In the book, History of the World in Six Glasses, each of six drinks is highlighted based on its function and availability during a historic time period, and how it is still in use. The author, Tom Standage, postulates that beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola are drinks that shaped history, and are still drunk today.
Early civilizations made beer and bread from wheat and barley that was available to them. The ancient Egyptians drank beer during the building of the pyramids, and its connotation as a drink of the working man exists today.
Wine on the other hand is more difficult to produce, transport, and preserve therefore more refined people drank it. It developed into a more gentrified drink and to this day it holds that identity.
Spirits such as rum were used for economic and medicinal purposes. Standage postulates that rum may have been more important than tea in the colonists fight for independence with its role in Triangular Trade. When mixed with a bit of lemon or lime, rum helped stave off diseases during sea faring expeditions.
Coffee was an early trading commodity and a replacement for alcohol as a drink of pleasure. It carried both of those roles into contemporary times.
Although tea was a daily drink in early China, it played a role in the expansion of the imperial and industrial British Empire. It played two roles as the drink of pleasure and one of water purification in the lesser developed outposts as the Empire expanded. To this day it is the drink of choice of Englishmen around the globe, and is also used in Eastern and Western medicine.
Coca Cola became know as the drink of the young, fresh, hip. capitalistic society. It was a symbol of the United States that has spread world-wide.
Therefore, by reading this book you can see the development of the world's civilizations from their earliest to contemporary times based on these six drinks and how they were, and still are used by societies throughout the world.
Summaries of this book can be found at the resource links.
When you can't find a summary of a book, you can look on bookstore web sites. Often you can find quite a bit of information there. It does not look like many people on enotes are familiar with this book. It basically takes six types of beverages and explains how they shaped the world. The six beverages are beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. Here is a link: http://contemporarylit.about.com/od/socialsciences/fr/6glasses.htm