Book Review: The Drunken Botanist

I got a wonderful gift last weekend from my wife, Lynn. She belongs to the Assistance League of Fullerton and last weekend was their annual Alpha Chapter “Day of Authors.” One of the speakers was Amy Stewart. Amy wrote The Drunken Botanist, “the plants that create the World’s Great Drinks.” It was published in 2013 and was a New York Times Bestseller!


So why should a bourbon fan care about this book? This is a fascinating book filled with  information and fun facts about the plants that create the world’s great wine, beer, and spirits. It includes chapters on cocktail recipes, water, spices, distilling, brewing, even the the plants themselves. She covers anything you wanted to know about the botany behind drinks.


Naturally, I immediately turned to the chapter “The Birth of Bourbon.” I love the quote from James O’Rear: “Limestone in bourbon let’s you wake up the next morning feeling like a gentleman.”


Amy really covers it all. She has broken the book into 3 very creative parts.

Part I: We explore the twin alchemy processes of fermentation and distillation. From which wine, beer and spirits issue forth”

Part II: We then suffuse our creations with a wondrous assortment of Nature’s Bounty

Part III: At last we venture into the garden, where we encounter a seasonal array of botanical mixers and garnishes to be introduced to the cocktail in its final stage of preparation.

Life has been a little crazy lately (you’ve probably noticed the slowed down blog posts). I’m looking forward to taking some time to really dive into this book. I leave you with the New York Times review. It perfectly sums it up!

Some Plants Deserve a Toast
By: Steven Kurutz

Amy Stewart has a way of making gardening seem exciting, even a little dangerous, as she did with “Wicked Plants,” her best-selling book about poisonous and invasive vegetation. In “The Drunken Botanist” (Algonquin, $19.95), her latest, Ms. Stewart is once again out to show the sexier side of the garden, this time linking plants to alcoholic spirits.

Horticulture is ever-present in grape wine and rye whiskey, of course, while tequila is made of agave, and a twist of lime can garnish a martini. Such basics are entertainingly covered in the book. But Ms. Stewart, a founder of the blog Garden Rant, is most fun when serving up esoterica. During President Nixon’s 1972 trip to China, she writes, he was warned by Alexander Haig not to drink moutai, a highly alcoholic beverage made from sorghum. Nixon ignored the advice and “matched his host drink for drink.” The book is full of such tidbits.

Plants aren’t limited to the realm of garden clubs and botanists, the author reminds us; they can get out and party on a Saturday night. Ms. Stewart writes of being in a liquor store with a friend and gesturing wildly at the shelves. “This is horticulture!” she said. “In all of these bottles.”


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