The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
It’s been ages since I wrote a book review. Save for the teeny two sentences on Goodreads, I haven’t been doing much writing recently. Probably because I have been drunk on life in a good and bad way. Highs and lows one after the other have kept me distracted. Speaking of highs, it was after I read “The Drunken Botanist” by Amy Stewart that I was jolted from my ennui. I absolutely had to write about this gem of a book, which is nothing short of delightful, and for a huge curious cat like me, a wonderland of quirky facts and information.
If you like to try different drinks or if you have ever wondered what’s the stuff your drink is made of, then this is the book for you. Stewart says at the beginning of the book, “Every great drink starts with a plant. If you’re a gardener, I hope this book inspires a cocktail party. If you’re a bartender, I hope you’re persuaded to put up a greenhouse or at least plant a window box. I want everyone who walks through a botanical garden…to see not just greenery but the very elixir of life – the aqua vitae – that the plant world has given us.”
Indeed, that’s what I have opened my eyes to with this engaging, delicious read. Stewart begins with plants, moves on to grains, herbs, nuts and seeds, spices, flowers, trees, berries, and ends with fruits and vegetables. It’s astounding how so many entities from the green universe ends up in a single drink. Through it all, she takes us through the process of how the drink is made as well.
If you are slightly on the morbid side (as I feel today) drinks are essentially nothing but ‘yeast graveyards.’ Yeast eat sugar and bring out carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol before dying. Of course, after their sad end a lot of other chemical reactions take place with the fruit or grain in question before we get to pour out the drink. I read about known drinks like whisky and vodka to little-known ones like pulque and chicha. I now know that some beers have corn in the mix and that not all vodka is made of potato. That whisky came from the Gaelic word “uisge beatha” meaning “water of life”. That George Washington was once a distiller who made rye whisky and that his “brand” continues to be sold today as a limited edition.
Stewart also packs in a bunch of cocktail recipes but I found these aimed at mostly the true, cocktail lovers who might go to great lengths to get the ingredients. She tells us about herbs we can grow and plants we can tend to, as well.
The Drunken Botanist is filled to the brim with heady facts, figures, recipes, and little nuggets of information related to drinks and liqueurs that made me addicted. There, all the puns I can think of. Well, I don’t think the review needs to be lengthy. You get the drift. Pour yourself a drink and get this book now.
Verdict: Delightful, engaging, entertaining