The Drunken Botanist

On Thursday, April 5, 2018, the Loveland Garden Club hosted author Amy Stewart at Lauritzen Gardens for a lecture “Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks” featuring her book, The Drunken Botanist.

She explained that she was inspired to write the book while sitting in a bar looking at all of the various liquors on the shelf. She realized that they were all made from plants and thought, someone should write a book about that!

Amy spoke about all of the plants it takes it make a Manhattan, which is over 20, and included various stories from her time researching the book. Stewart was a compelling storyteller and the audience traveled through time and around the globe with her.


Here is a preview of the book from her website:

Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, bourbon from corn. Thirsty yet?  In The Drunken Botanist, Amy Stewart explores the dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that humans have, through ingenuity, inspiration, and sheer desperation, contrived to transform into alcohol.

Of all the extraordinary and obscure plants that have been fermented and distilled, a few are dangerous, some are downright bizarre, and one is as ancient as dinosaurs–but each represents a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history.

This fascinating concoction of biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology–with more than fifty drink recipes and growing tips for gardeners–will make you the most popular guest at any cocktail party.

Stewart shared the following recipe for a Mamani Gin & Tonic with the group:

Mamani Gin & Tonic

  • 1.5 oz. gin
  • 2-3 fresh jalepeno slices (or small sweet pepper), seeds removed
  • 2-3 sprigs of cilantro or basil
  • 2-3 chucks of cucumber
  • 1 chunk celery stalk
  • 4 oz. high-quality tonic water (Fever Tree or Q Tonic)
  • 1-2 cherry tomatoes, along with a basil or cilantro leave, on a pic for garnish

In The Drunken Botanist, she explains the process of fermentation and distillation to create alcohol, the plants we infuse our alcohol with and finally wrapping up with garnishes and botanical mixers from the garden.

She explains that for mixing drinks, it’s all about basic proportions. She gives the example of 1.5 oz. of Rum, muddled with strawberry and mint, plus a bit of lime juice and simple syrup with a splash of Velvet Falernum (if you want to get fancy) that is served over ice and topped with soda or sparking wine. This sounds pretty good to me!


Lauritzen Gardens is featuring a art installation called Metamorphosis  which is on display right now through May 13, 2018 that includes works from Sayaka Ganz and Aurora Robson. Lecture attendees wove themselves through the indoor garden display bursting with art before and after the lecture.

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From the Lauritzen Garden’s website:
Millions of pieces of plastic find their way into landfills and watersheds every year, causing harm and producing pollution to both wildlife and human beings. This winter and spring, Lauritzen Gardens will present an exhibit constructed of found, recycled and reused plastic objects. Equal parts artistic and educational, this exhibit will feature fine art, accompanied by a message of environmental stewardship and will change the way that you see plastic. From birds to aquatic creatures to a massive vortex, Sayaka Ganz and Aurora Robson will show how beautiful reclaimed materials can be. As Ganz says, “When we think of these things as beautiful, we value them. If we value our resources we will waste less.” 

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After the presentation, mock-tails and desserts were served in the garden.

“Every great drink starts with a plant.”Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. gardenfancyblog says:

    Fascinating book that been on my list to read since it was published, since I love both plants and cocktails. I’d love to hear the author speak about her book. Thanks for sharing your experience, and especially your photos of that beautiful art installation! Best, -Beth


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