Raised in Dallas, Amy Stewart never had an interest in gardening, insisting (understandably) "It was too hot!"
That changed long ago. Upon settling in Santa Cruz, California, Stewart found a climate and culture that sprouted the gardener -- and writer -- within her. From the Ground Up, her first book, is about this development. Since then, she continually has been inspired by her garden and others, writing about botanical "atrocities," earthworms, and flowers.
And, now, booze.
On Wednesday, April 17, Stewart will be at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe to discuss her newest book, The Drunken Botanist.
Cocktails will be served.
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In a phone interview with Chow Bella, the co-founder of the blog gardenrant.com admits that The Drunken Botanist could have been a book easily written from just the North American perspective. Instead, she specifically aims to present the subject matter on a global scale, showing how drinking traditions reach across cultures and display a varied understanding of a people's connection to the land.
Sorghum, for example, a common grain globally, is one that we do not often consume here in the states, yet it is the base for a great many alcohols worldwide, like a prominent beer in Africa and the mao-tai in China. Such behind-the-bar education is exactly Stewart's intent with a book aimed to provide a "new dimension to the plant world," helping gardeners and mixologists alike to understand the "big story" behind the plants and ingredients they use every day.
From a practical drink that was supposed to be a means of avoiding tainted water, to a solution for a farmer's surplus (too many apples to sell? Make some cider!), alcohol has a rich history that read into its flavors and significance to today's society. These plants that make up these drinks have a history, and the liquors in a glass have an origin beyond the local BevMo! or Safeway spice aisle.
Through this book, sorted by species, Stewart illustrates the "botanical relations that read into connections of flavor" and overall compatibility in the drinks we sip on to have a good time. And with the increasing popularity in mixology and specialty liquors, her studies are sure to find a captive audience.
With her new understanding of alcohols and their origins, Stewart says she has become a pickier drinker -- opting simply for beer when the alcohol selection is slim or uninteresting. Her new favorite? Vermouth, more specifically, Imbue from Portland.
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Tomorrow at 7 p.m. you can drink with a woman who can not only mix a killer cocktail, but can grow it for you, too.