The Drunken Botanist: the Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

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The Rules of The Nod:

1)   I choose the books.

2)   I review only good books. In general, I’m a non-fiction guy. My tastes run towards books that focus on mastery; of a craft, of the intellect, of the spirit.

3)   The ratings.

  • 1 Nod — If you are interested in the general subject matter, read it.

  • 2  Nods — A solid read; interesting on several levels. Consider it, even if you’re not particularly interested in the topic.

  • 3 Nods — Do not miss.

4)   Blog meam. Praecepta mea.

The Drunken Botanist

Drunken BotanistWith her books Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs, Amy Stewart scared the bejeezus out of us with some wicked good science writing. Her latest, The Drunken Botanist, takes us down a different path. She doesn’t scare us with science. She whets our thirst for a good cocktail with tales of how we came to cultivate a taste for ethanol.

Does Amy Stewart love her subject? Does she write with grace and enthusiasm?

We spent the afternoon running around Portland, gathering our ingredients. On the way, I subjected Scott to my rant on the many virtues of gin. ”How can anyone with even a passing interest in botany not be interested in this stuff?” I said. “Look at the ingredients. Juniper! That’s a conifer. Coriander! That, of course, is the seed of the 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 bottles!”

I enjoy a beverage. Wine and port, craft beer, the odd liqueur, the occasional G&T all find their way into my glass. Stewart covers all of my favorites, and all of your own, as well.  This book is fun. And why not? Think on it: I like adult beverages. This book is about adult beverages. I enjoyed my botany classes in college. This book is highly botanical. I enjoy chemistry. There is a lot of easy-to-grasp chemistry in here. Anthropology? Check. Economics? Check. Geography? Check. This is not a definitive be-all and end-all encyclopedia, but it is informative, fun and written in a breezy “wink wink nudge nudge” style that makes it worth your time.

Are you a single malt drinker? Stewart reveals all one could possible want to know about malt and peat and the how the geography of the Scottish Highlands shaped the distinctly different flavors of Scotland’s favorite potable.

Can you openly swear “!Me encanta el tequila!”? Amy Stewart takes you through every bit of the plant; from the ancient origins of the drink, to the wide varieties available, and she includes local wisdom on how best to enjoy Mexico’s favorite plant. In fact, every one of the book’s sections includes plenty of recipes for drinks old and new.

From absinthe’s development, to how the sugar in wheat converts to alcohol, to the latest developments in zymurgy, Amy Stewart’s Drunken Botanist will inform, entertain and make you grab a glass.

The Rating: 2 Nods



The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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