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The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks
Audiobook10 hours

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks

Written by Amy Stewart

Narrated by Coleen Marlo

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

4/5

()

About this audiobook

Every great drink starts with a plant. Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley. Gin was born from a conifer shrub when medieval physicians boiled juniper berries with wine to treat stomach pain. The Drunken Botanist uncovers the surprising botanical history and fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, and fruits (and even a few fungi).

Some of the most extraordinary and obscure plants have been fermented and distilled, and they each represent a unique cultural contribution to global drinking traditions and our history. Molasses was an essential ingredient of American independence when outrage over a mandate to buy British rather than French molasses for New World rum-making helped kindle the American Revolution. Captain James Cook harvested the young, green tips of spruce trees to make a vitamin C-rich beer that cured his crew of scurvy—a recipe that Jane Austen enjoyed so much that she used it as a plot point in Emma.

With over fifty drink recipes, growing tips for gardeners, and advice that carries Stewart’s trademark wit, this is the perfect listen for gardeners and cocktail aficionados alike.

Editor's Note

Bizarre plants…

History meets mixology in this authoritative text on the flowers, fruits, fungi, herbs, and trees from which your favorite alcohols originated — cocktail recipes included!

LanguageEnglish
Release dateMar 19, 2013
ISBN9781622311408
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks
Author

Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of five books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including three New York Times bestsellers, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants and Flower Confidential. She has appeared on hundreds of national and regional radio and television programs, including CBS Sunday Morning, NPR's Morning Edition, Fresh Air, and Good Morning America. She has written for the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and every national garden magazine, including Fine Gardening, where she is a contributing editor. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society's Book Award, and a California Horticultural Society Writer's Award. Stewart lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown. They own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books and tend a flock of unruly hens in their backyard.

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Reviews for The Drunken Botanist

Rating: 4.104602510460251 out of 5 stars
4/5

239 ratings35 reviews

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Awesomely informative and a fertile source of culinary ideas.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is one of those books which you can read cover to cover or one chapter at a time. It helps if you enjoy alcohol as the book provides historical background information in addition to botanical information. Overall this is both an entertaining and informative read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This book is broken down into different sections such as Part I: We Explore the Twin Alchemical Processes of Fermentation and Distillation, From Which Wine, Beer, and Spirits Issue Forth; Part II: We Then Suffuse Your Creations With A Wonderous Assortment of Nature's Bounty Herbs and Spices, Flowers, Trees, Fruit, Nuts and Seeds; Part III At Last we Venture Forth Into the Garden, Where we Encounter a Seasonal Array of Botanical Mixers and Garnishes To Be Introduced To the Cocktail In Its Final Stage of Preparation.The shrub Damiana that grows in Mexico has long been believed to be an aphrodisiac. In 1879 a doctor wrote that it could be given to female patients to "produce in her the very important yet not absolutely essential orgasm." For decades people made imitation Damiana, sometimes made of strychnine and sold it as the real deal. However, in 2009 a study on rats showed that sexually exhausted rats could perform again quicker if given Damiana. No explanation was given as to how they exhausted the rats and no human trials have ever been given. The herbal liqueur is often sold in a bottle shaped like a fertility goddess."Beer is not made from hops. It is made from barley, and sometimes other grains then flavored with hops." Hops make the beer last longer. It is said that the reason the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock is that their beer had soured and they had nothing to drink. The Hop vine is from the cannabis family and is closely related to the sticky cannabis flower buds. Getting a harvest of hops in has always been a difficult task, though it is easier now than it used to be. First, it only grows where there is sunlight for thirteen hours a day, so 35 to 55 degrees north and south latitude. It is grown in Oregan and Washington, China and Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and of course, England and Germany.Then you have to make sure the seeds set and reproduce. The vines are grown on trellises. The vines have these little bristles on them that are abrasive and leave welts when you pick the hops by hand, which some people still do. Hops are also highly flammable. They can easily spontaneously combust and burn a barn or warehouse down. Then they have to be bottled in dark bottles in order to keep the light from spoiling the hops. By the way, any beer maker that tells you to put a lime in your beer is trying to get you to disguise the skankiness of their beer from its spoilage. To grow them you go to a lot of trouble, but for beer drinkers, it does seem worth it.Engineer, Amedee Francois Frezier was sent to Peru and Chile to make a reliable map of the area in 1712. The problem was it was under Spanish Control and he was French, so he went undercover as a traveling merchant. While he made quite a few great maps, he also picked up some plants. In Europe, they did have strawberries, but they were small, nothing like the large Chilean strawberries. So he grabbed some to sneak out of the country. Only five of those plants survived. He gave two to the ship's cargo master as a gesture of thanks for letting him use the limited supply of the ship's water on the voyage. One went to his supervisor and one to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, which left one for himself. There was only one problem. The plants were sterile. Chilean strawberries are either male, female, or bisexual. He chose the ones with the biggest fruits and they were all females. They needed a male to reproduce. Luckily they eventually discovered that the Chilean strawberry could be crossed with males from strawberries of other species. By the mid-nineteenth century, it was mated to the native Virginian species and the modern strawberry was born and put into all sorts of mixed drinks.Stewert makes reading about plants and such fascinating. They all have such interesting stories to tell and most of them have been around for thousands of years, with some going back as far as the Jurassic period. They've been used for all manner of things besides an alcoholic beverage too. For example, the star anise has long been used in herbal liqueurs, but 90% of its production is used to make Tamiflu. There is not much that people haven't tried to make alcohol out of including trees, which to me seems an odd choice. This book also includes recipes for various intriguing drinks and additives, such as syrups as well as tips on how to grow your own plants, herbs, flowers, fruits, and trees. Alcohol has been a part of humanity since the beginning of time. This incredible book illustrates how this has come to be and how they are used today. I really enjoyed this fun and delectable book that has inspired me to experiment in my home bar and truly appreciate what I've been drinking. This book is a must-read.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Around the world, it seems, there is not a tree or shrub or delicate wildflower that has not been harvested, brewed, and bottled. Every advance in botanical exploration or horticultural science brought with it a corresponding uptick in the quality of our spirituous liquors. Drunken botanists? Given the role they play in creating the world's great drinks, it's a wonder there are any sober botanists at all. Summary: The Drunken Botanist is, as evidenced by the quote above, a look at the various plants - and there's a lot of them - that go into producing various varieties of alcohol all over the world. It's written a bit like an encylopedia: a collection of short essays about each plant, with a description of how it is used in alcohol production and its flavor (for some of the less-well-known species) as well as some of its relevant natural and cultural history. Stewart builds the book the same way one would build a cocktail - starting out with the plants that contribute to the base spirits and other standard drinks (agave, apple, barley, corn, grapes, potato, rice, rye, sorghum, sugarcane, and wheat), then moving into the variety of plants used to flavor various liquors, and finally touching on the remaining plants most frequently used as mixers. There are also tips on growing your own bartender's garden, as well as more than 60 recipes scattered throughout the books in their relevant sections, including classics (and slight variations on classics) and some more modern creations.Review: While this book took me seemingly forever to get through, I think that was more a product of the structure of the book than of anything else. The short-essay/article format of this book made it wonderful for the commute - get on the bus, read about a plant or two, get off the bus - but it simultaneously made it almost impossible to read straight through. But apart from that, this book was definitely a fun and interesting read. Stewart manages to pack in not only the basics of how fermentation and distillation work to produce alcohol, but plenty of history on how and when each of the plants became involved in the process ("The tradition of flavoring alcohol with apricots seems to have begun about ten minutes after the introduction of the apricots themselves."), and lots of great trivia ("Next time you pull a piece of silk from between your teeth while you're eating a fresh ear of corn, remember that you've just spat out a fallopian tube."), all with a light, easy-to-read style and a humorous edge. While I already had a pretty good grasp on the science of fermentation, I did learn quite a bit about how the specific process varies for each of the different species of plants involved, and I picked up some useful trivia. (For instance, the word "proof" as a measure of the alcohol content of various liquors comes from the fact that if the rum rations on British naval ships were watered down, they wouldn't catch fire when mixed with gunpowder and lit - a test which was demanded as "proof" that sailors weren't being cheated with watery rum.) I also came away from this book with an increased appreciation for the more high-quality liquors - particularly liqueurs that are actually made from the fruit in question, rather than loaded with artificial flavoring - and have started to cast a skeptical eye on some of the cheaper bottles in my bar. (Although on that tip, it turns out that Amaretto di Saronno doesn't actually contain almonds, but instead the closely-related apricot kernel.) And while I probably won't be growing my own pomegranates for grenadine, I've got a pot of mint on the back porch (as should everyone who enjoys cocktails!), and I will certainly be mixing up some of the recipes Stewart provides. 4 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: This book would be great for the cocktail enthusiasts out there, particularly (but not exclusively) those with a scientific bent.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Booze history with a bit of botany and a dash of chemistry for flavor.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A fascinating book that will appeal to drinkers, scientists and social historians. I was struck by how well balanced the book is; there is an awful lot of science packed in around the alcohol knowledge.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I saw this in a bookstore and thought it might be mildly interesting but perhaps not so good on audio. It's certainly not ideal for audio, but I was thoroughly fascinated. The amount of information within is pretty striking.Seriously this was a bit of an eye-opener for me. It never occurred to me how interesting the worlds drinks are or the world of cocktails. I wasn't even really curious about cocktails before. That has changed.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Although this book is not best in its audio format, I really enjoyed it. The history, botany, and bartending made for a delightful read. I plan to buy a hard copy so I can make notes.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Like her "Wicked" books, this is more of a reference book to be dipped into than a book to read all in one chunk. It is a mixture of science, history, folklore, horticulture, and mixology, which is both entertaining and educational to read. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I actually liked liquor.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A delightful collection of plant history and trivia, growing tips, recipes - and the histories behind pretty much every variety of fermented drinkables you can imagine. A fair warning to anyone considering an ebook copy: the complex layout is not particularly well suited to e-format.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Excellent book! Chock full on information about what it takes to make a drink. As a gardener, I loved reading about how what I grow can be used in my cocktails at the end of the day. Beautifully organised by the base liquor/beer, flavourings, and garnishes, including recipes and growing tips for a few of the many plants discussed. Very accessible, easy to read, and entertaining. This is a book I'll refer to on a regular basis.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    What is your booze made from? Plants, apparently! Not the most riveting reading, but a good guide to which botanical items makes up various kinds of liquor. A little history behind each as well, and how you can tell if it's the genuine article. I love the cover art.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Plants viewed through the bottom of a glass. Stewart talks about plants and the ways they have been used through the ages in alcoholic beverages. I don't think the book is really meant to be read straight through, more as a pick-up-and-read-a-bit book, or as a reference. Going through it in one go makes some aspects seem repetitive (the means by which grain and yeast interact to form alcohol is described multiple times, and so are things like the scent of linalool). But much of the book is intriguing, like discussions of various plant mutations both intentional and not that have occurred to make some ingredients more popular than others for drinks. If you're a gardener, you get the bonus of tips on growing a number of plants that can be used in drinks. If you're just someone who enjoys beverages, you get a good variety of classic drink recipes. If you don't fall into either of those categories, you'll get a nice assortment of information useful for your next bar trivia night, or just to impress your friends.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Around the world, there is not a tree, shrub or wildflower that hasn't been brewed or bottled, according to The Drunken Botanist, a fascinating look at the relationships between plants and alcohol. Amy Stewart explores history, horticulture, trivia, tips for growing your own and, of course, recipes. Humankind's relationship with alcohol is a long one. If it grows, we've tried to ferment, distill or brew it. There are so many fun facts in this book, found on every page. How to drink absinthe, a particularly literary liqueur. The role bugs play in making booze. Why beer bottles are brown. How to make alcohol from bananas, sweet potatoes and even parsnips. I'm an avid wine drinker, and now I want to try aromatized wines; before this book, I didn't even know what those were, but they sure sound delicious.The Drunken Botanist is a pleasure to leaf through, preferably with a drink close at hand. It reminds me of an old-fashioned reference manual, with its charming black-and-white sketches and cocktail recipe "cards." This book should appeal to all kinds of hobbyists: nature lovers, gardeners, brewers, cooks, mixologists and anyone who enjoys a tipple from time to time.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    A fantastic book about the myriad ways we have transformed plants into drinkable, alcoholic liquids, and then flavored them with additional plants. Thoughtful, fact-filled, funny, and of immense interest to many people - I hope till book will sell well. There are very few factual errors, which is nice, and the stories and writing feels personal without being informal or silly. Wonderful book!
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    A fascinating mix of historical and botanical information about all the possible ingredients in alcohol and alcoholic drinks. Very readable
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    A treasure trove of information and an unmitigated delight to read.Is this a cookbook, a gardening primer or a history tome? Yes to all and greater than a sum of its parts. Author Amy Stewart states her aim is to turn the gardener into a party host/mix master and the bartender into a gardener (even if only of a window box)and with this book she could very well do that.Divided into a logical progression of three parts, the book begins at the beginning with distillation/fermentation. The classic cast of characters are covered - grains, sugarcane, grapes, etc - but also more obscure sources such as date palm, parnips and monkey puzzle (?!). In Part Two, Stewart discusses the flavorings added to the alcohol to make various spirits and liqueurs. Categories covered are herbs/spices, flowers, trees, fruit and nuts/seeds with the mulitple entries in each category dealt with in detail. Part Three is where the flavorings and garnishes are added to a finished cocktail. Much of this materical has already been covered in Part Two (and is therefore put into handy dandy tables labeled Growing Notes) but anything unique to this section receives its own entry. In conclusion, there is an extensive recommended reading section.Truly a joy to read, the writing is cheeky and fast paced but without sacrificing detail - it reads much more like a novel than appearances would indicate. I know I've gone on about the extent of detail in this book and the reason for this is that I was looking for Stewart to trip up in this regard. Having relatives in East Europe who were alcohol distributors who passed some of their knowledge on to me made me a hard judge but Stewart hit every point with mastery. So much bang for the buck here - 50 recipes included for cocktails and another 13 for "add-ons" (I never thought to make my own maraschino cherries - yep, there's a recipe). Also included are a number of "aside" and "grow your own" boxes scattered throughout (with my favorite being about the drunken lorikeets). Highly recommended and deserving of 5 stars. So why is the rating missing a half star? The ARC I am reviewing does not have the final index or table of contents set; a misstep in this area would be extremely problematic in this type of reference work (I can't review what I can't see). Even so, loved it!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Great book on all things botanically related to alcohol. My review on The Cookbook Papers:"Every great drink starts with a plant," so says Amy Stewart in The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Greatest Drinks." Stewart should know; she's also the author of Flower Confidential and Wicked Plants.The Drunken Botanist explores every botanical (160 species in all) related to alcohol. The first part explores the classics. These are the plants that are transferred into alcohol, from agave to wheat. Stewart combines the plants history, misconceptions, the differences between plant varieties, and how they are produced into alcohol. She further goes into the varieties of alcohol based on production. For example, there are 9 different apple spirits all differentiated by the apple fruit varietal content, aging, and other factors (apple brandy, applejack, apple liqueur, apple wine, Calvados, Calvados Domfrontais, Calvados Pays d'Auge, eau de vie, and pomeau).The second part explores trees and their relationship to alcohol and mixers. Stewart writes about the interesting history of angostura bitters and why quinine glows under ultraviolet light. The third part explores fruit and alcohol, diving into such favorites as Theobroma cacoa (chocolate), marasca cherry (maraschino cherries), sloe berry (sloe gin), and the many varieties of citrus. If you have a green thumb, she gives tips for growing black currants, cherry trees, sloe shrubs, and citrus. She ends this section with nuts and seeds.The last part is dedicated to finishing: herbs for muddling and infusing; flowers for garnish, color, and flavor; and trees, berries, fruits, and vegetables that are so important in mixed drinks.Informative read with lots of recipes to experiment with, The Drunken Botanist is more than a coffee table or a culinary or bar reference book. It truly is a guidebook to all things botanical in both the worlds of new age mixology and classic bartending. Recommended read.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Well researched information and interesting up to a point. After a while the book becomes more like an encylopedia.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This book goes into meticulous detail in listing all the plants, trees, herbs, nuts, flowers, spices and pretty much anything else that has ever been fermented and distilled to make alcohol. Stewart tells how agaves are harvested, what that flavor in Amaretto di Saronno is (nope, not almonds), what kind of bugs find their way into what liquour and gives comparison charts for the multiples of say, violet liqueurs. This isn't just a gathering of dry facts though; when something is badly made Stewart tells you.Stewart is the other of several botany and gardening books, is the a founder of a gardening blog and has a bookstore. I'd read about this book here on LT, so when she appeared nearby a couple of weeks ago I went to grab this for the signing and listen to her talk about all the research (parties) that went into the two years she spent on this book. It's so complete that I know I'll be taking it with me to find things I never would have tried before. Who hasn't looked at a bottle of something and wondered what to do with it? You'll get the answer here.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Brilliant!I loved this book. While the format is something like an encyclopedia, I read it cover-to-cover, and was sad when i reached the end; the entries were that informative and well-written that it was more engaging than some novels I've read recently.I knew some of the background info, but a lot was new to me. And fascinating! As a species, we are clearly keen on fermenting anything that might be fermentable!The suggestions of ways to explore more- like with tequilas and liqueurs- were really interesting, and our bar storage is going to be increasing. The drink recipes included worked really well based on those I tried.Now- I got this as an ARC from LibraryThing, so the indices weren't functional, and the printing was gray-scale rather than the 2-color promised in the "real" version. Based on this, though, I've ordered the ":real" version, because I think it'll be worth it; I've also ordered a couple of the author's other books.It really is that good.If you are interested in the history of booze, or in cocktails, or spirits in general- I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is not only really informative, it's a great read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I received this as an Early Reviewer book. I'm very grateful to the ER system for introducing me to this author's work! I've ordered some of her other books and hope that they are as delightful of a read as this one is.The Drunken Botanist explores the relationship between man, the alcohol he drinks, and the plants that furnish the raw materials. It's an intriguing mix of research, anecdotes and recipes, presented in a very readable format. If you have a favorite drink or spirit or product of nature's bounty that has caught your fancy, you can read all about it here. There are recipes to let you taste what the author discusses, and the all-important note about *knowing* what item(s) you are using; nature does throw out some poisonous items, so take the author's advice and educate yourself.Having this book in the Early Reviewers program has certainly helped the author's sales (at least on my end 8-) I greatly enjoyed the author's style, and education mixed with fun is always a hit. Wonderful!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    The Drunken Botanist manages to combine botany, history, myth, science, chemistry, and gardening tips into a fantastic, highly readable book. Amy Stewart covers in depth individual plants and their role in creating a variety of drinks. The book is divided into three parts that outline the steps to create an exquisite drink.First there is the fermentation and distillation processes that produce alcohol. The discussion of agave is the most complete I have read. For example, Stewart even gets into the taxonomy of agave as well as which parts of the plant are used for fermentation. Included is a "Field Guide to Tequila and Mezcal" and "A Selected List of Agaves and Agave-Based Spirits" as well as cocktail recipes. The super curious reader will be happy to know that no stone is left unturned, the worm sometimes found in a bottle of mezcal is discussed.Part Two is devoted to the many herbs and spices added to alcohol for flavoring. Plain alcohol straight from the still is not pleasant. Botanicals are added in order to take the alcohol to a new level. Perhaps one of the best known examples is gin. Alcohol is redistilled with juniper berries and other botanicals to render gin. Stewart lists twelve common gin ingredients and describes the different styles of gin. I recently came across a Scottish gin with 22 botanicals, named appropriately, The Botanist. A recipe, "The Classic Martini," completes the juniper section.Thus far the alcohol and botanicals have been discussed. Part Three turns to the mixers and garnishes that complete a drink. Herbs, flowers, trees, berries and vines, and fruits and vegetables are covered. Each section begins with a table that lists plants by common and scientific name along with a description and some horticultural notes. There are recipes for syrups (Grenadine), infusions (Garden-Infused Simple Syrup), drinks (Lavender-Elderflower Champagne Cocktail), and even a recipe for brining your own olives. Stewart takes the reader way beyond simply sticking a celery rib in a Bloody Mary. The book ends with a Recommended Reading list and an index. I am using an advance reading copy for this review, so the index is not present.I have already turned down corners of pages so that I can return to a recipe. This book is a welcome delight! Gardeners and even sober botanists will learn and have fun with this book.