The Botany of the Bar

Amy Stewart

The cocktail craze has mixologists vying to see who can craft the most memorable beverage—one that will inspire guests to share the latest and greatest bar buzz with all their friends. But concocting a cocktail that captures the right amount of conversation takes more than innovative ingredients—it takes a great story.

In one or two sentences even the most alluring cocktail can be adequately eulogized, and then the conversation moves on. Not so if there’s a funny story or fascinating fact attached to the cocktail. Enter The Drunken Botanist, a witty repertoire of scientific trivia, beverage art, and enticing recipes. It’s quite possibly summer’s best beach read, and most assuredly a bar scene keeper.

Author Amy Stewart, who writes passionately about the risks and rewards of the natural world, including three New York Times bestsellers—Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidentialsays one of the most important things The Drunken Botanist does for bartenders and restaurateurs is introduce new ways that diners may talk about the drinks they’ve enjoyed and their experience in the restaurant.

“People love to talk with bartenders and the information in this book will help improve the bartender’s engagement with customers,” says Stewart.

When a bartender can suggest guests try something new and tell a story behind the plant that created the beverage, then it becomes a memorable event. “People love to repeat stories—that’s why tasting rooms work so well in wineries,” continues Stewart.

And the storytelling doesn’t have to stop with the bartender—armed with interesting details about the botany behind the bar, the restaurant’s wait staff might also share creative and entertaining tales that quench guests’ thirst for knowledge.

For instance, The Drunken Botanist teaches: “Gin is really nothing more than a flavored vodka whose predominant flavor is juniper” and includes a history on juniper and various types of gin, as well as advice for what to do and not to do when serving a classic martini. “A martini should be a small drink served cold in a small glass.” Large pours of several ounces of gin leave drinkers sipping a warm, less-than-satisfying drink.

But it’s not just about cocktails—the book has interesting tidbits on beer as well, such as the fact that beer is not made from hops, just flavored with hops. But interestingly, beer can be made from bananas. At least, beer can be made from the “beer bananas” of Uganda and Rwanda.


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