A History of the World in 6 Glasses Summary By Tom Standage

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage is an insightful and entertaining look at the history of humankind through our favorite drinks.

In this ambitious work, Standage explores beer, wine, alcoholic spirits, tea, coffee and soda - outlining how each one played a major role in world events as it slowly made its way across many nations and cultures.

He then offers a unique perspective on how improvements in these beverages have impacted the global market, science and technology, health care, politics and more.

By connecting ancient drinking practices with modern day trends, A History of the World in 6 Glasses serves as a comprehensive look at the beverage industry throughout human history.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

Book Name: A History of the World in 6 Glasses (How your favorite drinks changed the world)

Author(s): Tom Standage

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 18 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Tom Standage is an English journalist and author whose work has been featured in some of the most prominent publications around.

He's a man with a passion for writing and communicating stories and he's had many articles published in The Economist.

He is also the author of six books, including "The Victorian Internet".

With such success, one can only imagine what else Standage could accomplish.

He certainly has a talent for researching and storytelling and his book, "A History of the World in 6 Glasses" proves just that.

Discover the Fascinating Histories and Impact of Everyday Drinks: From Rum to Coca-Cola

Fascinating Histories

Have you ever wondered how your favorite beverage has shaped human history? Whether it’s a beer after work, a glass of wine with dinner, or even a cup of tea or coffee, each of these drinks have played an important role throughout history.

In the book “A History of the World in 6 Glasses”, you can learn how popular drinks like rum and Coca-Cola have been developed and drunk over time – as well as their influence on major historical events.

For example, it was rum taxes that eventually helped force the British out of America; who knew coffee had something to do with sparking the French Revolution? And did you know there was once a Soviet general who tried to pass off Coca-Cola as vodka?

These sections offer an interesting insight into how our favorite beverages have truly changed the course of human history.

So why not pick up this book and get ready to find out for yourself!

The Need for Beer Led to the Invention of Agriculture and the Rise of Civilization

It’s no secret that beer has been around for a long time – in fact, the origins of beer date back to the end of the Ice Age, around 10,000 BC.

It was discovered when people in the Fertile Crescent area started to soak wild cereal grains in water, creating malt.

When mixed with water and left to ferment, it turned into a tasty and intoxicating drink – and people quickly fell in love with it.

So much so that the desire to produce more beer ended up playing an important role in human history: it was one of the reasons why humans began to settle and cultivate their own land.

In order to produce enough grain-based products like bread and beer, they needed access to a constant supply of grain – something only possible if they were able to store it effectively.

The discovery of how to effectively store grains led them to plan for long-term settlements instead of hunting and gathering only certain areas’ food resources before moving on.

As their settlements grew over time into larger civilizations, beer assumed an even bigger place in daily life and cemented itself as a symbol of civilized society.

Sharing beer became a sign hospitality and even included in some religious or state ceremonies such as funerals or festivals.

The Elite Status of Wine in Ancient Societies: A Commodity of Power for the Upper Classes

Elite Status of Wine in Ancient Societies

Wine has been a status symbol since ancient times, and this is clearly evident in the history of the world.

In 870 BC, wine was so scarce and expensive that Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal used it as a way to flaunt his wealth by serving it at a lavish feast for his Empire’s elites.

The Ancient Greeks are also known for their opulent use of wine to delineate social classes; only the intellectual elite had access to it, so it was consumed freely at symposiums and poetry readings.

When Rome became the dominant superpower in the region, they embraced Greek wine culture too, following suit by making wine a status symbol.

Wealthy elites drank the best wines while slaves were left with lesser quality drinks.

Even today, talian-produced Falernian is still considered one of the finest wines on Earth due to its prestige in ancient Rome.

How Rum Played a Key Role in the American Revolution and Expansion of European Empires

It’s fascinating to look back and see how alcohol has impacted the world.

Alcoholic spirits began spreading from the Middle East and Europe when people there developed a process for distilling wine.

This process was described as early as the twelfth century in Arab texts, and was then further developed by European alchemists, who experimented with it.

Distilled spirits gained popularity due to Europeans believing they had healing powers, which made them very sought after.

This became so widespread that Europeans set out to expand their influence across the globe, hoping to obtain more sugar in order to produce rum – and they did just that.

Plantations were founded on Caribbean islands after being colonized by European nations, such as Barbados with its focus on sugarcane in the 1600s.

Rum even went on to become a form of currency in some cases – including for buying slaves.

And its importance during this era is evident with the Molasses Act passed in 1733, taxing molasses (which was used for making rum) imported from non-British colonies: American colonists’ open defiance of this law symbolized their animosity towards Britain, eventually leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Coffee: The Revolutionary Drink That Sparked Political Debate and Social Change


When it comes to beverages, coffee changed the game in the Middle Ages.

Initially popular in the Arab world, demand for coffee was growing quickly across Europe by the seventeenth century.

Even before it became widespread, people used to drink beer or wine throughout the day because drinking water was often contaminated.

But coffee was a different story: made with boiling water as safe as alcohol, it soon became a favorite among those who didn’t want to be intoxicated all day, such as scientists, merchants and clerks.

Coffee also gave these intellectuals an extra energy boost to get them through the day and help wake them up in the morning.

Coffeehouses were established to replace taverns – offering well-lit areas filled with furniture so that customers like academics and political thinkers could meet for intellectual discussion without having to deal with an atmosphere of gloominess usually associated with taverns.

As such, they soon became hotspots for political debate – most notably leading to much heated discussions during the restoration of Charles II before being shut down by him due to concerns over free speech.

The British Love for Tea: The Origins of an Empire-Building Beverage

The introduction of tea to Europe was a game-changer.

While it had long been a staple in Chinese culture, it wasn’t until the mid-16th century that Chinese merchants began trading with European nations and exporting tea to them.

And who better to embrace this new beverage than the British?

Though initially considered something of a novelty during its introduction to Europeans, tea soon became wildly popular in Britain with 11,000 tons imported each year by the late 17th century (not including smuggled shipments!).

Its popularity was partly due to its association with high society and wealth – those who could afford quality imports were deemed fashionable – but also due to its affordability; once accessible to all classes, tea quickly developed a following and became ingrained in British cultural practices.

Tea houses and gardens quickly opened throughout Britain and were especially favored by women who weren’t allowed inside coffeehouses.

Eventually, the widespread adoption of tea by the British would drive the global industry forward, giving rise to companies like Lipton and Typhoo that extended British influence far beyond England’s borders.

How Tea Helped Drive the Industrial Revolution and Change World History

Industrial Revolution

The British people’s love of tea had a profound impact on the Industrial Revolution and the global balance of power.

Tea became a status symbol in Britain, and its antibacterial properties helped reduce waterborne diseases – including infant mortality rates.

This allowed for greater population growth among the working class who could now sleep safely in crowded living areas.

Increased tea consumption also spurred industrial growth in Britain as manufacturers found inventive ways to meet the growing demand.

At the same time, tea was also making the East India Company one of the most powerful companies in the world due to their monopoly on supplying tea to Britain.

They had vast revenues which even exceeded those of the British government!

This gave them incredible political influence, such as instating the Tea Act of 1773 – taxing American merchants while giving them a tax-free way to export goods – that eventually led to mass protests like The Boston Tea Party and ultimately contributed to America’s struggle for independence.

How Coca-Cola Rose to Become a World-Renowned Refreshment

Soda was embraced for both its medicinal properties and its taste in the United States, and soon it took off.

Carbonated soda water was invented by Joseph Priestley, a British scientist and clergyman, while Benjamin Silliman developed the bottling process, which further popularized soda.

Then came Joseph Hawkins with his idea of using fountains to dispense soda and Americans began to sweeten the drink with syrups made from fruits.

John Pemberton then stepped into the picture with his invention of Coca-Cola.

He had read about coca in medical journals and created French Wine Coca by infusing the mixture with wine but eventually developed the non-alcoholic version that is now renowned around the world.

Pemberton advertised Coca-Cola as a tonic but as Prohibition gathered momentum, it saw an even more grand popularity as a refreshment due to Pemberton’s shrewd marketing skills.

Thanks to free samples, posters and banners on soda fountains, public awareness increased drastically across Atlanta and beyond – in 1887 alone sales of Coca-Cola syrup jumped to 200 gallons a month – until sales exceeded 76,000 gallons annually just 8 years later!

How Coca-Cola Brought American Identity Around the World


When the United States decided to abandon its isolationist policy and began sending troops to far-flung regions around the world, it inadvertently set in motion a series of events that would lead to Coca-Cola becoming a global phenomenon.

American servicemen came to associate this drink with patriotism and American identity, prompting the company’s decision to offer every man in uniform five cent bottles of Coca-Cola wherever he was.

This caused demand for the drink to skyrocket, and so Coca-Cola had no choice but to build bottling plants all over the globe.

After the war ended, these operations were turned over to locals and suddenly Coca-Cola could be found everywhere – no matter what country or political ideology you were from!

Even Communists came to distrust it as a symbol of American capitalism and imperialism.

But ironically, some like Soviet General Georgy Zhukov even wanted his name linked with this distinctly American beverage!

In Middle Eastern politics too, Coca-Cola was seen as an important symbolic force; concerned by an Arab boycott potential boycott of their product by pro-Israeli groups, Coca-Cola agreed to license a bottling franchise in Tel Aviv thus ending decades of boycotting.

It is safe to say that America’s decision to abandon its isolationist policy played a huge role in propelling Coca Cola into international fame!

Wrap Up

The “History of the World in 6 Glasses” book by Tom Standage offers a unique and insightful look at how our drinks of choice have shaped global history.

Through discussing beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola, Standage emphasizes how these seemingly innocuous drinks have had a profound impact on society over the last 10,000 years.

Each beverage has developed alongside pivotal moments in human progress and served as evidence of advancements in both technology and industry.

In this way, beverages have become agents of change that have led to global cultures being connected in ways they never could have been imagined before.

It’s an essential read for anyone interested in learning about the role drinks play in shaping global history.

This book provides an intriguing look into the rich history each beverage has had since its inception, which is sure to open readers’ eyes to the importance these drinks still hold all across the world today.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.