“We stood in the doorway for a minute and looked around us. There wasn’t a bottle in the store that we couldn’t assign a genus and species to. Bourbon? Zea mays, an overgrown grass … Polish vodka? Solanum tuberosum – a nightshade, which is a weird family of plants if there ever was one. Beer? Humulus lupulus, a sticky climbing vine that happens to be a close cousin to cannabis. Suddenly we weren’t in a liquor store any more. We were in a fantastical greenhouse, the world’s most exotic botanical garden.” — from the introduction to The Drunken Botanist
Who knew that horticulture was such an intoxicating subject? In her follow-up to the New York Times bestsellers Wicked Bugs and Wicked Plants, Amy Stewart explores the odd, unusual, and surprisingly common plants that have produced the world’s greatest spirits.
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 medieval physicians boiled juniper berries with wine to treat stomach pain. The Drunken Botanist uncovers the enlightening botanical history and the fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, and fruits (and even a few fungi).
Some 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 rather than French molasses for their New World rum-making, the settlers’ outrage kindled the American Revolution. Captain James Cook harvested the young, green tips of spruce trees to make a vitamin C-rich beer that cured his crew of scurvy — a recipe that Jane Austen enjoyed so much that she used it as a plot point in Emma. And the South American angostura tree, employed by explorer Alexander von Humboldt to treat fever, was at the center of a thirty-year international court battle over the trademarking of cocktail bitters.
With 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.
Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including three New York Times bestsellers: Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential. She is the cofounder of the popular blog Garden Rant and a contributing editor at Fine Gardening magazine. She and her husband live in Eureka, California, where they own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books.