Nature seems to love making alcohol; take any plant with sugars present in it (any fruit and a lot of grains) and let it sit out where wild yeasts can land in it, give it a little time, and alcohol will appear. Humans have been taking advantage of this for thousands of years and show no signs of losing their enchantment with alcohol. It seems that no matter what area humans lived in, there was *something* that could be turned into alcohol. And if it couldn’t be turned into alcohol, it could be used to flavor alcohol.
Stewart has written a book that, while small, is encyclopedic in style. First she takes us through the plants- grains, potatoes, cacti, grasses - that are fermented and distilled to make hard liquors; then she goes through categories like fruit, sap (sugar maple), and roots that are fermented and the herbs, seeds, nuts, and barks that are used to flavor the brews. For each plant she tells us how and where it was/is used, what it adds to the brew, which brands of the brew are best, and for many, how to grow the plant. This is where the book ties into gardening: while the average gardener won’t be growing grain and setting up a still, most gardeners are able to grow some mint for mojitos, jalapenos for some special margaritas, cherry tomatoes for a Blushing Mary, or a fruit tree. Face it; nearly everything in an alcoholic drink comes from plants except for bacon vodka and Irish cream. And a lot of those things are easy to grow. The author includes over 50 drink recipes for the home mixologist.
The book accomplished two things for me: I have a lot better understanding of alcohols and the history of drinks, and I want to try a lot of things I can’t afford but really want to taste, like violet liqueur and fancy vodka. And I’m looking at my garden with a new eye: what can I grab out of it to make a drink?