Couldn't help picking up Adam Rogers' 'Proof: The Science of Booze'. I don't want to keep this book, but it's a good one to pass around to the friends. It's an easy summary and has got quite a witty narrative.
The magic of intoxication is fairly dependent on science after all. For centuries, humans have explored from yeast to hangover. Probably this is termed as abusing ethanol legally in order to have the quickest way to a hangover. Oof. Dunno why so many people think that drinking is to get completely plastered. Getting drunk is such a spoilsport move. Nowadays, we know it's all about controlling how much you want to drink in order to minimize that hangover. (Reviews here, here and here.)
The book is organized neatly into eight chapters- Yeast, Sugar, Fermentation, Distillation, Aging, Smell and Taste, Body and Brain, and Hangover. It's not just about discussing yeast, hops, molecules and how they form the various alcohols of beer, whisky, rye and bourbon. The author talks about the bars, the cocktails they do, what bartenders think, and how a drink makes one feel. (Here's the author's 58 minutes on 'Talks at Google'.)
Well, if we drink, I'm assuming we'd want to know what goes into a glass right? That includes the process behind producing a certain spirit. I'm not a fan of cocktails. They're usually too sweet on the palate. But beers and whisky, I do like very much. Nobody's asking us to quaff a whole pint in a minute. The whole point is to enjoy a drink, and appreciate how it has been thought out and made.
Understanding our relationship with alcohol is about understanding our relationship with everything — with the chemistry of the universe around us, with our own biology, with our cultural norms, and with each other.