The Drunken Botanist is a really cool eclectic little book which is always on my coffee table. It’s a great guide to all the hidden plants in your booze, and how to mix up brilliant drinks by pillaging your own garden. I’m totally obsessed with pulling off that cool cocktail hour vibe at home at the moment, when it’s darker and colder and you just don’t feel like going out, so this is perfect.
I’m really excited that we managed to pin down the author, Amy Stewart, for a quick Q&A on the blog. She’s an expert in both botany and booze, so my kind of person.
So what is a drunken botanist?
Being a drunken botanist is all about getting a better understanding and appreciation of all the plants that actually go into making the drinks we love. A Manhattan, for instance, is a very simple cocktail with only four ingredients, but there are easily twenty plants – maybe more – in that glass! For the drink enthusiasts, when you have a better idea of how all these spirits are made, you’ll be able to make a better drink.
And for people who are more interested in botany than drunkenness, I think the history, culture, and chemistry behind the plants is still fascinating.
Which three plants should any would-be drunken botanist start with?
Mint is a staple in a lot of classic cocktails, but you can branch out as you discover what you like to drink. I love Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers in gin drinks. And scented geraniums, pineapple sage, and lemon verbena are all wonderful in gin and vodka cocktails. And don’t forget fruit – you could grow your own blackcurrants for cassis, or raspberries for liqueur. It all depends on what you like, so please experiment!
What makes a place feel like home to you?
As long as I have a little space to work, I’m happy! I’m writing this from an apartment in the East Village in New York, where I’m staying for just a few weeks. It’s just me and my laptop, and I definitely feel at home.
You’re usually in Cali though – what’s the best thing about living in California?
The weather! We had a horrible winter last year across most of the US, and I watched it from my warm little house in California and was just so glad not to be anywhere near it. I can’t handle the snow.
What’s your favourite drink?
I’m a very big fan of good vermouth. Equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, over ice, is a wonderful drink.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I just finished Meg Wolitzer’s amazing novel The Interestings last night and I’m thinking about starting another one of hers immediately. She’s incredible.
What are your next projects in the pipeline?
I’m writing at the moment – hence being holed away with my laptop! My next book is a novel called Girl Waits With Gun, based on a true story of a remarkable series of events that took place in New Jersey in 1914. It will be out next year, so that’s keeping me pretty busy.
Thanks Amy! I’ll be back tomorrow with more home bar stuff too, and how you can create your own – told you I was obsessed. Oh and I’ll leave you with a little snippet from The Drunken Botanist. Chin chin!