Amy Stewart is, hands down, the coolest plant biology nerd ever. In the centuries-long human quest to brew or distill a stiff drink from whatever ingredients our ancestors could get their hands on, she's authoritative on such topics as why sorghum turns up in more alcoholic beverages than grapes, despite its terrible taste; on the tradition of serving warmed sake, a practical measure to mask the taste of rotgut rice wine; on the impending ecological disasters facing English gin and Mexican tequila makers; why Russian distillers look down their noses at Polish potato vodka; and why you might want to start slicing up organic lemons, limes, and oranges for your cocktail garnishes, unless you like wax in your drink.
The first part of Stewart's book covers the classic eleven alcohol-friendly plants (agave, apples, barley, corn, grapes, potatoes, rice, rye, sorghum, sugarcane, and wheat): the history of their cultivation, explanations of the distilling processes, science nerd anecdotes, cocktail recipes, and the occasional somber reminder about the long term effects that agribusiness is having on our favorite drinks. Part two, the longest of the three, covers the botanicals in our bottles: herbs, spices, flowers, trees (including the mind-boggling story of the three-decade legal battle over the "Angostura" trademark), fruits, nuts, and seeds. Part three covers mixers and garnishes, most of which can be grown in your home garden, if you've got the space and the right climate: more herbs, flowers, trees, berries, vines, fruits, and vegetables.
Here's your chance to bone up on the history and science behind that martini. Come to think of it, this book is the perfect gift for people who like to throw cocktail parties.
A really interesting read for all those who like to get a bit geeky about their booze! This book guides you through the different botanical flavourings that flavour your favourite tipples with lots of interesting titbits to boot!
I bought this as a gift for a cocktail enthusiast and I have to say they couldn't have been more pleased! Tells you everything you need to know about different drink and what to pair them with. It was a great buy!
This is truly a book with a difference. Looking at various popular drinks and the numerous herbs, flowers, trees, fruits and fungi that are used to make them. A liquid botanical garden. What is more there are dozens of recipes to make yourself!
But... you will not find this book an easy read. It is a lot more than just a collection of recipes. It is a distillation, if you pardon the alcoholic pun, of a tremendous amount of reference material into a reasonably easy-to-read (if you concentrate) format with the recipes acting as a contrast. At times it feels like an information overload and you might need a drink or two to relax after reading it. Maybe that is the idea? Self-produced medication.
The book's design attempts to be friendly and "different" but unfortunately it still feels a little disjointed, psychedelic and unfocused - as if someone has just discovered a desktop publishing program on their computer and they are trying out all the features. It just didn't work, for this reviewer at least, and it seemed to get in the way of the excellent content. An unnecessary distraction. An attempt to be twee and cute and failing. If you can isolate yourself away from the design, perhaps with the aid of a snorter or two, then there is no doubting the quality and depth of the underlying information. It translates into a fascinating, thought provoking read. A lot of "light bulb" moments might occur whilst reading the book when seemingly obvious things are highlighted about everyday botanical elements.
A book of this kind needs a great index. Unfortunately this review copy did not have an index to evaluate, so that might be something you should check out prior to purchase. Certainly, for this reviewer, thanks to his dislike of the design and its perceived user-unfriendliness, a great index would be a possible deal breaker. At least with a good index you can dip in and out and perhaps find your way around the book with less trauma.
In conclusion? A potentially great book let down by a somewhat strange design choice. The attempts to "jazz it up" managed to take away the reader's focus from a great concept and engaging content. A shame to see a possibly five YUM (star) book fall on such a basic thing.
One of my favourite books so far. Detailed explanation of a wide variety of botanicals, citrus, raw materials etc which define the taste, smell, properties and flavour of all products you can possibly find behind the bar. This book got me very passionate about herbs and botanicals.
My husband adores this book which I bought as a birthday gift. He interrupts my reading repeatedly with interesting facts. The only problem is the number of plants he now needs to find room for in our small garden.