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The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks | [Amy Stewart]

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks

Every great drink starts with a plant. Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley. Gin was born from a conifer shrub when medieval physicians boiled juniper berries with wine to treat stomach pain. The Drunken Botanist uncovers the surprising botanical history and fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, and fruits (and even a few fungi).
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Publisher's Summary

Every great drink starts with a plant. Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley. Gin was born from a conifer shrub when medieval physicians boiled juniper berries with wine to treat stomach pain. The Drunken Botanist uncovers the surprising botanical history and fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, and fruits (and even a few fungi).

Some of the most extraordinary and obscure plants have been fermented and distilled, and they each represent a unique cultural contribution to global drinking traditions and our history. Molasses was an essential ingredient of American independence when outrage over a mandate to buy British rather than French molasses for New World rum-making helped kindle the American Revolution. Captain James Cook harvested the young, green tips of spruce trees to make a vitamin C-rich beer that cured his crew of scurvy - a recipe that Jane Austen enjoyed so much that she used it as a plot point in Emma.

With over 50 drink recipes, growing tips for gardeners, and advice that carries Stewart's trademark wit, this is the perfect listen for gardeners and cocktail aficionados alike.

©2013 Amy Stewart. Recorded by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (P)2013 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"A rich compendium of botanical lore for cocktail lovers." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (156 )
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3.8 (134 )
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3.5 (139 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 03-23-13
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 03-23-13 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "No more cheap tequila!"

    Last night, I realized Amy Stewart’s “The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks” had ruined my uneducated, uncomplicated boring and cheap occasional drink. I wanted a drink to go with my take-out Japanese food last night. I went to a liquor store, found the right aisle and selected a reasonably priced Junmai Ginjo-shu. I knew what I was getting (fairly high grade rice wine) and why I wanted sake labeled Junmai (made with rice only, no added alcohol from other sources). A couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known what to look for.

    - In the future, I’ll ask the pedigree of tequila and avoid mixto.
    - I no longer think Amaretto di Serrano is made from almonds. It might taste of almonds, but it’s made of apricot pits.
    - If I run into anything bottled by Dogfish Head Brewery, I’ll try it. It might be brewed or distilled from a recipe that’s thousands of years old.
    - I’ve never liked a whisky or bourbon I’ve tried, and now I know why – and what I should look for in the future.

    I do wish Audible had a true table of contents. “The Drunken Botanist” has three sections: Part I is devoted to fermentation and distillation, from Agave to wheat. Part II discusses specific fruits, nuts and trees. Part III talks about gardening, and has some great recommendations for selecting plants, and helpful gardening tips.

    Throughout the book, there are fun drink recipes, introduced by the “tap, tap” of a utensil on a glass.

    NPR’s Rene Montagne had a fun interview with Stewart on Morning Edition, and the New York Time’s Steven Kurutz and the Los Angeles Time’s Debra Prinzing liked the book, too. I’ll join them in raising a Champaign mojito in a toast to Stewart and her new book!

    [If you find this review helpful, please let me know by clicking the helpful button. Thanks.]

    84 of 86 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lyn charlotte, NC, United States 03-23-13
    Lyn charlotte, NC, United States 03-23-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun and informitive"
    What made the experience of listening to The Drunken Botanist the most enjoyable?

    Amy Stewarts writing style of mixing history, chemistry and trivia makes this book a rare gem that both entertains and educates.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Drunken Botanist?

    The history of angastora bitters.


    What about Coleen Marlo’s performance did you like?

    She has a silky voice that is a pleasure to listen to as well as her tongue twisting annunciations of the the plants scientific names without a stumble.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there was a few giggles to some of the light hearted trivia.


    Any additional comments?

    If you enjoy science and history you you'll enjoy this book.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 04-17-13
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 04-17-13 Member Since 2009

    A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Drunken Reviewer"

    The amount of knowledge that can be gained from this book is extraordinary! I thought it was such a fun read, even if I didn't imbibe one mixed drink throughout the entire program. Even beer drinkers like myself can gain fun info about the making of, and some history of the processes that culminate with the delicious beverages that craft brewers make today!

    This book is not just for the college student that drinks and happens to be studying botany(or related fields), but for anyone that is curious about plants that just so happen to be made into alcoholic beverages. I was skeptical as to the level of enjoyment I could obtain from this subject matter, however with Amy Steward's fun, and sometimes sarcastic writing style I truly found myself interested in a new field of science!

    If you are just a drunk looking for recipes they are in here. If you never touched a drink in your life this is going to be exciting as well, as you will read of many famous consumers/creators that you may or may not be aware of and their escapades. If you are uninterested in consuming, you can still learn much from a botanical angle on many of the ingredients that go into a large chunk of the economic machine that turns the world.

    This has been one of the better finds on this site. I can't see anyone really being disappointed with this purchase. Enjoy!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine D. Baker Austin, TX 04-07-13
    Christine D. Baker Austin, TX 04-07-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Excellent, awesome book"

    This book was awesome and informative. It got me to try new drinks. It made me want to start a garden. I cannot say enough good things about it.

    It is only about 85% awesome as an audiobook. A lot of the early sections of the book do well as an audiobook - there's a fair amount of 'history' of the different plants and their connections to alcohol. But, by the end of the book, there are a lot of sections that seem more encyclopedic and reference-oriented. It's not *bad* as an audiobook, but I knew that I was going to want to consult this book after I'd read it, which is hard to do with an audiobook.

    I actually got an addition copy of it in hardcover for reference.

    Definitely recommended.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph St. Bonifacius, MN, United States 04-19-13
    Joseph St. Bonifacius, MN, United States 04-19-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Not Worth the $$ (in my opinion)"

    A couple of OK sections on Plants that actually had a story behind them and there relationship with spirits, but for the most part, I found this to be very boring. It was like listening to someone read out of a dictionary. My book downloaded into hundreds of chapters - each a very short (just a few minutes) definition of the plant, botanical classification, and how to make a drink with it. I can Google plants too. I was hoping for more botanical history and fun, informative plant/spirits trivia, not a hundred plant definitions & drink recipes.
    At the risk of sounding too critical, I did not care for the narration. Her loooong pronunciation of vowels and emotion in her voice was more suited for a Romance Novel.
    Overall, I did not care for this book.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Sandy, UT, United States 12-01-13
    Michael Sandy, UT, United States 12-01-13 Member Since 2010

    Artist | Foodie | Dog Lover | Motorcyclist | Beer Drinker | Music Lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A fascinating look at Ingredient and their History"
    What made the experience of listening to The Drunken Botanist the most enjoyable?

    The story behind so many herbs and spices that at various times, drove men to extreme measure. Intriguing and beguiling at every turn. In this book you get something worth toasting.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Drunken Botanist?

    Realizing the power many countries derived from the control of many herbs. The Dutch in particular, proved to be quite unscrupulous in their drive to control the trade.


    What about Coleen Marlo’s performance did you like?

    I enjoyed Coleen Marlo's performance. She's eloquent and energetic in her delivery.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book had lots of surprises and "now way!" moments for me. You see the best and worst in people and the lengths at which they'll go to for the power and wealth that come from botanical gems like nutmeg and vanilla. Things we take for granted today.


    Any additional comments?

    I loved this book. Its packed with all kinds of interesting and surprising facts what could be a rather mundane subject. Amy Stewart puts a lemon twist on this top-shelf cocktail of a book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benny S Madison, WI United States 04-09-13
    Benny S Madison, WI United States 04-09-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Interesting information, unbearable naration"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The narrator is terrible. Her voice work doesn't sound natural at all. She does this weird open mouth pronunciation thing that sounds painfully forced and awful.


    What didn’t you like about Coleen Marlo’s performance?

    Her voice sounds like someone who is trying to sound more refined than they actually are. It's forced, and really painful to listen to.


    Did The Drunken Botanist inspire you to do anything?

    Nope.


    Any additional comments?

    In the section on hops the author discusses the difference between lagers and ales without once mentioning fermentation temperatures. This makes me question all of the information in the book - if this part was missing such an obvious piece of information, how many other parts are inaccurate or incomplete?

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel YAKIMA, WA, United States 06-15-13
    Rachel YAKIMA, WA, United States 06-15-13 Member Since 2009

    I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "perhaps if you LOVE to drink...?"

    Perhaps this is stupid, but I was expecting this book to be a combination of a book about drinks and a book about plants. I'm not much of a drinker and I will not try 90% of the recipes or ideas in the book.

    I was hoping for interesting anecdotes and history about the plants that go into our drinks. This was like reading a cookbook with factoids in little boxes next to the recipe description.

    What I'm trying to said it this was super dullness mixed with itty bitty bits of interesting history or mini-anecdotes. If you wanna read history and anecdotes related to beverages (alcoholic and not) read "A History of The World in 6 Glasses" by Tom Standage. It is way better.

    If you want to make a lot of drinks and be an alcoholic drink snob, by all means, Stewart's is the book for you.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A Worcester, MA, United States 05-03-13
    A Worcester, MA, United States 05-03-13 Member Since 2003

    Love to read. Mysteries, history, romance, biography, current events, science, classic fiction. No vampires. No zombies. No self-help. Find me on GoodReads and BookLikes.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Forget the audio; buy the book"

    There are some books that just don't lend themselves to being read out loud and this is one of them. This is more of a reference book and just does not lend itself to being read like a story. It is meant to be browsed and referred to over and over again.

    That is not to say that it is a bad book, because it isn't. It is chock full of fascinating information. This is one of those books that you are going to want to underline, jot notes and stick flags in so that you can find your way back to the noteworthy--and you can't do that with an iPod.

    As for the narrator. Terrible choice. Can't pronounce the foreign vocabulary. I know she made mistakes on the Spanish so I can only imagine how she butchered the other languages.

    As I said, don't waste your money on the audio. If you are at all interested, buy the book.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer ARDMORE, PA, United States 08-19-14
    Jennifer ARDMORE, PA, United States 08-19-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Makes me want a cocktail..."

    A fantastic read. Never before have I learned so much about botany or cocktails. A great introduction to either subject, be your interest in new recipes, gardening tips, or histories of brewing. This had it all and more, in an easily digestible manner and fun tone, as if to be best enjoyed over the very cocktails filling the pages (...er audio files?). I bookmarked so many fun stories, great sounding liqueurs, and recipes I'd like to try! Strongly considering adding a hard copy to my library so as to have that info more readily at hand. That is, in case I ever become the wonderful home gardening cocktail party hosting person this has inspired me to want to become. One day, if I ever have a space accommodating to such practices, that is. Anyway, it shall be wonderful to order something from a bartender and know the story of its genesis, and might make for great bar trivia!

    My only criticism of this audiobook was a quirk of the narrator's pronunciations- her d's seemed overly pronounced; also bugged me that orange was pronounced throughout as "are-anj".

    Now I kinda want a Jack Rose or a slough gin fizz...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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