Booze: A user’s guide

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When one reads a book about drinking alcohol, one doesn’t do so with a sense of scholarly detachment. At least I don’t. I did so with a six-pack of Castle Lite long-toms.

And that was as it should be, because Chris and Luke Muller’s Drink This In: Uncorking The World Of Alcohol is aimed squarely at the drinking community. Sure, teetollars are welcome to give it a taste, but nothing hooks you like a book about a pastime that’s part of your own personality.

The brothers point out early on that there’s actually a dearth of real information about alcohol. This is partly because it’s not in the interests of any of the industry players to put that out.

The guys have taken their project seriously, so the book is flush with exhaustive explanations of how alcohol works its boozy magic inside the human body. Fittingly, the book is best read while keeping within the legal blood-alcohol limit. By the time the Mullers started dropping pearls about carcinogen zenotype CALDH2*1/*2, I was dropping off the pace a little.

Luckily there is not too much of that. I was there for priceless tidbits like the news that the most beers ever drunk in one session was 119, by WWF wrestler Andre The Giant.  The biggest-selling beer in the world is China’s Snow beer, but the biggest beer drinkers in the world are the Czechs, who pound down 148 litres of beer per person annually. In Belarus, in a world-beating effort, people are each getting through 91 bottles of vodka a year!

The book is a gentle, non-judgemental commentary on booze culture, pointing out that the $1t-trillion that is spent on alcohol every year means drinkers spend more on dop than they do on clothes!

Because drinking doesn’t affect everyone equally, the authors have created archetypal drinker characters – Rampaging Robyn, Dependant Dennis, Teetotallar Terry etc – and then related their information to this cast of socialites. It’s not hard to spot yourself.

The book is an extremely thorough, but eminently readable user’s guide to alcohol. It touches on the chemistry of metabolizing alcohol (apparently acetaldehyde is not your friend), the health benefits of low-to-moderate alcohol consumption, the significant health risks of serious boozing, as well as the history and the economics of pinting.

I came in expecting a social history of booze, along the lines of Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness And Power (about sugar) and Brian Cowan’s The Social Life Of Coffee. Drink This In is not that. It is a highly contemporary, super-relevant guide to a psycho-active substance consumed by almost 3 billion of us. It’s about time we knew more about it.

The authors  have written, edited, published and marketed this book themselves. Taking ownership of their book and its brand will no doubt give this release the longevity it needs. It has the thoroughness, relaxed tone and user-friendliness for it to become a definitive resource.

It has also been written for an international market – so there’s not too much of that “this one time at Taco Zulu” stuff. In a way that makes it a more clinical read, where it could have been a bit looser and funnier. That’s swings and roundabouts, though.  It’s still a highly entertaining read and they do manage to slip in an incidental recipe for pineapple beer.

Savvy operators that they are, Chris and Luke have built a handy smartphone app that calculates your Blood Alcohol Content as you drink. Useful for anyone planning to write a book review after a few Castle Lites (one would imagine).

The book is available in Amazon and Kindle bookstores and the app is in App stores now. More power to the Muller brothers and their respective drinking arms. Cheers!

Writer for television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Editor and writer of books. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). The last whitey at umsebenzi. Latest book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips with Basil O'Hagan, out now. @hagenengler

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