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Whiskey: A Global History (Reaktion Books - Edible) Hardcover – October 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Whiskey, at 144 pages, is the perfect primer for the person who wants to quickly learn the basics." (Washington Post)

“Kosar has now poured his expertise into a new book, Whiskey: A Global History, where he shares not only his passion for the potent potable but also his knowledge about its political, economic, and cultural history. . . . Extensively researched at the Library of Congress, where he works, Whiskey is nicely illustrated with vintage photographs, advertisements, and cartoons, and packed with factoids and stories.”

(Karen Lyon Capital Community News)

“Kevin Kosar might be the most thoughtful boozehound you'll ever meet.”


"Scotch purists may splutter over Kosar's planet-wide perspective: note his spelling. But open-minded readers, and drinkers, will raise a glass to his elan and expertise."


"A brief, informative, and endlessly diverting history of whiskey—in its many incarnations—that is not exactly intoxicating, but deeply satisfying.  . . . The great mystery of whiskey—to this consumer, at least—is the extent to which its common origins produce such disparate products, and how radically different human palates can be. One man’s smooth, nutty beverage is another’s wretched toxin, and the author has his own distinct tastes. But it would be difficult to find, in the holiday season, a superior gift to this tasty, eye-opening, gem of light scholarship.--Weekly Standard (Philip Terzian)

"There’s probably no more storied beverage than whiskey. Few have generated as many myths. Whiskey: A Global History, by Kevin Kosar, peels away the mythology to examine the real history of this legendary drink. Kosar shows that its history is at least as fascinating as the legend." (Galveston Daily News)

About the Author

Kevin R. Kosar is the founder of His writings on alcoholic beverages have appeared in, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the New York Press and the New York Hangover.


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Product Details

  • Series: Reaktion Books - Edible
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (October 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861897804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861897800
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kevin R. Kosar, Ph.D., is a researcher and writer in Washington, DC.

He is the author of Ronald Reagan and Education Policy (SG&P: 2011), Whiskey: A Global History (Reaktion: 2010), and Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards (Lynne Reinner Publishers: 2005).

His writings have appeared in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Public Administration Review, The Weekly Standard magazine, and other academic and popular publications. For Kosar's full biography and list of publications, please visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Colin Dodds on August 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Kevin Kosar's Whiskey: A Global History is a definitive guide to the spirit--how it's made, where it comes from, its mysterious history, how it shaped the identity and destiny of nations. It will tell you everything about whiskey except what, exactly, it did to your twenties.

The book is a masterful guide to whiskies of all sorts, scotch, bourbon, Irish, Canadian and American. It is detailed and informative without being pedantic, and entertaining without straying off topic. From the cloudy particulars of biblical time, through Egyptian and Irish prehistory, through the alchemists' laboratories to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, prohibition and the present, Whiskey: A Global History tells a vast story without ever seeming to skim.

A slender volume, the book nonetheless packs a wallop. In addition to a detailed and fascinating history, it has enough technical information that I was tempted to start distilling. Somehow, Kosar even found room for an impressive array of historical images about whiskey dating back hundreds of years.

And at the end, once you've learned the space you occupy in whiskey's rich and raucous history, Whiskey: A Global History gives you a series of classic whiskey cocktail recipes so you may raise your glass and take your rightful place in that history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was most impressed with what this book isn't. It isn't a tasting guide dripping with pretension and arcane terms. It also wasn't a "history" of one of the major distillers, stuffed to the brim with more mythology than substance. Finally, it wasn't a detailed and inscrutable technical guide to the production of whiskey, or a propaganda piece that ignores either the complexity nor the dark side of its topic area.
Instead, Kosar's book seeks to present a clear, concise summation of what is known, what isn't, and what may have happened in the history of whiskey. While obviously appreciating his subject matter, he doesn't dote on it. Rather than the mythical "water of life" for which it's named, Kosar presents whiskey as what it is: a commodity. Whether a means of squeezing extra profit from grain or a method of turning advertising and hype into gold (:::cough::: Johnny Walker Blue :::cough:::), we see whiskey with all the nonsense stripped away. The trick is that this actually makes it MORE interesting, and pulls that trick off in around a hundred pages.
If you're looking to write a lengthy dissertation on whiskey, this book isn't for you. If, however, you're curious about the stuff and looking for a good bathroom read, you have a winner.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Keeble on April 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I've read this cover to cover seventeen times and I've found nothing about Unicorns or any other single-horned land mammal. If it weren't for the well researched and well written bits about whiskey I would write this off as a complete loss and bitter disappointment.

If you're interested in whiskey - get this. Look elsewhere for information on unicorns.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David A. on January 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is listed as 160 pages long. About a third of that is bibliography, index, etc. so we are really talking about closer to 100 pages of primary content with a ton of pictures, charts, etc. throughout. In other words, this is a short book.

Despite being so short, the author manages to pack in a ton of information on the process of making whiskey plus thorough coverage of the history of whiskey plus ample information on the modern whiskey industry. He does this while keeping it interesting and not making it feel rushed. The included pictures are great and really add to it. I wish more authors wrote like this. Naturally, there is only so much information that can be shoved in such a short book but the author does an excellent job of giving a general survey of everything whiskey.

In short, if you are interested in learning more about whiskey, this book is a quick read yet comprehensive and entertaining. Highly recommended.

One note on Kindle versus print, if you have a classic black & white Kindle, you may consider purchasing the print edition instead of the Kindle edition due to all of the pictures included in the book. They don't work too well on the small, black & white Kindles.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ScotchDrinker68 on March 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book for a quick lesson in not just whiskey, but the history behind it. For those like myself with short attention spans, it is informative without being wordy, conversational without being insipid, and thorough without being geeky about it. The topics are wonderfully organized in sections that will keep one from getting bored with one topic before moving on to the next. Despite whiskey's reputation for being a somewhat elitist indulgence these days, WAGH details how it is also an everymans' drink and this is an everymans' whiskey book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Garrett Peck on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In writing "Whiskey: A Global History," Kevin Kosar has written a grand introduction to whiskey making, covering its cloudy and myth-filled history, and highlighting the myriad styles that have come to market. While addressing how global whiskey has become, he focuses on the three countries where whiskey has historically been made - Scotland, Ireland, and the United States - in this delightful and easy to read work.

Kosar writes, "Whiskey is not just a drink; it is a political, economic and cultural phenomenon." The book tracks the rise, fall, and resurrection of whiskey - through economic booms and busts, the temperance movement and Prohibition, and world wars. It is a valuable tome filled with illustrations and whiskey cocktail recipes.

Kosar writes the blog and knows an incredible amount about alcoholic beverages. His knowledge and research really shine through in "Whiskey." Especially engaging is how Kosar takes on the many myths of whiskey distilling, that whiskey of the past, often bootlegged, was somehow better. "Whiskey-makers and public relations firms like to speak of the 'good old days of whiskey'," he writes. "If this book has shown anything, it is that whiskey drinkers never have had it better." Indeed. If anything, the book shows that now is a great time to enjoy whiskey.
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