Everyone is entitled to a weakness, and as long as it harms no one, that's fine! I have never smoked or taken drugs, illegal or otherwise, I hardly gamble,but I do love my food and drink. So a book that gives me a comprehensive account of the various intoxicating beverages that make the human condition bearable was bound to meet my approval. I purchased this book partly with my payment from Amazon Associates, a long awaited reimbursement for writing on Wizzley, and this added to my sense of satisfaction.
The book is quite comprehensive, and it is divided into several sections, beginning with plants that are brewed or distilled into beer, wine or spirits. Amy Stewart has done thorough research into these plants and leaves none out; and this makes the book very informative for anyone who wants to widen their taste buds beyond the constraints of their cultural limitations, besides its constituting a valuable research resource for scholars. The material is alphabetically arranged for ease of reference. A section on strange brews, such as cashew nut apple and date palm wine, which is not made by fermenting dates, but from the sap, adds quite a degree of interest to the book.
The author goes on to deal with flavourings, such as flowers, herbs, spices and fruit, then proceeds to a section on trees, where she deals for example, with substances derived from the American and Canadian favourite, maple and the delicacy of birch wine and beer. The latter is hardly known in Britain, but birch wine is a lovely drink, I can vouch for that, as I sampled it in a woodland restaurant in the Scotland. Amy Stewart's expert botanical knowledge enables her to draw upon a wide range of trees and other plants, including some that I never knew were the source of drinks, such as the prickly pear and the monkey puzzle tree. Her botanical thoroughness is shown by the fact that very plant is given its botanical name and also assigned to a plant family, a taxonomical category a step higher than a genus.
There is useful information on how the brew is made both in the culture in which it originates and in modern societies. She recounts historical accounts of how the brew/spirit originated and how it was used in society, and you will find various brands that produce the brew identified in the text. She cannot resist giving recipes for cocktails where relevant.
But as an expert on poisonous plants, she knows when to give warnings, and this is particularly useful to anyone considering foraging for flavourings etc, for she shows that some apparently harmless plants can be related to poisonous ones, sometimes toxic even to the point of being deadly.This is expert advice well worth heeding.