Natalie Angier in The New York Times:
Every year, the average American adult drinks the equivalent of 38 six-packs of beer, a dozen bottles of wine and two quarts of distilled spirits like gin, rum, single malt Scotch, or vodka that aspires to single malt status through the addition of flavors normally associated with yogurt or bubble bath.
Humans may have an added reason to be drawn to alcohol. Throughout antiquity, available water was likely to be polluted with cholera and other dangerous microbes, and the tavern may well have been the safest watering hole in town. Not only is alcohol a mild antiseptic, but the process of brewing alcoholic beverages often requires that the liquid be boiled or subjected to similarly sterilizing treatments. “It’s possible that people who drank fermented beverages tended to live longer and reproduce more” than did their teetotaling peers, Dr. McGovern said, “which may partly explain why people have a proclivity to drink alcohol.”