Drink it in: Raise a toast to a growing band of home-brewers

When it's too hot to walk as far as the corner shop for a beverage, there's only one thing to do: make it yourself at home.

It's when the thermometer hits 90 that I begin to lose the will for anything, even a trip to the corner shop. A lovely cooling ice-cream? A chilled lager? Why yes, but I'd have to walk all the way to the end of the street. Which in this heat, my friend, is too far.

It's enough to make you sit in your house and wonder what you can make from the ingredients available on the premises. Yes, kitchen-based manufacture, that's the answer. Plus, it'll be experience that'll come in handy come the apocalypse.

However, I do need more information on procedure. Never fear: judging by social networking, I seem to know a lot of home brewers all of a sudden. And not just brewers; there are folks concocting their own various vodkas by dropping in rose petals. There are grandmas out browsing the hedges for berry gins. To top it all, another friend is celebrating her impeding nuptials by making her own elderflower champagne.

Amy Stewart, a Californian bookstore owner and now distinguished horticultural author, is here to help. She veers a bit to the dark side, having previously published Wicked Plants, a funny, informative gazetteer of dangerous, poisonous and fatal flora, but her new book is perfect for my summer afternoon: The Drunken Botanist: the Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks (£14.99, Timber).

Stewart begins with enthusiasm: "Gin is nothing but an alcohol extraction of all these crazy plants from around the world – tree bark and leaves, seeds and flowers and fruit. This is horticulture!" She shows enormous gratitude towards plant science, but also a bit of teasing: "Drunken botanists? Given the role they play in creating the world's great drinks, it's a wonder there are any sober botanists at all."

The book is a proper compendium, starting with agave, the Mexican desert plant. Nowadays, agave is known for being the base ingredient of tequila on an industrial scale, but in days of yore, the ancient pre-Columbians were so partial to a tipple that they worshipped the plant as a goddess named Mayahuel.

What is magical about Stewart's book is the wonderful sidetrails she takes off into the jungle of botanical lore. A brief mention of tequila agaves opens into a broader discussion of the International Plant Names Index and all the controversy that the naming of species arouses. Move further on to A for Apple and learn that the humble pomme has about twice as many genes as a human being – that's a lot of flavour possibilities, I reckon.

Up the other end of the alphabet, there's sweet violet – made into Crème de Violette, a liqueur for those who like their booze to taste like old-lady bath salts. This hard-to-find drink has been resuscitated in the past few years by Eric Seed at Haus Alpenz in America, a man devoted to rescuing fancy drinks languishing in wrongful obscurity. His website (alpenz.com) is a festival of glorious labels. (I am now slightly obsessed with the idea of trying Zirbenz, a liqueur made in the Alps from the nuts of the stone pine. Apparently these are picked by "mountaineers". Can this be true? I'll need to a little taste to decide…)

The book has plenty of recipes for the home-booze specialist, including an extraordinary green-walnut Nocino and a wonderful lavender syrup. In the meantime, I am following Stewart's surprisingly unboozy recommendation for a cocktail of soda and Angostura bitters, while enjoying her discussion of the various trademark actions ensuing from the drink's invention. As she says, "It has the advantage of looking like a proper drink, and is surprisingly restorative."

Restorative? That's a word I've not heard applied to a beverage for donkey's years. Which really does call for a drink.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales & Marketing Assistant

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This UK based B2C and B2B multi...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Executive - Opportunities Across The UK

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

Recruitment Genius: Events Consultant

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has arisen for an ex...

Recruitment Genius: Injection Moulding Supervisor

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy moulding company requires ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003