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The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks Hardcover – March 19, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013: Peppered with fascinating facts and well-chosen anecdotes, Amy Stewart’s brisk tour of the origin of spirits acquaints the curious cocktail fan with every conceivable ingredient. Starting with the classics (from agave to wheat), she touches on obscure sources--including a tree that dates to the dinosaur age--before delving into the herbs, spices, flowers, trees, fruits, and nuts that give the world’s greatest drinks distinctive flavors. Along the way, you’ll enjoy sidebars on bugs in booze and inspired drink recipes with backstories that make lively cocktail party conversation. Like Wicked Plants, this delightfully informative, handsome volume isn’t intended as a complete reference or DIY guide, but it will demystify and heighten your appreciation of every intoxicating plant you imbibe. --Mari Malcolm

Review

"Amy Stewart has a way of making gardening seem exciting, even a little dangerous." ―The New York Times


"Many boozy books have been published over the years, spilling over with fun facts about absinthe, grog and bathtub gin. What makes Stewart's book different is her infectious enthusiasm for the plants, their uses, their history, and the botanists who roamed the earth finding them. The result is intoxicating but in a fresh, happy, healthy way." ―USA Today


"The Drunken Botanist is a sipping book, not a quaffing book, best enjoyed in moderation...Part Ripley’s Believe It or Not, part compendium on the order of 'Schott’s Original Miscellany' and part botanical garden tour, albeit with a curated cocktail party at the end.... a companionable reference and whimsical recitation of historical-botanical trivia, with a little tart debunking." ―The Washington Post


"Sipping an evening cocktail while flipping through this fine volume, I discovered that Ms. Stewart knew how to change a run-of-the-mill cocktail into an intriguing one." ―The Wall Street Journal


"A book that makes familiar drinks seem new again…Through this horticultural lens, a mixed drink becomes a cornucopia of plants." ―NPR's Morning Edition


"Fascinating, well researched and instructive ― with appealing recipes too." ―Rosie Schaap, New York Times


"Gardening can be an intoxicating hobby, especially if the botany is booze-related." ―The Associated Press

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Best Books of the Month
Best of the Month
Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month. See more about The Drunken Botanist on the Amazon Books blog, where Amy Stewart talks with James Beard Award winner Brad Thomas Parsons about bitters, botanicals, and the mad science of mixology.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (March 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616200464
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616200466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (431 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Amy Stewart is the author of seven books. Her latest, Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story. She has also written six nonfiction books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers: The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential. She lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown, who is a rare book dealer. They own a bookstore called Eureka Books. The store is housed in a classic nineteenth-century Victorian building that Amy very much hopes is haunted.

Stewart has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers and magazines, and has appeared frequently on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and--just once--on TLC's Cake Boss. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society's Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 153 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Plants soak up CO2 and sunlight and convert it to sugar and exhale oxygen. When sugar is combined with yeast, alcohol is born. So alcohol is very a very close cousin to the substances that make life possible. Yeast is plentiful in the air, which I didnt know, so many staple foods will turn to alcohol with time. I am not a drinker, but I am a gardener, and I am nosey. So I found this encyclodedic book to be delightful reading.

Stewart does a thorough job of describing the the various plants that form the basis of the alcoholic drinks in the world. She adds a few myth busters such as the fact that a worm in mescal actually just means a marketing tool for cheap mescal and is not remotely hallucinogenic. Good cider is made from apples so sour they are called spitters. Gin is actually flavored vodka. These are not spoilers, there are many such facts. In addition, she feeds my garden soul with the history of how these plants were found, mutated, grown, etc. And she points out which plants have very toxic relatives which look remarkably like the good cultivers so these you should not pick in the wild.

She addresses the taste of each type of drink, how they taste, and how to make a cocktail with each type. And for us clueless types, she describes the "top shelf" specimens and what makes them premium. SHe also explicates the appropriate mixers and herb additives and how these came into popular use. The drink recipes seem intriguing as well. I especially enjoyed the nuggets of social history that accompany the text, for example the extreme creation of the slave trade to harvest the sugar so vital for rum.

I enjoyed reading this book. It is more a collection of essays or entries than one narrative.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on March 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book turned out to be an excellent reference on plants and their many uses by humans. The author discussed many plant uses beside fermenting plant starches into sugars by the addition of yeasts. One could tell the author loved discussing plants with the occasional witty remark and her extensive knowledge of each of the various species. If one could find a fault with the book, it might be the inclusion of many species of which all but those engaged in botanical research would be familiar. But that aside the book was a fun and informative read. The author chose to list all the various plants by their common names rather than list them by their Latin nomenclature, as is more typical in many botanical references, and this point was greatly appreciated.

Although there were hundreds of interesting facts regarding the various plant species, I would like to list just a few to give the readers an idea that the book was interesting and did not just discuss making booze.

1. We learn the Barley is the most prolific grain at converting its starches into sugar to make alcohol because it has a high level of enzymes and that it is an easy plant to grow not being much affected by cold, drought, or poor soil conditions.
2. Peat is what gives Scotch its particular taste.
3. Kentucky produces 90% of all the bourbon in the world. [p47]
4. Cork comes from the Portuguese Oak [Quercus Suber. It is stripped annually with each tree yielding about 4k corks, primarily used in wine bottling, yet the trees regenerate new bark each year and live for about 2 centuries before finally dying.
5.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By mjpcal on March 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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