Jonathan Yardley, a Washington Post columnist and book reviewer, wrote today on Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by British writer Iain Gately.
Yardley quoted from Gately's opening paragraph:
Alcohol is a fundamental part of Western culture. It is the most controversial part of our diet, simultaneously nourishing and intoxicating the human frame. Its equivocal influence over civilization can be equated to the polar characters of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. At times its philanthropic side has appeared to be in the ascendant, at others the psychopath has been at large. <...> In both ancient Greece, and the present millennium, it has been credited with the powers of inspiration and destruction.
In 1999, fellow British writer Andrew Barr published his book, also entitled Drink.
His subject matter, however, was specific to the history of alcoholic beverages in the USA. The title after the colon continued: A Social History of America. Barr took more of an active stance in favor of the salubrious aspects of good beverages and against American alcoholic prudery (his view, not altogether untrue).
I was alerted to Barr's Drink several years ago by Baltimore beer blogger Alexander D. Mitchell IV, who in fact gave me a copy.