More Mineral Water Info from a Book on Soda
Cocktail Menu: Spring Drinks at Beretta in San Francisco

The Drunken Botanist Book Review

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart is a truly impressive and important book that I'll be referring to for years to come. 

The book is an entertaining encyclopedia of the plants that are used in fermentation and distillation, in flavoring spirits, and in accenting cocktails. Though botany is the primary focus, Stewart also explains how these ingredients are used in spirits and how fermentation, distillation, and different sorts of infusion work mechanically. 


From the first chapter on agave I knew the book would be revealing. Though I've been to Mexico a bunch of times and know a lot about agave and tequila and mezcal production, I learned so much more by reading this chapter and was surprised to be corrected on a few popular mistruths about the plant and its history (like who named Blue Weber agave and how those supposedly pre-Spanish Filipino stills got there).

Stewart also tackles spirits production, like how yeast (and bacteria) work to ferment things into alcohol, and  sums up how malting works in a few paragraphs while it took me several distillery visits to Scotland to get it down. Other delights in the book include how to grow many of the plants mentioned, sidebars on the bugs you'll find in booze, and covers not just the popular plants but lesser-known ones like sundew, bison grass, and sorghum. There are a few drink recipes in the book, but as always you're best getting recipes out of recipe books. I will, however, try her simple recipe for pickling vegetables and give her olive brining technique a go a I failed so spectacularly at it again this year. 

I honestly don't know how useful or interesting this book would be to the lay reader as it's what I do for a living, but I was both riveted and entertained by nearly all of it. You can preview it on Amazon but you should probably just pick up a copy.




Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Erika Szymanski

Camper, have you read Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation? Not just about alcoholic fermentation -- he talks about fermenting everything -- but still up your alley, I'm sure, and a beautiful book in any case.

Camper English

I haven't read it yet - thanks for the recommendation.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)