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The Drunken Botanist Hardcover – March 19, 2013
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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
"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
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book does not simply concern itself with plants. It uses the plants involved in the creation of various types of alcohol as jumping-off points for fascinating tidbits of history, biology, horticulture, archaeology, anthropology, all revolving around the common inclination of enjoying a cold drink.
Anyone who enjoys cocktails, beer, or wine will surely enjoy this book. Every type of alcohol you'd care to name, as well as some you've probably never hear of, are touched on here. Also included are gardening tips and cocktail recipes.
I wish that I had bought a hardcover copy, since it would make an informative and attractive coffee table book, but the Kindle version is also formatted well and easy to read.
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. As such, it makes perfect reading for those short breaks we all take. I personally got a bit weary with all the different permutations of alcohol and their precursors, but overall found the text to be full of information that I didnt know; much of it is fun to know. As a source book, I would find it excellent. Right now, different variations of familiar drinks and alcohols are particularly popular, so I would especially recommend this book to people who like to experiment with combinations. For the rest of us, we learn something new, always an excellent attribute in a book.