Whether as wine, beer, mead, or spirits, alcohol has had a constant and often controversial role in human life. This book surveys the attitudes and consumption of alcohol and examines a 9,000 year cultural and economic history, uncovering the tensions between alcoholic drinks as a nutritious and potable staple of daily diets and as an object of political and religious regulation. It argues that brewing was one of the earliest and most common forms of water purification, which further integrated alcohol into the dense population centers in Europe and the Americas. Despite this practical use, no commodity has been more regulated by governmental and religious authorities than alcohol. As a potential source of social disruption, alcohol created volatile boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable consumption, breaking through barriers of class, race, and gender. This book follows ever-changing cultural meanings of these potent potables and makes the surprising argument that fewer people are quaffing alcoholic drinks than ever before. The book examines and explains the importance and effect of alcohol's production, consumption, and meaning across the globe.