Amy Stewart’s fascinating new book, The Drunken Botanist – The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks, profiles the plants transformed into drinks by cultures around the world — from bourbon, rum, sake, scotch, tequila to wine — as well as the plant ingredients in favorite cocktails.
Ms. Stewart delves into the history of plants used in drinks with interesting details on the botany behind the booze. For example, plants that many of us have heard of like agave, barley, corn and wheat, to the more obscure plants used in fermented drinks like sweet potatoes, cassavas and beer banana. The book also includes recipes for cocktails, syrups, infusions, and garnishes.
If you are a gardener or curious about plants…and want to know more on the background and basis for the cocktails you enjoy, you will love this book. The layout and structure is also fun for just thumbing through plant articles at random.
In the book’s section on Corn (Poaceae – Grass Family), I learned that two fermented beverages were already widespread when the Spanish first arrived in Mexico:
- Corn beer made from ripe yellow kernels and
- Cornstalk wine, made from the sweet juice of the stalk
Interesting to find out that because corn was domesticated so long ago, there are no survivors to its ancestor…so no wild plants can be found resembling corn!
Excerpt from the corn section of the The Drunken Botanist…
Botanist assume that early corn cobs were much smaller, the size of a finger, perhaps. They probably resembled their cousins in the Zea genus, many of which look like ordinary tall grass with an unremarkable seed head. These weedy relations are called teosinte. They look nothing like modern corn. Instead of producing a sturdy central stalk, they take the form of a wide bushy clump of grass.
Corn as we know it today show up in American-made whiskeys, in vodka, in a South African beer made of corn and sorghum and various beverage concoctions in Mexico, including “Quebrantahuesos”, made from fermented cornstalk juice, toasted corn, and the seeds of the Preruvian pepper tree. Quebrantahuesos apparently means “bone breaker”. Yikes!
Today, there are still beers brews that contain corn.
The Corona Extra brand, a pale lager and the top-selling import in the United States contains corn, and is promoted as a gluten-free beer. According to a Wikipedia post “bottles of Corona Extra contain less than 20 ppm(parts per million) gluten, while other typical beers contain well over 2000 ppm. The limit for gluten-free is 200 ppm. Coronas sold in Mexican markets are typically marked gluten-free.” Who knew!
As always, whether your gift of wine is made from grapes, corn or other plants and want to give it as a special gift, we have uniquely textured, hand-woven gift bags — all plant-based and Eco-friendly, too!
Click on the wine bag photo or here for our market pages.
Though hopefully, not too much of the Quebrantahuesos! Really! No broken backs needed.
NPR article: The Sacred Corn Beer of Tarahumara on the corn beer called Tesquino
The Kitchn – Brewing with Adjuncts – Does Corn Belong in Craft Beers
The University of Utah – Genetic Science Learning Center: The Evolution of Corn
And you can click here for more strange and fun wine facts on Native Leaf ‘s blog.
Thank you for visiting our website! — mj