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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
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 Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried