Cool Green Review: The Drunken Botanist

December 31, 2013

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Amy Stewart offers a science writer's field guide to happy hour. Photo: Matt Miller/TNC

Think of this as the biodiversity of booze: author Amy Stewart provides the stories of the plants behind every glass of wine, beer and bourbon you drink.

“What I hope to do here is to give you just a taste of the dazzlingly rich, complex, and delicious lives of the plants that go into all those bottles behind the bar,” she writes.

There’s plenty of biology here, as well as history, drink recipes and even gardening tips. Stewart spends time on all the usual suspects (hops and rye and grapes) but also delves into more obscure botanical delights, too (yusu cocktails, anyone?).

She includes everything from garnishes that grow in your backyard to exotic alcoholic delights found only in the world’s most remote corners. You’ll learn the taxonomy of apple spirits and the history of juniper use in gin. You’ll discover the truth of those worms in the bottle of tequila, and why chewed-corn drinks probably won’t ignite the next microbrew craze.

Drunken-Botanist-Cover-low-resStewart notes that “the history of drinking is riddled with legends, distortions, half-truths and outright lies.” She does an admirable job of tracking down the real stories behind plants and drinks, making this a science writer’s field guide to happy hour.

This is a fun little book crammed full of trivia that will amaze your friends and colleagues at your next cocktail party. Or you can just simply enjoy the stories by the fire, fine drink in hand. (And remember, as author Amy Stewart advocates as well, please always drink responsibly).

Matt Miller

Matt Miller is director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy and editor of the Cool Green Science blog. A lifelong naturalist and outdoor enthusiast, he has covered stories on science and nature around the globe. Matt has worked for the Conservancy for the past 14 years, previously serving as director of communications for the Idaho program. More from Matt

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