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April 5, 2013 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Drunken BotanistThe Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks
by Amy Stewart
Narrated by Coleen Marlo

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: HighBridge Company
Publish Date: March 19, 2013
Format: Audio, 10 hours | 15 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate
Rating: 4½ of 5

Publisher’s Synopsis:

The Drunken Botanist uncovers the surprising botanical history and fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, and fruits (and even a few fungi). Some of the most extraordinary and obscure plants have been fermented and distilled, and they each represent a unique cultural contribution to global drinking traditions and our history.

My Thoughts:

The Drunken Botanist is well-researched and consists of a through discussion of the plants, the drinks and their history and is packed full of interesting facts, stories and anecdotes. You know that tradition of adding a wedge of lime to your beer? It’s a marketing ploy to disguise the skunky flavor of a beer bottled in clear glass. Why use clear glass? Because it’s cheaper. And how about the worm at the bottom of a bottle of Tequila? More marketing. “Bugs in Booze” is a subtopic we learn about with more than a few plants as they are transformed into alcohol.

I thought I knew a lot about apples and apple trees but I found there was always more to learn. Apples have been around for 50 million years. The DNA of apples is more complex than our own with twice as many genes as a human possesses. This causes an apple’s offspring to be extremely diverse, a new tree will be nothing like its parent with a fruit that will look and taste different. To grow a particular variety, trees need to be grafted to rootstock. Somewhere along the line our ancestors figured out any kind of apple makes great liquor.

The audio production was read at a lively pace by Coleen Marlo. Her pronunciation of the various plant names and drinks was flawless and was an advantages of listening rather than reading. Little sound effects were used when the narrative shifted from discussing a plant to a drink and recipe.

My only quibble, as with so many non-fiction audiobooks, is the lack of an accompanying pdf file. Photos, maps, drawings or in the case of The Drunken Botanist, the more than 50 drink recipes plus sketches of plants and a charts contained in the book are not available. And that’s a shame. There is a webpage for the book,, but if the information was available there, I couldn’t find it.

You don’t need to be a big drinker, or even a drinker at all to enjoy reading The Drunken Botanist. Although organized in an encyclopedia-type format, this is a very readable book put together in an entertaining and at times humorous style and reads like a narrative. Highly recommended for anyone curious about the plant world and the drinks we create from them.

Source: Review copy through Audiobook Jukebox.
© 2013 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. BermudaOnion / Apr 5 2013 1:29 pm

    All of her books look good to me! I’ll have to look for this one in print.


    • Leslie / Apr 5 2013 4:11 pm

      I took a look at the print book in the library and it is a gorgeous little volume. Beautifully laid out and very readable.


  2. Carol / Apr 5 2013 3:23 pm

    Sounds like an interesting book, but one I might enjoy better in print, with the recipes and sketches.


    • Leslie / Apr 5 2013 4:12 pm

      The audio is very good, but for anyone with more than a cursory interest in the subject, the book would be a better choice, or as an accompaniment to the audio.


  3. Suko / Apr 5 2013 7:29 pm

    Lovely sounding book, Leslie! The audio could be enhanced by a booklet of pictures.


  4. therelentlessreader / Apr 5 2013 9:03 pm

    This sounds absolutely fascinating to me. I love learning random facts 🙂



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