Required Reading: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
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It doesn't take us much convincing that the botanical world is an intoxicating one. But in case there are any non-believers out there, let us introduce you to Amy Stewart's latest book, The Drunken Botanist . In this encyclopedic little volume, Stewart catalogs the plants that have played central roles in the great drinks of the world. An introduction to botany through the lens of the cocktail? We'll take it. Photographs by Erin Boyle. Filled with a lessons in history, horticulture, and mixology, Amy Stewart's book is a welcome addition to enthusiasts of spirits and plants alike. She offers recipes for drinks—and gardening instructions for the plants that make them. The Territorial Seed Company even put together a Drunken Botanist Seed and Plant Collection (sold out for the season, unfortunately) full of cocktail-friendly plants for the garden. We won't give away all of the book's secrets, but we will share one of the recipes that had us salivating. Here, Amy Stewart's take on the Gin & Tonic. She infuses the classic drink with South American flavors, paying tribute to Manuel Inca Mamani, who Stewart explains is the man who "lost everything to bring quinine to the rest of the world." To begin: A few slices of cucumber, peeled. Next: A slice or two of seeded jalapeño, depending on your tolerance for spice. Amy recommends Aviation or Hendricks gin, but we couldn't help ourselves when we spotted this bottle of The Botanist, which boasts that it includes 22 wild native island botanicals in addition to nine of the usual players. We think she'll approve. Muddled together in a cocktail shaker, the gin takes on the simultaneous heat and refreshment from jalapeno, cucumber, and cilantro. A silverplate Cocktail Shaker is available at Restoration Hardware for $59. Our muddler is part of the Shesham Cocktail Muddler Set , available from Leif Shop for $38. Amy Stewart recommends a high-quality tonic water made without high-fructose corn syrup. We chose Q Tonic , made of hand-picked Peruvian quinine and sweetened with agave rather than corn syrup. A pack of 24 bottles is available for $48 from Amazon. Mamani Gin & Tonic , reprinted with permission Ingredients: 1.5 oz gin 2-3 slices of fresh jalapeño, seeds removed 2-3 spring cilantro (or basil) 2-3 chunks cucumber (we peeled ours) celery stalk (optional) 4 oz high-quality tonic water 1-2 cherry tomatoes plus cilantro or basil and cucumber for garnish Fill a mason jar, Collins glass, or short tumbler with ice. In between the ice cubes, layer in a slice or two of pepper, a spring of cilantro or basil, and a cherry tomato. In a cocktail shaker, combine the first five ingredients. Use a muddler or wooden sppon to gently crush the vegetables and herbs. Then add ice and shake well. Strain the gin and pour over ice. Fill the glass with tonic water. Garnish with a cherry tomato and basil or cilantro leaf on a pick. The Drunken Botanist is available through your local independent bookstore or for $15.97 from Amazon. In the mood for something a little bit sweet? See our Mint Julep recipe. It's not for Derby Day, only.