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The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  8,642 ratings  ·  918 reviews
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 1 ...more
Hardcover, 362 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Algonquin Books
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Sean Gibson
Nov 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Waaaayyyy back in my undergrad days, I fulfilled my science requirement in part by taking classes like Practical Botany and Environmental Plant Biology. So, I know a thing or two about those things that grow in dirt.

Consequently, I found discussions about the necessary starch levels in potatoes needed to make good vodka at least semi-interesting. And now I finally know what "proof" means, which is good (therein lies a delightfully entertaining story that I shan't spoil).

Mostly, though, this boo
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Horticulture in bottles. Booze and botany. The elixir of life—the aqua vitae—that the plant world has given us.

"Every great drink starts with a plant".

So, depending on the mission, one person will be more 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 boat.
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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 more 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 hel
Mary Deacon
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in drinks and plants
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 anymore. 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
June, 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 Bitte
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing

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 more 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 more- like with tequilas and liqueurs- were real
Peter Tillman
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-tech, reread-list
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,
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 f ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 Stewa ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Despite my love-hate relationship with potted plants (they keep dying), the title of this book immediately caught my attention. Maybe that’s because I have a love-love relationship with liquors and most kinds of alcohol, who knows. While writing this review, I was sipping a good red port and musing over all the great anecdotes in this book. The book is best described as an encyclopaedia of the botanical origins of drinks, and how people came to make alcohol out of every plant they could find, su ...more
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew plants were the life of the party!?
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, history
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

“The Drunken Botanist" is a wonderful reference on plants associated with the world's favorite drinks. It's a well-balanced mixture of history, horticulture, and even some agricultural advice and some recipes to boot. It's an ambitious and well laid out book that like a great drink is better served in small measured amounts than as a whole. This instructive 400-page book is broken out into the following three pa
Leah Craig
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insanely informative, and the recipes sound amazing!
Jun 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nature seems to love making alcohol; take any plant with sugars present in it (any fruit and a lot of grains) and let it sit out where wild yeasts can land in it, give it a little time, and alcohol will appear. Humans have been taking advantage of this for thousands of years and show no signs of losing their enchantment with alcohol. It seems that no matter what area humans lived in, there was *something* that could be turned into alcohol. And if it couldn’t be turned into alcohol, it could be u ...more
Serena McClain
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's been forever since I've participated in any kind of book club. I'm generally not good with any kind of organized book reading. However, when my friend Sarah emailed to say that she'd won a charity auction that included copies of Drunken Botanist and the opportunity for the author to participate in a book club discussion, I jumped at the chance.

Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Greatest Drinks by Amy Stewart is a charming, intelligent compendium of the plants (herbs, flowe
Geoffrey Benn
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a graduate student who studies plant biology and also enjoys a good drink, Amy Stewart’s “The Drunken Botanist” is my kind of book. Stewart aims to educate readers about the botany and history of the many plants that find their way into human libations. The book is divided into 3 sections; first covering plants used as primary components of fermentation or distillation, then discussing the many, many plants that are used for flavoring in alcoholic drinks, and lastly giving some advice on how ...more
This book is delicious in several different ways. There's so much to learn, but with Stewart's gleeful exuberance and depth of knowledge, it's nothing but fun and fascination. And thirst, of course. There are lots and lots of cocktail recipes throughout the book. Trust me--you want this book. And buy one for your friends, because they will steal yours when you aren't looking. It's THAT kind of wonderful book.
Mortisha Cassavetes
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is truly packed full of botanical knowledge when it comes to alcoholic drinks. I really enjoyed it. It is always fun learning new things and this book definitely taught me a lot. I really don't consume alcoholic drinks mostly because I never really know what I would like to drink. What would taste good for me? This book goes into not only the making of each spirit but gives the reader recipes and ideas to create your own signature drink. I highly recommend it. ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A couple years ago, I got the hardback from my sister for Christmas. She's the sort of hipster who would actually go through the trouble of chasing down the authentic versions of these drinks, but it still looked interesting!

However, I have a baby and I finally "read" it in audiobook format.

Despite being effectively a herbal with recipes thrown in, it's very soothing to listen to and didn't feel "list-y." Histories and anecdotes flowed naturally, and the recipes were separated from the text wit
Dawn Michelle
This was very good [the narrator wasn't the greatest, but I adapted to her style of speak over the course of the book] and I enjoyed it very much. I love books like this, but they do tend to be A LOT and therefore I would only recommend this book to series nonfiction lovers; OR..people who love the idea of where their food and drink comes from. It was just so fascinating. ...more
Julie Davis
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this from my daughter, Hannah, who loves both plants and cocktails. And when I say she loves plants, she's an arborist so, yeah, she'll talk your ear off about every tree in view. Luckily she's entertaining, engaging, interesting, and knows her stuff. Just like Amy Stewart, who puts similar talents to use in The Drunken Botanist.

As we begin covering the botanicals distilled around the world to provide alcoholic refreshment (from A is for Agave to W is for Wheat), there are interesting
Kaethe Douglas
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks - Amy Stewart You don’t have to be a heavy drinker to enjoy this, although it’s probably best if you have an interest of some kind in booze. So many wonderful kinds of booze. There are recipes if you’d like to host a Drunken Botanist party, but largely a lot of very entertaining trivia about all the plants that show up in all the drinks, in so many ways. An amusingly different way  into the subject.
Library copy
Dec 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Material was okay, I guess. Nothing super surprising or interesting for anyone who's already interested in brewing and gardening. I'm not a big fan of cocktails and wasn't interested in recipes for them. I wanted more history of the plants. But each section was very short.

She also came across weirdly racist? Just oblivious white person racist, the kind where I'm sure the author would be highly offended at anyone suggesting it. She's talking about all these plants from indigenous cultures around
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook
I’m super torn on how to rate this book - my general policy is that I rate according to personal enjoyment.

But here’s the thing: this is an excellent book that I didn’t enjoy. It’s well researched and has what I’m sure are fascinating recipes and useful gardening tips and a lot of Latin words and some really fascinating stories.

The problem is that I don’t particularly like recipes and gardening and plant names in Latin and in an audiobook format, there was no skipping over that.

There were rea
Not perhaps the best choice for a straight read-through, but it is entertaining nevertheless. It would be better as a good thing to browse when you want to try something new.

Still, the history of all the plants is well-researched and interesting. I learned quite a bit about all the different ways people have fermented plants throughout history.

Fun and if you like cocktails, it would provide a lot of possibilities.
Sabra Mc Tea Leaves
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: deep-dives
An entertaining read, a real education (and primer) for botany enthusiasts and the culturally curious. No need to be an alcohol drinker to dig deep into this gem. I read it twice, then planted more herbs and another dwarf Meyer lemon tree. Cheers.
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Learned a ton of interesting things about various plants, trees, and more. It got to be a bit tedious to keep reading at times, so maybe more of a coffee table book instead of reading all at once.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this audiobook from the library, and now I'm buying it in hardback. More than informative. More than funny. I don't often give five stars but this one is getting all five.
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Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen 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.

Stay connected with Amy via her newsletter , where she offers cocktail recipes, creative inspiration, book recommendations, and more!


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“Gardeners are the ultimate mixologists.” 5 likes
“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.” 3 likes
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