The Drunken Botanist

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013).

This book is full of fascinating historical tidbits and explanations of the plants and processes that create all sorts of alcoholic drinks, from wine and beer to flavored vodkas and types of whiskey. Stewart delves into all kinds of alcohol-related terminology and trade regulations that will help you understand the labels on bottles. She goes into so much detail that it is almost an encyclopedia in 355 pages. If you want to know the Latin names for the varieties of mint used in mint juleps, you’ll find it here. She also supplies illustrations of all the plants, warnings about plants that are toxic (either raw or after distilling), and cocktail recipes for even the most obscure drinks. Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware is mentioned several times because of their passion for recreating ancient drinks based on archeological evidence. I can imagine this book on the bookshelf of a bartender at a very expensive hotel, or the owners of a craft brewery, winery or distillery. The author was interviewed on an NPR’s The Splendid Table not long ago.

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