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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

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 03-23-13

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.]

304 of 311 people found this review helpful

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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.

32 of 32 people found this review helpful

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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.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • A
  • 05-03-13

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.

69 of 74 people found this review helpful

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  • Dave
  • Upper Tantallon, NS, Canada
  • 08-10-16

Buy the Book

The book is full of interesting information and it covers a vast amount of different plants. Unfortunately, listening to the audiobook is like listening to someone read the encyclopedia or the phonebook. The plants are listed in alphabetical order. If I was an avid gardener, I would purchase this information as a book, place it in my bookcase, and use it as a reference when needed.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Benny S
  • Madison, WI United States
  • 04-09-13

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?


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?

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • c
  • 11-06-16

Better as a read than as a listen.

What would have made The Drunken Botanist better?

The drink recipes break the flow of the material and generally make it difficult to follow as an audio book.

What could Amy Stewart have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

The content itself is very interesting but the recipes really just get in the way. It might have been better to just keep the recipes as a reference in the audiobook version.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The reading felt just a little bit slow considering the type of material being read.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The content itself was very interesting to me. Some of the material is really best enjoyed as a book.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Good subject, the narrator was distracting.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Drunken Botanist to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print edition.

Would you recommend The Drunken Botanist to your friends? Why or why not?

As someone who is interested in starting a craft distillery, I'm interested in soaking up all the info I can to make creative, desirable products. You have to want to listen to a subject like this or have an interest in botany. I would recommend to friends interested in reaching deep into the subject.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Her very exact pronunciations of words became difficult to listen to. Eventually I started listening to the way she was reading rather than focusing on the subject. It wasn't "comfortable" to listen to. That said, I wouldn't tell someone interested in the subject to avoid the book. Here's a tip: Put the speed of the book on 1.25X. It helped tremendously and made me focus on the subject rather than the narration.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. This was a book that wasn't necessarily a story from beginning to end. I enjoyed the subject but needed a break from taking in all the info at points.

Any additional comments?

I'll remind readers of this review I chose this book because I'm interested in starting a craft distillery and wanted to do more than throw together moonshine. I wanted to dig deep into the subject and find out more than just how to ferment corn. This book has a wealth of knowledge. It has some recipes, but it is not a recipe book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Definately not what I expected.

Would you try another book from Amy Stewart and/or Coleen Marlo?

I don't think so.

What could Amy Stewart have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

This book may be good on paper but listening is confusing and uninteresting.
Too little story and too many facts.
It is a "dictionary". That kind of book does best in writing.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I liked the background stories for many of the ingredients.

Any additional comments?

As a non-native speaker there were many less known ingredients that I had no idear what was. I could have looked it up, but I listen in my car. It was not really an option.
I expected it to be more like another book I have read: "A World history in six glasses".

6 of 7 people found this review helpful