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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  6,699 Ratings  ·  709 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  "Astute Crabbist"
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
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: history, science
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
Jun 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cocktails
Es werde Schnaps
Eines meiner Hasswörter in der Welt der Spirituosen ist das von Gin-Hipstern immer gern verwendete Wort “botanicals” geworden, das zusammen mit der Ächtung der im deutschsprachigen Raum bis vor wenigen Jahren üblichen Wortkombination “Gin Tonic” – wer nur ansatzweise etwas auf sich hält, bestellt heutzutage einen britisch-korrekten “Gin and Tonic” – in die Bars Einzug gehalten hat. Was an dem kantig-klobigen Wort “Pflanzenextrakt” die hippe Szene stört, ist klar, es ist nicht coo
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.
Emma Sea
Feb 10, 2018 marked it as to-read
ebook requested via library
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
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
Jenn "JR"
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cookbooks
I love this book - I keep picking it up and reading it over and over - there is always something interesting in it. Amy Stewart did a lot of great research, the presentation is consistent and easy to consume -- love the section on Maraschino cherries and Marrasca liqueur (I now have a new favorite mixed drink: The Aviation!). I've got this book for one of my best friends and for myself - and might buy more copies for other people!
Joy Schultz
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully detailed, sensibly organized work. Within its gorgeous green cover are sections on fermentation/distillation of various plants (from agave to wheat); information on the items that might infuse a spirit; and last, plants that can be used as fresh mixers and garnishes.

It’s part botany, binomial nomenclature and all; part chemistry, which goes a long way to explaining why plants and their distillates taste the way they do; part history, with carefully sifted facts of how this
Beth Cato
It's only in the past while I have started to try more types of alcohol. I may not be a big drinker, but I am very curious about the stuff. The Drunken Botanist hits all the right notes for me. It's fascinating historical facts, brewing information, advice (and warnings) on growing the stuff yourself, and recommendations on brands and breweries. Essentially, I should be set for any alcohol-related Trivial Pursuit questions.

The sense of humor is dry (or should I say secco?) and livens up the narr
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although my review is listed for the print edition of THE DRUNKEN BOTANIST, I switched to the kindle edition after giving my hardcover copy away as a gift. The hardcover edition is designed like a textbook: educational, but constantly interrupting itself with colorful asides. The e-book version suffers from the overall design because of its inherent linearity whereas physical books make flipping back and forth much easily.

THE DRUNKEN BOTANIST covers anything and everything booze related. Stewart
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I’m an avid gardener, love drink experimentation (and drinking generally) and am a huge cooking enthusiast, particularly when it comes to making obscure things from scratch. This book must have been written with me in mind. A co-worker who is a cocktail nut lent it to me, and I couldn’t put it down. From alcohols to liquors, mixers to garnishes, this book gives you the history of common ingredients to obscure herbs used in a single defunct liquor by monks in the Tyrols. With a particular eye to ...more
Nadine Jones
WHAT ABOUT the LEMON WEDGE? Wheat beers are often served with a lemon wedge to highlight their natural citrus flavors, but some beer aficionados consider this a sacrilege. They argue that good beer should never require additional flavorings. In certain company, what one does with a lemon wedge and a glass of wheat beer could make or break a friendship. It’s your drink, so do what you want—but proceed with caution.

LOL I am one of those people who is horrified by beer served with lemon or lime o
Tom Brennan
A really good reference work on the plants that are used to make the adult beverages we love. It also has drink recipes featuring the adult beverages in question. It goes even further to add guidelines on how to grow the plants, if you've a green thumb. Past the initial read through, I'd imagine it would be dipped into as topics/plants of interest came to mind. I also appreciated the fact that Stewart wrote the book to be understood by the non-botanist layperson (e.g., me), and will look into re ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
If you want to know all about the various plants that have been used through out time to make alcohol, or are added to drinks this is your book. Well written and organized, this book also works good with the Kindle. The end of each plants section comes with a recipe for a drink that some people may really enjoy.
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great little compendium.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar
  • Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas
  • And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails
  • Proof: The Science of Booze
  • Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature
  • Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn't Know You Could Eat
  • The Art of Fermentation: An in-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World
  • The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
  • Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes
  • Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist
  • Craft Cocktails at Home
  • The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique
  • Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live
  • Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today
  • Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey
  • The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy
  • Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom
  • True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home
Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of nine 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. They own an independent bookstore called Eureka Books, which is so independent that it lives in California while they live in Oregon.

You can also find her all over
More about Amy Stewart

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“Gardeners are the ultimate mixologists.” 5 likes
“Perfume makers know that, owing to genetic differences in how we experience fragrances, about half the people who inhale jasmine will think of honey, and the other half, unfortunately, will think of urine. They’re both right.” 2 likes
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