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Alcohol in the United States is not a free-for-all; some overlying cultural norms relating to the consumption of alcohol have been established. For instance, it is considered socially unacceptable and unlawful to let minors drink. As Caetano et al. Role of Culture in Alcohol Consumption in the United States Alcohol is both a product of human culture and a substance that shapes this same culture.

Both xvii xviii Introduction the agriculture and the technique involved in fermenting or distilling alcohol make it a complex cultural product. Europeans brought their agricultural knowhow to America and planted crops that were familiar to them while adapting new crops, such as corn, for the purpose of making alcohol. Adaptation and innovation are part of nearly all cultural processes.

Hybrids in the consumption and production of alcohol that came out of the meeting of diverse cultures began to form new and distinctly American forms of alcohol culture. The saloon was the American answer to the British pub, while bourbon was the New World adaptation of whiskey.

But culture, at a more pedestrian level, is also shaped by alcohol. The ways in which social spaces for drinking are organized, and in which the laws and legislation regulating alcohol are constructed, reveal another way in which alcohol shapes American culture. Someone younger than 21 years of age cannot walk into a bar and order a pint of beer, but a year-old can go to a drive-through and purchase a daiquiri in Louisiana. These laws are culturally constructed barriers that shape society through limiting or attempting to limit who can consume alcohol and who cannot.

Alcohol both breaks down barriers and sets up limitations. By trying to understand the cultural and historical place of alcohol in the United State, we can see where the troubles arise in various forms of alcohol abuse and where the positive points can lead to a socially integrated, responsible drinking culture. References Barnett, Milton Leonard. Barrows, S. Room, eds. Drinking Behavior and Belief in Modern History. Berkeley: University of California Press, Caetano, Raul, Catherine L.

Clark, and Tammy Tam. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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Cinotto, Simone. Torino: Otto Editore, Dietler, Michael. Duran, E. Native American Postcolonial Psychology. Heath, Dwight. Hunt, Geoffrey, and Judith C. Introduction Mails, P. Pollan, Michael. New York: Random House, Powers, Madelon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, The brewing and distilling of alcohol becomes an important trade in these colonies.

Martin H. Stack, Rockhurst Universtiy

In particular, molasses from the Caribbean was sold to New England or to Europe, where it was distilled into rum and traded in Africa for slaves and gold. Congress imposes an excise tax on domestic whiskey distilleries. It remains in place even after the war. Made up of an association of grain dealers, politicians, and revenue agents, this group defrauds the government of millions of dollars in distilled spirits taxes.

Constitution is adopted, ushering in the Prohibition period. Dry counties result. Excise taxes on alcohol began to climb again. It is the predecessor of the breathalyzer. The U. Public Health Service reports that alcoholism is the fourth-biggest health problem.

A microbrewery produces fewer than 15, barrels of beer a year.

The manufacture and sale of absinthe is reauthorized in some European countries. It is normally consumed by placing a shot in a large absinthe glass and then slowly dribbling in cold water through a sugar cube positioned on a perforated spoon. This creates a louche, or swirling green clouds. The chemical thujone in absinthe makes the mind alert, creative, and expansive, and some claim it can cause hallucinations.

Only after a notorious absinthe-induced murder case in Switzerland in was absinthe made illegal in most of Europe and the United States. Since legalization, a number of absinthes are produced in the United States to wide acclaim, although some insist that it is no longer as special because it is legal. George made in California and Mansinthe by heavy metal singer Marilyn Manson.

Other manufacturers quickly followed suit and the renaissance of absinthe continues unabated. Conrad, Barnaby. Absinthe: History in a Bottle. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, Other advertising was local and simpler in the form of signs and occasional newspaper advertisements from area brewers and distilleries or local drinking establishments. Advertising escalated with the advent of mass literacy and mass production.

As lithography prints slowly gave way to simpler mass-produced posters, old styles intersected with new trends. An poster for Burke Ale featured Cap Anson and Buck Ewing, two prominent baseball players, raising tall glasses while sitting next to a large tent. The combination of alcohol advertising and sports had arrived.


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The twentieth century witnessed massive growth in the advertising business. Exotic liquors claimed to ease digestions, throat pain, headaches, Beer advertisements in the s and s and even the ills of pregnancy. At the same Depression dampened spending and time, images of women were used to sell beer to advertising in the s as well.

However, a rush of alcohol-related men. One of the longest-lasting advertising symbols from an American company, the Budweiser Clydesdales team pulling a delivery wagon, became prominent in the s.

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Since delivering a case of beer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House during a promotional tour of the eastern United States, these horses have been nationwide symbols of the Budweiser brand.

Alcohol in Popular Culture: An Encyclopedia e-book

When alcohol advertising returned to prominence, historical events and new forms of media changed its methods. Poster ads during World War II associated alcohol, particularly beer, with the military.

Social and Cultural Contexts of Alcohol Use

Radio and television meant that sound substituted for or combined with image to sell products. Although sponsorships were not unheard of before, the ability of celebrities to lend their actual voice or presence to an advertisement greatly expanded the practice. Like much of early television, early televised alcohol ads often appeared unprofessional and awkward, particularly because the celebrities endorsing the product were unlikely to have acting experience.

A new golden age of advertising began as companies experimented with new styles to match the cultural tumult of the s and s.

From abstract art to minimalist simplicity, alcohol was depicted in a wide array of colors, shapes, and sizes. American pop art, epitomized by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, often depicted commercial images artistically and in turn impacted advertising. Contemporary alcohol advertising contains the promise of popularity and high living toned down with exclusivity, or a hearkening back to tradition. Imported liquor embraces the former. Tanqueray gin and Captain Morgan rum advertisements associate their drinks with wild yet exclusive parties and attractive women, though men have appeared more often, for example as handsome bartenders.

American-made whiskey and beer are advertised in a similar style but with an old-fashioned image, and appeal to tradition. However, not all this advertising was in favor of alcohol consumption. After the Civil War, the Temperance Movement produced advertisements calling attention to the abuse of alcohol and advocating prohibition.

As alcohol advertising continues to evolve, brewers and distillers try to sell not only their drink but their image and dedication to public safety.

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See also Politics. Further Reading Balko, Radley. Ann Manheimer. New York: Thomson Gale, Dade, Penny. Drink Talking: Years of Alcohol Advertising. London: Middlesex University Press, Jernigan, David H. Manheimer, Ann, ed. Alcohol: The History of Drugs and Alcohol. Alcohol was familiar to early African Americans—beer was common in Africa before the transatlantic slave trade ensued, and, on the plantations of the West Indies, many slaves received rum.

In continental North America, alcohol restrictions grew with the institution of slavery in the seventeenth century. Fear of slave uprisings and a desire to maximize labor production convinced owners to forbid alcohol to slaves, except at Christmas when work was light.

The free black population formed temperance societies during the early nineteenth century, and these church-based groups grew in size and number after slavery ended. Black drinking habits changed—consumption moved from public to domestic places, and beer replaced hard liquor as the preferred beverage, reducing drunkenness. Despite this, white concern over black intoxication grew.

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives

Fears of drunken black men assaulting white women and committing other crimes led to numerous state and local alcohol laws. In this way, issues of gender, race, and drink were intertwined at the start of the twentieth century. Prohibition supporters in Georgia, Alabama, and elsewhere asserted that a liquor ban would improve white control of African Americans.