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A Botanist Walked Into A Bar: Stewart Reveals What's Really In Alcoholic Beverages

zagatbuzz, flickr

The next time a bartender asks you what you’re having, you could say you’re in the mood for that heady combination of juniper, grains of paradise, wormwood, and olive.

Or, on second thought, perhaps you’d rather sip on that mix of barley, oak, marasca cherry, and yellow genitian. Of course, you could be kind and just order a martini or a Manhattan. But writer Amy Stewart wants you to know the plants that make up your alcoholic drink of choice.

Stewart’s highly entertaining book, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks, traces the botanical history and the chemistry of the various plants that line the shelves of every well-stocked bar, and offers recipes and suggestions for new combinations.

The idea came to Stewart while she was sitting at a bar with a friend, who said that they did not like gin. Stewart told them that all it was was a bottle full of distilled plant. But then she realized after looking around the bar that most of the drinks are made from distilled plants. After the drinks are distilled, then more plants are added at the bottling stage to change the flavor.

“I want the reader to think about where their ingredients come from, and where what’s in the glass comes from,” says Stewart.

Plants and vegetables were used by alcohol makers and brewers to help the farmers use up the leftover produce that did not meet size expectations.

Through this liquid, we are trying to reality. Stewart helps alter the reader’s reality by including different recipes for drinks.

From the common to the obscure, this book is an intoxicating read.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.