The World in a Glass: Six Drinks That Changed History

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
October 3, 2005

Tom Standage urges drinkers to savor the history of their favorite beverages along with the taste.

The author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses (Walker & Company, June 2005), Standage lauds the libations that have helped shape our world from the Stone Age to the present day.

"The important drinks are still drinks that we enjoy today," said Standage, a technology editor at the London-based magazine the Economist. "They are relics of different historical periods still found in our kitchens."

Take the six-pack, whose contents first fizzed at the dawn of civilization.


The ancient Sumerians, who built advanced city-states in the area of present-day Iraq, began fermenting beer from barley at least 6,000 years ago.

"When people started agriculture the first crops they produced were barley or wheat. You consume those crops as bread and as beer," Standage noted. "It's the drink associated with the dawn of civilization. It's as simple as that."

Beer was popular with the masses from the beginning.

"Beer would have been something that a common person could have had in the house and made whenever they wanted," said Linda Bisson, a microbiologist at the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis.

"The guys who built the pyramids were paid in beer and bread," Standage added. "It was the defining drink of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Everybody drank it. Today it's the drink of the working man, and it was then as well."


Wine may be as old or older than beer—though no one can be certain.

Continued on Next Page >>




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