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. This is a great book, very interesting It all started when Stewart went to a liquor store with her friend We had arrived at a liquor store by then, and I was gesturing wildly at the shelves around us This is horticulture In all of these bottles Suddenly we weren t in a liquor store any We were in a fantastical greenhouse, the world s most exotic botanical garden, the sort of strange and overgrown conservatory we only encounter in our dreams 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 Give the role they play in creating the world s great drinks, it s a wonder there are any sober botanists at all.The only reason this didn t get five stars from me is that although I drink, I don t DRINK This is heavy with various cocktail and drink recipes that I have no use for and will never make It also frequently takes a page here and there to explain how to grow certain plants yourself Again, I m never going to do this, I have no interest in gardening.However, Stewart is fascinating she tackles every variety of plant you can think of and then goes through them species by species, telling us how they became involved in becoming an alcoholic drink She includes great, fascinating stories about history and historical figures that had me grinning from ear to ear I especially loved the stories about Nixon going to China and drinking mao tai so hilarious On February 21, 1972, President Nixon attended a banquet in Peking to mark the beginning of Nixon s historic trip to China The ceremonial drink that night was mao tai, a sorghum spirit with an alcohol content over 50% Alexander Haig had sampled the drink on an advance visit and cabled a warning that Under no repeat no circumstances should the President actually drink from his glass Nixon ignored the advice and matched his host drink for drink, shuddering but saying nothing each time he took a sip Dan Rather said it tasted like liquid razor blades A dozen or so pages later, Stewart expands this story The mao tai served to President Nixon was surely the best China had to offer Prime Minister Chou En lai held a match to his glass to show the president that the spirit could be lit on fire, a fact that Nixon filed away for future use In 1974, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger told another Chinese official that the president tried to repeat the trick for his daughter when he returned home So he took out a bottle and poured it into a saucer and lit it, Kissinger said, but the glass bowl broke and the mao tai ran over the table and the table began to burn So you nearly burned down the White House LOL This is just a taste Stewart has plenty of entertaining stories about alcohol and its successes and pitfalls throughout history.The book is colorful, fully illustrated, and has a fun, whimsical feel to it.Tl dr Tons of botany, and a great exploration of liquors, infusions, and cocktails that you will be longing to try after reading this book I loved learning about plants, and alcohol, and history Although the book had a lot of extra material that didn t apply to my life or interest me, it was a strong and worthwhile read. 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 A Dutch Physician Added Oil Of Juniper To A Clear Spirit, Believing That Juniper Berries Would Cure Kidney Disorders The Drunken Botanist Uncovers The Enlightening Botanical History And The Fascinating Science And Chemistry Of Over Plants, Flowers, Trees, And Fruits And Even One FungusSome Of The Most Extraordinary And Obscure Plants Have Been Fermented And Distilled, And They Each Represent A Unique Cultural Contribution To Our Global Drinking Traditions And Our History Molasses Was An Essential Ingredient In American Independence When The British Forced The Colonies To Buy British Not French Molasses For Their New World Rum Making, The Settlers Outrage Kindled The American Revolution Rye, Which Turns Up In Countless Spirits, Is Vulnerable To Ergot, Which Contains A Precursor To LSD, And Some Historians Have Speculated That The Salem Witch Trials Occurred Because Girls Poisoned By Ergot Had Seizures That Made Townspeople Think They D Been Bewitched Then There S The Tale Of The Thirty Year Court Battle That Took Place Over The Trademarking Of Angostura Bitters, Which May Or May Not Actually Contain Bark From The Angostura TreeWith A Delightful Two Color Vintage Style Interior, Over Fifty Drink Recipes, Growing Tips For Gardeners, And Advice That Carries Stewart S Trademark Wit, This Is The Perfect Gift For Gardeners And Cocktail Aficionados Alike I have been clean and sober for 8 years after going through A.A This Thanksgiving I slipped and partook in a little drinking and oops There went my sobriety Since all that went down the toilet, I thought I d pick up this book I m glad I did It s wonderful 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 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 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. PreambleJune, 2017 I m buddy reading this with the victim of my attention, Todd, although he doesn t know it, yet He doesn t even know I bought this book, though he did know I was going to because when it came to our attention in the museum s gift shop and we both put it on our to read lists right then and there, I promised I d get us a copy There was another book in the same display in which we were also interested, DIY Bitters Reviving the Forgotten Flavor A Guide to Making Your Own Bitters for Bartenders, Cocktail Enthusiasts, Herbalists, and More, and I ve purchased that, as well So my plan is to give that one to him while I read this one during my lunch breaks Todd reads sporadically so it will take him years to get through that which is perfect because my lunch break reading only happens in summer and fall and I get distracted a lot and it often takes me than a year to get a book read so we ll both have ample time to finish our fascinating tomes When we re done, we ll swap Together, we will learn all the things about making refreshing adult beverages out of plants It s going to be a great time for us It will not be a great time for Gabe because he thinks our projects are stupid but what does he know He spends his time doing dumb nerd stuff, not science nerd stuff and science nerd stuff is the best stuff to do.One year laterThis isn t a buddy read any My victim and I broke up and we re just cordial acquaintances now that s a pun because this book is about liquor I have both books, I will read them by myself and wish I had someone with whom I could discuss the contents.C est la vie.But I finished this one and it is the perfect lunchtime reading book It s arranged in quick essay format starting with major botanical to alchemical plants, such as wheat, barley, rice, etc and moving on to lesser known plants that have been alcoholized, like angelica, chamomile, coffee, and pepper Every plant gets between 1 and 6 pages of description, history, fermentation process, and anecdotes.There are recipes throughout.I enjoyed this a great deal both because it came in bite sized pieces and because I am a plant enthusiast as well as a amateur mixologist lies I just like making drinks, I don t know anything about it, though so everything in here was super fascinating to me. A good book to read a bit at a time, and a painless way to learn some botany Stewart writes well, and her botanical vignettes are mostly entertaining There are drink recipes and liquor lore, mostly lost on me though I did learn some interesting stuff about brewing beer 3.5 stars, rounded up.This would make a fine gift book the hardcover is attractive, sturdy, and well designed I gave away a copy this past Christmas.The go to review is Margitte s,https www.goodreads.com review show As the subtitle says, this is about the plants behind alcoholic beverages Besides the obvious candidates, such as barley, grapes, rice, agave, etc that form the backbone of drinks, the author also covers various flavoring agents, so that we hear about vanilla and cocoa and allspice and cinchona The author is at pains to tell us that her coverage is by no means exhaustive, but it is comprehensive She delves into the botany of the plants and how different species can contribute different flavors or must be eschewed entirely due to toxicity or simply unpleasant tastes , the history of the plants and their mutations over the centuries, archeological findings supporting speculations about the origins of some favorite beverages, recipes for DIY, and growing tips for would be gardeners.Through all this, her writing is approachable and entertaining Another reviewer compared her to Mary Roach, and I agree that s a fair comparison The book is also replete with fascinating trivia, e.g When Coca Cola made its ill fated switch to New Coke, the Wall Street Journal reported that the economy of Madagascar nearly collapsed because of the sudden drop in demand for vanilla The company refused, as always, to comment on its secret formula, but the inference was that the original Coke recipe called for vanilla and the new version did not It was perhaps than I ever needed, or even wanted, to know, but I m glad that I read it. Horticulture in bottles Booze and botany The elixir of life the aqua vitae that the plant world has given usEvery great drink starts with a plantSo, depending on the mission, one person will be interested in the content of the bottle, and another might be thrilled by the botanical magic leading up to it I m one of the latter A teetotaler since forever, most boring nerd at a party Coffee and water the only substance abuses I am guilty of Ah, it just happily float my boatHow can anyone with even a passing interest in botany not be fascinated by this stuff I said Look at the ingredients Juniper That s a conifer Coriander, which is, of course, the fruit of a cilantro plant All gins have citrus peel in them This one has lavender buds, too Gin is nothing but an alcohol extraction of all these crazy plants from around the world tree bark and leaves and seeds and flowers and fruit We had arrived at the liquor store by then, and I was gesturing wildly at the shelves around us This is horticulture In all of these bottlesOne hundred and sixty plant species are covered in the book But there s thousands , of course And then there s proper tonic water proper tonic water, made with actual cinchona bark and real Saccharum officinarum, not that artificial junkScott browsed the selection of bottled Agave tequilana He was in the habit of trekking into Mexico in search of rare agave and cactus, and he d encountered many of his prized specimens coming out of the working end of a handmade Oaxacan still There wasn t a bottle in the store that we couldn t assign a genus and species to Bourbon Zea mays, an overgrown grass sweet corn Absinthe Artemisia absinthium, a much misunderstood Mediterranean herb Polish vodka Solanum tuberosum a nightshade, which is a weird family of plants if there ever was one Beer Humulus lupulus common hop or hop , a sticky climbing vine that happens to be a close cousin to cannabis.In China, they make their wine from barley in the northern parts thereof, from rice and apples In Japan, also they prepare a strong wine from rice We in England, likewise, have great variety of wines from cherries, apples, pears, c little inferior to those of foreign growth In Brazil, and elsewhere, they make strong wine of water and sugarcane and in Barbadoes they have many liquors unknown to us Among the Turks, where wine of the grape is forbid by their law, the Jews and Christians keep, in their taverns, a liquor made of fermented raisins The Sura in the East Indies is made of the juice that flows from the cocoa tree and sailors have often been inebriated, in that country, with the liquors made of the fermented juices obtain d by the incision of vegetables.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 A great gin or a fine French liqueur is flavored with innumerable herbs, seeds, and fruit, some of them added during distillation and some just before bottling And once a bottle gets to the bar, a third round of plants are called into service mixers like mint, lemon, and if the party s at my house fresh jalape o I structured the book around this journey from mash tub and still, to bottle, to glass.Marc Wucher, an Alsatian eau de vie maker, once told a reporter, We distill everything except our mothers in law, and if you ve ever been to Alsace, you know he wasn t exaggeratingYou can proceed in orderly fashion through the book, says the author The plants are alphabetically indexed and include all the well known beverages first, and then proceed to the uncommon ones History, cultural uses, distillery, product names It s all there.I just had an arresting moment when feces, two thousand years old, were discovered in the 1950s and analyzed It did not go off well Ahhh it s in the book MARULAS Let s skip the skimpy info in the book here and rather share my own memories with you Marulas Sclerocarya birrea spp caffra , a delicious African fruit, is not only a highly sought after ingredient for various liqueurs, beers, moonshine witblits in Afrikaans, also called T t T t, one of the most potent moonshines on the planet A very popular liqueur, called Marula Cream, is made from this fruit The fruit is also popular with the animals, with hilarious consequences Just watch this video yourself a favor and watch it Even the worms have a happy moment Believe me, those hangovers are REAL The author, from Oregon in the USA, rejects this kind of evidence I don t I ve grown up in the northern parts of South Africa and we witnessed these animals constantly Not only eating the fruit, but stumbling away in a drunken stupor In fact, when the word was out that elephants were at the trees, we all went en masse to witness it When the elephants shook the trees, the monkeys within had to cling for dear life until the tree quake was over It lasted only a few minutes at a time The fruit is safe for human consumption when it s dropped from the tree and picked up immediately especially after the elephants shook the trees Stored in fridges, and eaten within a day, it is one of the most delicious fruits on the planet But left out on the ground in the hot African sun, it totally changes the ball game Nobody in their right mind touches those sun baked fruits The Marula fruit contains a delicious nut which is used by African tribes for making bread The tree forms part of the ANACARDIACEAE cashew nut family of plants The nuts can be stored for months in clay pots before it is used As children we helped the African mammas collect the fruit and harvest the nuts Huge heaps For our assistance we were awarded with the bread The bread is not only delicious, but also extremely healthy As children, we had our fill of both bread, nuts and non fermented fruit We knew which fruits to avoid and which were safe I miss it every day Humans and animals rejoice together in Marula season Back to the book It is so well researched, and really fascinating to read Not a book to rush through within a day I would rather add it to a coffee table collection to be scrolled through and absorbed slowly The author has a wonderful, witty and casual way of sharing the information The author s website www.drunkenbotanist.com I was so relieved to learn that I wouldn t have to root around in emu droppings in order to enjoy a quandong cocktail.Amy Stewart is sort of the Mary Roach of the plant world, but not quite as funny I m of a botanist than a boozer, so I was most interested in the history and folklore of the plants It s quite a revelation, though, to see the variety of plants that are used in alcoholic beverages If you like to make exotic cocktails from pricey liqueurs and liquors, you could throw one hell of a party with the recipes in this book She even gives some gardening advice so you can grow the plants you ll use in your boozy concoctions.
Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of ten books, including Girl Waits with Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, The Drunken Botanist, and Wicked Plants She lives in Portland with her husband Scott Brown, a rare book dealer They own an independent bookstore called
- 362 pages
- The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks
- Amy Stewart
- 05 May 2018 Amy Stewart