Good Spirits

If a long weekend puts you in good spirits (sorry), or if you've found some other reason to raise a glass, you might find it interesting to discover how champagne gets its bubbles. Or why coffee was seen as a revolutionary drink in its early history. Or when the first real marketing of liquor began. These books serve up a helping of history with an entertaining look at the drinks that are beloved around the world.

The King of Vodka
by Linda Himelstein
In the early 1800s, it was almost unheard of that a Russian peasant would be able to leave his indentured life in the countryside, let alone to build a business empire. But Pyotr Smirnov was one of the lucky ones  and one of the smart ones. Never shy of hard work, Smirnov labored at multiple side jobs to enable him to purchase his freedom, and then found work in Moscow pubs where he learned all he could about the production and sale of the king of Russian drinks  vodka. After earning enough to open his own distillery, Smirnov spearheaded the movement to bottle the liquor (previously sold only in casks), and then showed his true genius in marketing. He was the first to recognize that word-of-mouth advertising was the cheapest, and quickest, way to successfully sell a product. (2010 - Harper Collins)

The Widow Clicquot
by Tilar Mazzeo
Just as the business of vodka was refined during the early 1800s in Russia, the commerce and industry involved in creating champagne was developing at the same time in France.
Champagne itself had been in existence since the 1600s, but the creation of the bubbly wine was haphazard and the vintners never knew what they would get when they opened the bottles. Enter a complex woman for the complex task  Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, an unlikely entrepreneur for her time.
After her husband's death, Barbe-Nicole took his small winery and transformed it into an unbelievably successful enterprise, spearheading many changes that we take for granted today  the shape of the bottle, trademarks, cork shapes, how the bottles are stored, and more. In doing so, she also paved the way for other women in the wine business (Pommery, Bollinger, Perrier), while transforming champagne into a symbol of celebration and luxury. (2009 - Harper Collins)

A History of the World in 6 Glasses
by Tom Standage
Six drinks have literally changed the course of history  beer, wine, tea, coffee, spirits, and soda. From the Stone Age to the modern age, these drinks have nourished workers, started revolutions, pushed exploration, and raised empires. 
Standage examines each of the drinks individually, offering a unique and engrossing history lesson in each chapter.
Some of the fun facts: The earliest imbibers of beer had to use long straws to avoid choking on all of the chaff floating around in the drink. Wine has probably been in existence as long as beer, but has suffered from an elitist reputation all the way back to its earliest recordings in history.
Coffee fueled subversive meetings and revolutionary talk across Europe in the 1600s, while tea was seen as a civilized drink...if you forget about all the aggressive actions taken to ensure England cornered the market. Meanwhile, grog (made with rum) stopped scurvy in its tracks. And Coca-Cola started out as a coca-infused wine. (2006 - Walker & Company)

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