08 March 2013

Imprint Friday: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

It all started at a garden writers' convention and a free bottle of good gin. After mixing up a few jalapeno and gin cocktails to share with her fellow writers, Amy Stewart wondered why gardeners don't know more about booze and why bartenders don't know more about plants. And thus The Drunken Botanist was born.

Here's the publisher's summary:

Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, bourbon from corn. Thirsty yet? In The Drunken Botanist, Amy Stewart explores the dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that humans have, through ingenuity, inspiration, and sheer desperation, contrived to transform into alcohol over the centuries.Of all the extraordinary and obscure plants that have been fermented and distilled, a few are dangerous, some are downright bizarre, and one is as ancient as dinosaurs but each represents a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history. This fascinating concoction of biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology with more than fifty drink recipes and growing tips for gardeners will make you the most popular guest at any cocktail party.
If you've been following Imprint Friday, then you already know I'm big fan of Amy Stewart's (see my reviews of her Wicked Bugs and The Earth Moved). The Drunken Botanist is classic Stewart, chockfull of fascinating facts presented with her trademark humor and easy-to-read style.

The core of the book consists of descriptions of individual plants. For each one, Stewart provides botanical data, the history of how that plant came to be used in alcohol, how the drink/spirit is made, and how to grow the plant. From the common wheat, rye, and barley to the unexpected candidates (parsnips!), Stewart tells us how humans have used grasses, grains, herbs, flowers, nuts, seeds, trees, fruits, and spices to make every conceivable type of adult beverage found around the world.

And don't think this is some boring treatise on how to blend your love of gardening with your taste for rum. No. The Drunken Botanist is just plain fun to read. You can start at page one and read the book to the end, or you can pick and choose your favorite flavors, learning how they found their way into a bottle. Stewart doesn't skimp on including quirky facts, describing interesting people, giving us advice on how to drink and how to shop, and even telling us about the bugs that sometimes find their way into the vats.

Rusty Nail
Here are some of the questions she answers in The Drunken Botanist:
  • Water with your whiskey? Yea or nay and why?
  • Can bourbon distillers really make a case for terrior?
  • What's the result of a marriage between herbs and wine?
  • What did George Washington have to do with rye whiskey?
  • Which plant vital to beer can grow six inches a day?
  • What plant is found in more alcoholic drinks than any other?
  • How did trademark laws affect angostura bitters?
  • What does creme mean when used to describe liqueurs?
  • Can birds get drunk?
You'll learn all this and much, much more as you explore the many plants that are found in your favorite after-work drinks.

Of course, what book about booze is complete without some cocktail how-tos? Fortunately, Stewart doesn't let us down. She gives us recipes for classic daiquiris and old-fashioneds as well as more unusual drinks such as the lavender martini and blushing Mary. We also find information about how to make our own infusions and liqueurs and guides for growing our own ingredients.

As Amy Stewart notes, every good drink starts with a plant. So whether you're a gardener, drinker, cook, or all three you'll find hours of fascinating reading in The Drunken Botanist.

For more information about the book, including some recipes and gardening tips, visit The Drunken Botanist website. I also encourage you to check out Stewart's tour schedule. I sure wish she were visiting a city near me.

Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011. Don't forget to follow Algonquin on Twitter and Facebook and read their blog (where you can sign up for the Algonquin newsletter).

Buy The Drunken Botanist at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Workman / Algonquin Books 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616200466

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Sandy Nawrot 3/8/13, 6:23 AM  

I love it! I think this is the only enticement for me to become a gardener!

rhapsodyinbooks 3/8/13, 7:11 AM  

It's killing me - I'm dying to read all three of her books! Not sure why I haven't yet. I love Algonquin so much!

bermudaonion 3/8/13, 7:59 AM  

Oh man, this sounds fascinating! I need to get my hands on this book!

Daryl 3/8/13, 9:23 AM  

i know the perfect person for this book!

Unknown 3/8/13, 9:23 AM  

I'm fascinated by this topic and think it would be fun to read more, nothing like liquor facts to know and share!! Again, Friday Imprints brings us something useful and unique..Thanks:)

Beth Hoffman 3/8/13, 11:32 AM  

Wen I read the title "THE DRUNKEN BOTANIST" I laughed out loud and immediately my mind imagined all sorts of wonderfully crazy scenarios -- I thought it was a novel about a down and out/eccentric botanist. HA!

Vasilly 3/8/13, 9:14 PM  

I've been meaning to read the author's first book. Now I want to read this one too and I don't even drink. ;-)

Laurie C 3/9/13, 6:47 AM  

There's a Boston event in April that sounds like fun!

Julie P. 3/9/13, 8:20 AM  

I bet her research process is fascinating!!

Anonymous,  3/9/13, 8:50 AM  

Now you've made me thirsty for a grass vodka! Seems like a great book. :)

Anonymous,  3/9/13, 8:30 PM  

Oooh, I want to read it!

Jennifer 3/16/13, 6:06 PM  

I am definitely going to be adding this one to my wish list. Every year I get my boyfriend and his brother some sort of book about alcohol since they are big drinkers. This book will definitely fit into that theme. I'm thinking I might even order an extra copy for myself!

-Jennifer @ www.justicejennifer.com

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