefferson (1818)

Even when purchased from a merchant for drinking at home, imported wine cost $1 per gallon, between three and four times as much as domestically produced whiskey or rum (although only between one third and one quarter as strong). Under the circumstances, it is hardly surpising that per capita consumption of spirits in the early 19th century ranged between four and five gallons per person, compared with an average consumption of only one fifth of a gallon of wine.

Once the Volstead Act had been passed, prohibitionists tried to argue that Section 29 did not permit the manufacture of homemade wine, but the Supreme Court held that it did. After much deliberation, it concluded that no human law could prevent fruit juices from fermenting spontaneously, as it was their natural inclination to do so. Whether or not this loophole had been intended, it was much exploited during Prohibition, when the consumption of wine in America probably rose by two thirds. Not only was it legal to make wine and cider at home, it was legal to serve them to one's guests.

As well as fresh grape, grape juice in kegs and packages of pressed grapes called 'wine bricks' were sold to home winemakers, along with a yeast pill and a printed warming not to use it, "because if you fo, this will turn into wine, which would be illegal".

Although many campaigners may have wanted to prevent other people from drinking altogether, this was never the main purpose of Prohibition, which was directed at the trade in alcoholic drinks, at the abuse associated with saloons, and at distilled spirits, and only peripherally, if at all, at the consumption of fermented beverages in the privacy of one's own home.

Not until the end of the 19th century did attitudes begin to change, as beliefs about the benefits of alcohol were debunked by scientific research... researchers found that alcohol depressed muscular activity. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol did not enable a person to do more work, nor did it stimulate a tired person to new exertions.
Physicians now began to abandon the presciption of alcohol as a stimulant and as a therapeutic in the treatment of disease. The amount used in hospitals steadily declined.

In fact, drinking spirits when exposed to cold is dangerous, as it adds to the risk of hypothermia by increasing the flow of blood through the skin and thus lowering the temperature of a greater volume of blood.

The Volstead Act by which Prohibition was administered did not prohibit the prescription of liquor as medicine, but it did place tight restrictions on it. No more than one pint of spirits might be prescribed for a patient within a ten-day period.
This restriction failed to prevent bootleggers from exploiting the exemption for medicinal alcohol from the prohibitory laws. The celebrated bootlegger George Remus bought chains of drugstores so that he might legitimately order truckloads of liquor, which he would then hijack during transit.

"If there is the slightest hint that something pleasurable may do harm, such evidence is immediately accepted, inflated and disseminated. If, however, the same pleasurable activity is shown to be beneficial in any respect, such evidence must be suppressed, ridiculed or dismissed."
        - Dr Peter Skrabanek, "The Rise of Coercive Healthism" (1994)

The harm caused by alcohol depends more on the context in which it is drunk than on the bare quantities consumed. Someone who drinks half a bottle of spirits on a Saturday night but nothing during the week is likely to cause more harm to himself and others than another person who consumes the equivalent quantity of alcohol over the course of a week, spread out in the form of a quarter-bottle of wine each day with meals.


The one thing everybody knows about Prohibition is that it did not work... by making it necessary to obtaib liquor illegally, at a price that had been vastly inflated by the expenses involved in smuggling and paying kickbacks to law enforcement officers, Prohibition  made drinking fashionable - not merely a mark of rebellion against the law but a sign of conspicuous consumption as well.

During Prohibition the consumption of beer declined by roughly 90%, while that of spirits - despite the dramatic rise in price - slightly increased. No wonder Heywood Broun described the Volstead Act as a bill to discourage the drinking of good beer in favor of indifferent gin.
When William Randolph Hearst, initially a supporter of Prohibition, changed his mind and came out for repeal in 1929, he explained that 'I am against Prohbition because it has set the cause of temperance back 20 years; because it had substituted an ineffective campaign of force for an effective campaign of education; because it has replaced comparitively uninjurious light wines and beers with the worst kind of hard liquor and bad liquor; because it has increased drinking not only among men but has extended to women and even children'.

The worst of the drinks to appear during Prohibition may well have been 'jake', a highly alcoholic extract of Jamaica ginger with methanol, which paralysed drinkers in the arms and legs. In 1930 the Prohibition Bureau estimated that jake had paralysed more thab 15,000 people. Not that moonshine was much better. Distillers accelerated production by dumping chunks of carbide into their fermenters, which heated the mash but left a toxic residue. Other adulterants included sulphuric acid.

The hypocrisy that was encouraged by national Prohibition, and which continues in the South, survives today in the rest of the country in the form of partial prohibition of people under the age of 21. In colonial and republican America, the consumption of alcohol by children had not been regarded as problematic. Many parents taught their children to drink at a very young age... Parents intended this early exposure to alcohol to accustom their offspring to the taste of liquor, to encourage them to accept the idea of drinking small amounts, and thus to protect them from becoming drunkards.

A law intended to prevent teenagers from drinking does not achieve its ends when teenagers not only continue to drink but do so in unsupervised situations. Instead of being allowed to drink at a party in a private home under adult supervision, children who choose to drink have to do so outside the party sitting in automobiles. In the summer in the outer suburbs, many teenagers attend 'field parties' which are held in remote fields and meadows. Might it not be wiser if they were allowed to drink at home under parental control rather than drink in an unsupervised setting and then drive home afterwards.

There is a comparison to be made with the provisional licenses given to young people when they are learning to drive. You don't just let a child drive a car when he has reached 16 - he has to be given instruction and guidance. Drink, like an automobile, can be dangerous when misused. So why are young people not taught how to use it?

Might it be that the people who support the current laws do not really care whether they work or not? Just like the prohibition of alcoholic drink during the 1920s, the laws are intended primarily to be symbolic: to demonstrate to young people how they ought to conduct themselves rather than to actually compel them to behave in that manner.
The problem with imposing symbolic laws that are not really intended to work is that they serve to engender disrespect for law in general. In the present case, lack of respect is propagated in precisely that age group in which developing respect for law is most important. Today's students are not merely told not to drink, but that for them there is no difference between drinking and taking drugs.

"The drinking-age bill is a hoax, a cynical attempt to use young adults as scapegoats for a complex national problem."
        - Ted Galen Carpenter, writing in "The Nation"

Setting the minimum drinking age at 21 amounts to an unfair form of discrimination against young people, who in almost all other respects are regarded as having attained adulthood at the age of 18 - at which poiint they are permitted not only to be drafted into the army and compelled to die for their country, but also to vote, serve on a jury, drive a car, purchase a gun, buy tobacco, gamble, start a family, engage in financial contracts, and be sent to adult prison.
Surely it requires more responsibility to vote, serve on a jury, use a gun, start a family, and engage in financial contracts than it does to take a drink.

The lesson of Princess Diana's death may well be that princesses should beware of consorting with aging playboy sons of paranoid and fantasist fathers who allow them to be driven through the streets of Paris in a defective vehicle at excessive speed by an untrained driver with inadequate security support, or, more simply, that the existing French drink-driving laws should be better enforced, but it is certainly not, whatever campaigners might say, that the permitted maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) should be reduced.


"Every man at nature's table has a right to elbow room."
        - George Harrison, 18th century English commentator

The revolution may not have persuaded Americans to abandon tea for coffee, but it did lead them to give up rum for whiskey. During the Revolutionary War the British blockaded imports of the molasses that American distillers had been accustomed to turn into rum. So the distillers switched to making whiskey.
After the war, rum distilling resumed. But it was longer as easy for the distillers to obtain molasses as it had been before the revolution. The French, like the British, had closed their colonies to American trade. Faced with erratic supplies. the American rum industry fell into decline.

After the failure of the Whiskey rebellion, an increasing number of independent-minded Scotch-Irish moved even farther away from the influence of the federal government, into the newly formed state of Kentucky. Here they developed a new kind of whiskey of superior quality. Back in western Pennsylvania they had distilled their whiskey from rye, which produced a full-flavoured but relatively harsh drink; now in Kentucky they made whiskey from a mixture of rye and corn, the latter contributing sweetness to the blend. To this sweetness was added vanilla and caramel flavours, extracted from the charred interior of the wooden barrels in which the spirit was matured.
By the early 19th century, Kentucky whiskey was beginning to resemble the deep-colored, smooth-tasting bourbon that we know today.

The law requires that any product sold as bourbon must have been matured for at least 2 years in charred new oak casks. The term 'bourbon' became current only in the second half of the 19th century. This referred to the name of a county in which was situated the port of Maysville on the Ohio, then an important entrepot for the whiskey trade. The name of the whiskey this commemorates the place from which it was traded rather than the place in which it was made, in the same way as port (from Oporto). Bourbon is a much smaller county today; it does not reach the Ohio River; it does not produce any bourbon; and it is dry, so no one is allowed to sell any bourbon within it.

The Scotch-Irish, Protestants who had lived in northern ireland, should not be confused with the Catholics from southern ireland who emigrated to the United Staes in large numbers in the 19th century. There was no love lost between the two groups. Confusion between them has largely arisen as a result of the recent tendency of all Americans of Irish origin to associate themselves with the Catholics of southern Ireland, which had led to such absurd historical anomalies as American descendants of  Sotch-Irish immigrants sending back money to fnance Irish Catholic terrorist group the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

By the end of the 19th century, most of the beer drunk in America was lager, and half of all alcoholic drinks consumed in America were beer. Americans converted in large numbers from whiskey to beer not only because the latter had become a more reliable and refreshing beverage but because it was significantly cheaper than its rival. The heyday of cheap, untaxed whiskey had come to an end in 1862, when an excise duty was imposed on domestically produced spirits in order to help pay for the Civil War. A tax was also imposed on beer, but at a much lower level. Just as rum had lost out to whiskey in the early years of the century because import duties made it more expensive, so it now made economic sense for workingmen to stop drinking highly taxed whiskey and start drinking more lightly taxed beer.
The new excise regime not only increased the price of whiskey but caused its quality to improve... whiskey became a middle class drink and was largely supplanted by beer as the beverage of the orindary workingman. By the end of the century, spirits consumption had fallen to half of what it had been during the Civil War, while sales of beer had increased fourfold. This did not mean, however, that beer had replaced whiskey as the American national drink.

In April 1917 America joined the First World War, unleashing a huge wave of popular hostility toward Germans and German culture. German books were removed from public libraries. German music was scorned. Hamburg steak was renamed 'liberty steak', and sauerkraut became 'liberty cabbage'.


Of the one third of Americans who abstain from alcohol, half do so on religious grounds. Many equate it with alcoholism: They have no sense of moderation. Like those who supported Prohibition in the past, and those who attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous today, they have been taught to regard the consumption of one single drink as the first step on a slippery slope to dependency and degradation.

As the United States expanded westward during the course of the 19th century, the old tradition of frequent, sociable, generally moderate drinking, established in the relatively stable communities of colonial America, was for many people replaced by a new pattern of drinking in which periods of abstinence were interspersed with ones of intoxication. This change in behavior helps to explain the origin of the temperance movement in the first galf of the century as an attempt to eliminate solitary bouts of drinking, which campaigners considered to be harmful both to the drinker and to society. Unfortunately, all that they succeeded in doing was to persuade moderate social drinkers to give up. In the face of growing public disapproval, those people who continued to drink now started to hide their actions from their family and colleagues, and thus to become precisely the kind of solitary sporadic drinkers against whom the temperance movement has been directed. At the same time, heavy binge drinkers became increasingly alienated from society and even less receptive to temperance appeals.

The law probititing people under the age of 21 from drinking in public places (or even, in many states, in private homes) encourages the notion that alcohol, in any form, is a harmful influence from which children should be protected. It is true that many young people, when they start drinking, frequently do so in an unhealthy manner, in binges, with unfortunate consequences, but this does not prove that the legislators and their parents were right to have stopped them from drinking and to have kept them away from places where alcohol was served. Rather, it is the prohibition of juvenile drinking that leads young people to drink to excess. If children were taught how to drink responsibly and moderately by their parents, they would not start drinking in secret, and fewer of them would indulge in binges.

It has been an American tendency to regard the consumption of wine, like other alcoholic drinks, as a secretive vice rather than sociable conduct; to see drinking only in terms of the problems that have been associated with it, while ignoring its social values - as a means of sharing, of cementing friendship, of defining status, of establishing loyalty, of entering adulthood, of declaring freedom. Yet alcoholic drink has itself rarely been the cause of the offenses that have been attributed to it... those people who have attacked, and who continue to attack alcoholic drink, have been aiming at a symptom of social provlems, at a means of canalizing and even alleviating them - but not at their cause.

>> Read Quotes from the original British edition of Drink.

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