In The Drunken Botanist, Amy Stewart explores a dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits and fungi that we homo sapiens have tried to turn to alcohol throughout history. Case in point: sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch, from barley and tequila from agave. Rum was born from sugarcane and bourbon, from corn. We’ve distilled and fermented plants extraordinary and obscure, dangerous and bizarre–all in the name of the spirited toast.
Stewart’s inspiration for the book came from a chance encounter at a convention of garden writers in Portland, Oregon. She was sitting in the hotel lobby with a cactus expert from Tucson who had just received the gift of a bottle of small-batch gin. He confessed that he didn’t know what to do with gin–ever.
Stewart knew just what to do with it. Two sprigs of fresh cilantro, one jalapeño and one cucumber later (resulting recipe for Mamani Gin & Tonic is in the book), one cactus expert became a convert to the wonders of booze-botany, and Stewart conceived the broad outline of this book.
This rollicking mashup of biology, chemistry, history and mixology is laced with a dash of sharp wit, more than fifty drink recipes and growing tips for the booze-gardener. Bottoms up.