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Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, bourbon from corn. Thirsty yet?  In The Drunken Botanist, Amy Stewart explores the dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that humans have, through ingenuity, inspiration, and sheer desperation, contrived to transform into alcohol over the centuries.

Of all the extraordinary and obscure plants that have been fermented and distilled, a few are dangerous, some are downright bizarre, and one is as ancient as dinosaurs—but each represents a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history.

This fascinating concoction of biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology—with more than fifty drink recipes and growing tips for gardeners—will make you the most popular guest at any cocktail party.

Published: Workman Publishing on
ISBN: 9781616201043
List price: $19.95
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Availability for The Drunken Botanist
    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!more
    A fascinating mix of historical and botanical information about all the possible ingredients in alcohol and alcoholic drinks. Very readablemore
    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!more
    The Drunken Botanist is a witty reference work exploring man’s history with the plants that make his drink. Appealing to your erudite drinker and interested teetotaler, in essay form it touches on every aspect of man’s relationship with the plants that seem to make him the most happy. From the common to the obscure the plant’s history and the science of the fermentation process are explored. Nice illustrations and drink recipes are included. Two glasses of fruit of the grape please.more
    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.more
    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!more
    This book looks at the various plants that go into making some of the most well known, and not so well known, alcoholic drinks. It is broken into three parts, the most common and well known plants and drinks, then to the more unusual plants, herbs, fruits and spices and finally tips on growing your own plants for use in making drinks and recipes are included throughout.The first part was the best and the easiest to read as it had the most information, not just about the plants and drinks themselves but some of their history and developments. The writing style is very engaging and you learn a lot without feeling like you've had a ton of information dumped on you. The second part dragged a bit as some of the plant entries were just lists of how they were used in drinks with no history of further information, though this is understandable as if the author had added as much information in the second part as in the first the book would have been huge. The third part about growing your own plants was short and not very detailed as gardening is so specific to your region but gave a good impression of what would be needed and what to consider when looking to grow your own. I learned a lot from this book and was inspired to look up further information, more than anything I loved reading the history behind some of the drinks and ingredients we take for granted.more
    This book is delicious in several different ways. There's so much to learn, but with Stewart's gleeful exuberance and depth of knowledge, it's nothing but fun and fascination. And thirst, of course. There are lots and lots of cocktail recipes throughout the book. Trust me--you want this book. And buy one for your friends, because they will steal yours when you aren't looking. It's THAT kind of wonderful book.more
    Oh, Amy Stewart, you’ve done it again!! Previously, in Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs, we learned how potentially benign gifts of nature can be our deadly undoing. That made us all much more cautious and caused all sorts of stress and worry. And, how did we cope and calm down? We had a simple and refreshing libation. Now, in The Drunken Botanist, we learn that our basic alcohol over ice with a dash of whatever and a splash of something and a sprig for a picturesque finish is not so simple after all. It’s wrought with geography and history and botany and chemistry and politics and enough complexity to make one wish for simpler days of temperance and Prohibition. Well, that may be taking it too far, but it’s at least enough to cause one to quickly sit down, pour oneself a drink, grab this book, and ponder what to do next!It’s always best in arenas of the unknown to start at the beginning and that is exactly what The Drunken Botanist does. To understand and appreciate the book is just like making a cocktail. Part I enumerates the plants that are used to make the basic varieties of alcohol. You quickly learn that there are almost an unlimited number of results of fermentation or distillation. What you get usually is dependent upon plant availability, geography, or tradition. What you do with your basic alcohol (aging, etc.) can then produce the next range of products.Moving on to Part II, we now start adding various herbs and spices, flowers, trees, fruit, and nuts and seeds to our “basic” alcohol. This is how we get to that whole range of liqueurs, crèmes, fruit-this and nut-that. I’m particularly intrigued by the origins and history and varieties of gin. I’ve long said that there should be a museum of gin. And do you know anyone else who carries a little picture card in his wallet showing some ten botanicals in gin!What is striking at this point is how important the varieties of alcohol and spices have been in the trade and commerce and history of the world.Part III finishes the cocktail with the bounty of the garden used, as some would say, a garnish, but more importantly as fresh ingredients in your libation or as an integral part of a well-considered finished product.There’s a basic backbone that runs through The Drunken Botanist so that it’s readable for a good knowledge and understanding of the depth and breadth of the subject, but there are also so, so many small sections and sidebars that can be read separately (and at random). There’s more basic knowledge and trivial pleasure here than you could quickly skim through.So, taking my gin martini … on ice with dry vermouth and orange bitters … in hand, I’m ready to read on. The only thing that I might ask for is some new liquor that might stand as tall as the redwoods of Amy Stewart’s northwestern California. St. George Spirits has their Botanivore gin with 19 botanicals, Anchor Distilling (San Francisco) has their Junipero gin, and Clear Creek Distillery produces Douglas fir eau-de-vie. Maybe something along the lines of a Sequoia semprevirens liqueur. Hmmm.more
    Enjoyed it tremendously. I will have to look into getting her other books because her writing style is light and delicious. So many interesting facts included, and the recipes make me want to fill my cupboards with alcohol just to try them all! I won't, but she does make them sound interesting and delicious. She includes the history of the plants and the process of making the alcohol from them, also some neat biographical facts of the botanists who discovered/created them and the world circumstances which influenced the popularity of certain drinks. I could go on and on. I will be keeping this book for both reference and inspiration. In fact, I just ordered this in the hardcover version, along with two of her other books, I enjoyed it that much.more
    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.more
    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.more
    Read all 14 reviews

    Reviews

    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!more
    A fascinating mix of historical and botanical information about all the possible ingredients in alcohol and alcoholic drinks. Very readablemore
    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!more
    The Drunken Botanist is a witty reference work exploring man’s history with the plants that make his drink. Appealing to your erudite drinker and interested teetotaler, in essay form it touches on every aspect of man’s relationship with the plants that seem to make him the most happy. From the common to the obscure the plant’s history and the science of the fermentation process are explored. Nice illustrations and drink recipes are included. Two glasses of fruit of the grape please.more
    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.more
    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!more
    This book looks at the various plants that go into making some of the most well known, and not so well known, alcoholic drinks. It is broken into three parts, the most common and well known plants and drinks, then to the more unusual plants, herbs, fruits and spices and finally tips on growing your own plants for use in making drinks and recipes are included throughout.The first part was the best and the easiest to read as it had the most information, not just about the plants and drinks themselves but some of their history and developments. The writing style is very engaging and you learn a lot without feeling like you've had a ton of information dumped on you. The second part dragged a bit as some of the plant entries were just lists of how they were used in drinks with no history of further information, though this is understandable as if the author had added as much information in the second part as in the first the book would have been huge. The third part about growing your own plants was short and not very detailed as gardening is so specific to your region but gave a good impression of what would be needed and what to consider when looking to grow your own. I learned a lot from this book and was inspired to look up further information, more than anything I loved reading the history behind some of the drinks and ingredients we take for granted.more
    This book is delicious in several different ways. There's so much to learn, but with Stewart's gleeful exuberance and depth of knowledge, it's nothing but fun and fascination. And thirst, of course. There are lots and lots of cocktail recipes throughout the book. Trust me--you want this book. And buy one for your friends, because they will steal yours when you aren't looking. It's THAT kind of wonderful book.more
    Oh, Amy Stewart, you’ve done it again!! Previously, in Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs, we learned how potentially benign gifts of nature can be our deadly undoing. That made us all much more cautious and caused all sorts of stress and worry. And, how did we cope and calm down? We had a simple and refreshing libation. Now, in The Drunken Botanist, we learn that our basic alcohol over ice with a dash of whatever and a splash of something and a sprig for a picturesque finish is not so simple after all. It’s wrought with geography and history and botany and chemistry and politics and enough complexity to make one wish for simpler days of temperance and Prohibition. Well, that may be taking it too far, but it’s at least enough to cause one to quickly sit down, pour oneself a drink, grab this book, and ponder what to do next!It’s always best in arenas of the unknown to start at the beginning and that is exactly what The Drunken Botanist does. To understand and appreciate the book is just like making a cocktail. Part I enumerates the plants that are used to make the basic varieties of alcohol. You quickly learn that there are almost an unlimited number of results of fermentation or distillation. What you get usually is dependent upon plant availability, geography, or tradition. What you do with your basic alcohol (aging, etc.) can then produce the next range of products.Moving on to Part II, we now start adding various herbs and spices, flowers, trees, fruit, and nuts and seeds to our “basic” alcohol. This is how we get to that whole range of liqueurs, crèmes, fruit-this and nut-that. I’m particularly intrigued by the origins and history and varieties of gin. I’ve long said that there should be a museum of gin. And do you know anyone else who carries a little picture card in his wallet showing some ten botanicals in gin!What is striking at this point is how important the varieties of alcohol and spices have been in the trade and commerce and history of the world.Part III finishes the cocktail with the bounty of the garden used, as some would say, a garnish, but more importantly as fresh ingredients in your libation or as an integral part of a well-considered finished product.There’s a basic backbone that runs through The Drunken Botanist so that it’s readable for a good knowledge and understanding of the depth and breadth of the subject, but there are also so, so many small sections and sidebars that can be read separately (and at random). There’s more basic knowledge and trivial pleasure here than you could quickly skim through.So, taking my gin martini … on ice with dry vermouth and orange bitters … in hand, I’m ready to read on. The only thing that I might ask for is some new liquor that might stand as tall as the redwoods of Amy Stewart’s northwestern California. St. George Spirits has their Botanivore gin with 19 botanicals, Anchor Distilling (San Francisco) has their Junipero gin, and Clear Creek Distillery produces Douglas fir eau-de-vie. Maybe something along the lines of a Sequoia semprevirens liqueur. Hmmm.more
    Enjoyed it tremendously. I will have to look into getting her other books because her writing style is light and delicious. So many interesting facts included, and the recipes make me want to fill my cupboards with alcohol just to try them all! I won't, but she does make them sound interesting and delicious. She includes the history of the plants and the process of making the alcohol from them, also some neat biographical facts of the botanists who discovered/created them and the world circumstances which influenced the popularity of certain drinks. I could go on and on. I will be keeping this book for both reference and inspiration. In fact, I just ordered this in the hardcover version, along with two of her other books, I enjoyed it that much.more
    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.more
    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.more
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