This book was a book that I considered my nemesis. When my book first came out, I was always number two on the Amazon list of best sellers in the spirits category. The Drunken Botanist was always the book that was number one. I have to admit that it is a very good book and I can see why it was always number one. It is a book that I consider a must-have for every spirits library. It is well written and well designed. It is full of very good information about spirits of every nature. I have a copy in my library so I guess that I contributed to its number one status.

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create The World’s Great Drinks: Amy Stewart, Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013. Contents, Bibliography, Index, Illustrations, 381pp.

The Drunken Botanist is a book as much about plants as it is about spirits. Amy Stewart has written several other books dealing with plants and garden insects and their role in history, so it is only natural that she would write a book about the role of plants in the making of spirits. She has done an excellent job of researching the subject. She discusses plants used to create and flavor spirits such as gin and Chartreuse as well as plants such as barley, corn and rye that are used to make whiskey. She also discusses the plants used to flavor cocktails. It is well researched. The cocktail recipes in the book are from a variety of sources and she gives several alternative herbs and other plants that can be substituted in a cocktail if you can’t find the one called for in the recipe. It is a good source for cocktail recipes.

The book is well designed and written. The table of contents is very thorough making it easy to find individual subjects and it is indexed, making it easy to find specific information. Each chapter is organized by the plant discussed and they are in alphabetical order. The illustrations are drawings of the plant being discussed so the reader can recognize the herb or flower by sight. There is a whole chapter about using plants from your garden in cocktails so it is easy to go to your garden and find the plant you want for a cocktail. 

This book is a must read for any person who wants to be a professional mixologist. Stewart discusses the flavors of the plants and how they flavor the drink. It is also a recommended reading for anyone wanting to know the history of a specific spirit flavored with plants. Stewart has researched the spirits and their origin and gives this information for each plant. For example: When she writes about Juniper, she gives some history of the plant’s use through history and how it came to be used in gin. 

This is an excellent addition to any spirits library. It is well researched and will be of use to people researching spirts of all types. It is well written and easy to read. You might be surprised at how often you make reference to this book and you will find it is often pulled from the shelf to find some fact you were curious about. Plants played an important role in making spirits and Stewart has written the book that will be a reference for many years to come. It is a classic book on plants used to make spirits.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller