Intoxicating Plants

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks, talks about plants that have been used for spirits and offers gardening advice, along with cocktail recipes. 

→ EVENT: Amy Stewart reads from The Drunken Botanist tonight at 7PM at WORD bookstore in Greenpoint.

We're searching for the official "Brian Lehrer Show" summer cocktail! Do you have a favorite drink that fits the "drunken botanist" model -- using herbs, vegetables, or fruit? Post your recipe below, or call 212-433-9692 with your favorite. Then, Joel Lee Kulp owner of Williamsburg bar The Richardson will look at your nominations and craft a cocktail to serve at his bar.


Amy Stewart's Favorite Cocktail Recipes from The Drunken Botanist

The Mamani Gin & Tonic

Jalapenos and tomatoes, two South American natives, pay tribute to Manuel Incra Mamani, the man who lost everything to bring quinine to the rest of the world.

1 ½ ounces gin (try Aviation or Hendrick’s)

1 jalapeno (or, if you prefer, a milder pepper), seeded, cored, and sliced

2 to 3 sprigs fresh cilantro or basil

1 cucumber (1 chunk and 1 swizzle-stick-shape slice needed)

High-quality tonic (look for a brand without high-fructose corn syrup, like Fever-Tree or Q Tonic)

3 red or orange cherry tomatoes

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the gin with 2 slices of the jalapeno, 1 sprig of cilantro, and the chunk of cucumber. Fill a highball glass with ice; layer in 1 or 2 slices of jalapeno, a sprig of cilantro, and the slice of cucumber. Strain the gin and pour over ice. Fill the glass with tonic water; garnish with cherry tomatoes on a pick.


Sloe Gin Fizz

2 ounces sloe gin

½ ounce lemon juice (the juice of roughly half a lemon)

1 teaspoon simple syrup or sugar

1 fresh egg white

Club soda

Pour all the ingredients except club soda into a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake vigorously for at least 15 seconds. (This “dry shake” helps the egg white get frothy in the shaker; you can skip it if you’d rather not include egg whites.) Then add ice and shake for at least 10 to 15 seconds more. Pour into a highball glass filled with ice and top with club soda. Some people replace half the sloe gin with dry gin to make it less sweet, but try it this way first – you’ll be surprised by how refreshingly tart it is.



Pimm's Cup

1 part Pimm’s No. 1

3 parts lemonade

Sliced cucumbers, oranges, and strawberries

Spearmint leaves

Borage blossoms or leaves (optional)

Fill a pitcher or glass with ice and add all the ingredients. Stir well. Borage leaves and blossoms are a traditional garnish but not always easy to find unless you grow them yourself.

Mai Tai

1 ½ ounces dark rum (some recipes mix dark and light rum)

½ ounce lime juice

½ ounce curacao or another orange liqueur

Dash of simple syrup

Dash of orgeat syrup

Maraschino cherry

Wedge of pineapple


Shake all the liquid ingredients and strain. Serve over crushed ice in a goblet or highball glass. Garnish with the cherry and a pineapple wedge. If you have ever been tempted to put a paper umbrella in a glass, this would be the time. 

From the book The Drunken Botanist. Copyright (c) 2013 by Amy Stewart. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC. All rights reserved.

Comments [27]

Florence from Yonkers NY

I had a Mauresque in southwestern France recently.

1 oz. Pernod, Ricard or Pastis (anise based spirit)

3.oz. syrop d'orgeat (sweet almond syrup)

water to taste

In the Middle Ages the almond syrup also had barley in it. A votre sante!

Jun. 13 2013 12:16 PM
Dana from Grenoble

Thanks for the cocktail recipes.

I live in the French Alps (Grenoble). I enjoy yellow Chartreuse (as well as the view of the Chartreuse mountain range from my bedroom window!) and Génépi as a digestif, among others.

There's an 'ol plant-based apéro drink here called Suze you may find interesting (I imagine that it has a complicated plant mixture). Melonade, an apéritif from the Drôme region that tastes exactly like melon, is a fave of mine as well.

There's something here called "Chartreusito".. it is a mojito with a shot of Chartreuse. :)

Green chaud: Hot chocolate with a shot of Chartreuse, is a winter favorite here. I enjoy it after a few hours of skiing.

I once had a rum drink here at an African restaurant with fresh ginger juice and some other stuff over crushed ice.. would love to know how to make it!

I miss gin (haven't had it since moving out of NYC)! Will see what's available in these parts..

Jun. 13 2013 12:14 PM
Joe from Croton on Hudson from Croton on Hudson, NY

Hi, I recently came across a recipe for a "Beetnik Martini" that calls for cooking beets, and steeping them in vodka for about a week; then mixing it with a ginger syrup and citrus juice (lemon & lime combo). If you use all organic ingredients you have a real tasty and healthy drink!
Thanks, Joe
Croton on Hudson, NY

Jun. 13 2013 12:10 PM
Jon Harper from recently Greenpoint, now Long Island City

The Jon Harper, invented about this time of year in Seattle, on a slow rainy summer afternoon at the bar:

Krogstad Aquavit
Maraschino liquer
Flamed orange zest
served in a chilled, Pernod (or absinthe) rinsed martini glass.

Jun. 13 2013 12:07 PM
Carolyn Grifel from Greenpoint

I love to purée and strain rhubarb (in spring natch), reduce it with sugar into a (not too sweet) juice. Shake with ice aperol, ice, a squeeze of lemon and some bitters, orange and plum works nicely. Strain and pour into a martini glass!

Jun. 13 2013 12:05 PM
Jenn from Columbus, Ohio

There is a great bourbon barrel gin made by Watershed Distillery in Ohio - add ginger beer and lime and its something divine!

Jun. 13 2013 12:04 PM
Liz Swanson from Stamford, CT

Im also a big fan of Shiso-infused vodka. Very easy to grow--use like mint.

Jun. 13 2013 11:58 AM
Marie from Inwood

I fell in love with dark and stormy's last fall and through the winter.

-- lime juice (to taste)
--dark rum 2oz
--ginger beer (homemade is best and there are a million ways to make the web) 8 oz

makes a magnificent winter warmer....but how to get that flavor in a lighter summer version?

Jun. 13 2013 11:57 AM
lee from nyc

wow... just heard the other cannabis reference... just a tiny drop of proper cannabis extract will do it.
the color of the cocktail should be a pale washed out very slight green after adding magic elixir and before adding the other herbs... if it has more green color it would be to strong of a "magic" drink.
did i mention greenhook gin is amazingly herbal and other brands are floral... there are many good brands of gin.

and... just ad vodka to borscht (beet drink) or shav and serve over ice with lemon for borscht or celery stalk in shav. (green sorrel drink)

Jun. 13 2013 11:57 AM
Chris from Pittsburgh

Aussies eat Vegemite (salty), Brits eat Marmite (sweet).

Jun. 13 2013 11:57 AM
Hakan from UWS

Was just on, and here's my favorite concoction, the Thistle:

2½ oz aged, malted gin (Ransom Old Tom being a good one)
¾ oz Cardamaro (artichoke amaro)
2 dashes celery bitters

Stir on ice, serve with a lemon twist in a chilled martini glass. Cheers!

Jun. 13 2013 11:56 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Marmite = United Kingdom
Vegemite = Australia

Jun. 13 2013 11:55 AM
Josh Graciano from Concord NH

My cocktail invention is simple. Equal measures of gin and Cointreau shaken with ice. We've heard what the contents of gin are, what beyond oranges are in Cointreau. I call it the Speed Limit because my decision to combine them was arbitrary. The flavors are complimentary and the result is delicate and refreshing.

Jun. 13 2013 11:54 AM

Also, using various other infused liquors like lemongrass-infused vodka + meyer-lemon-infused vodka ( and gin + tonics made with kaffir-lime-leaf-infused gin (

Jun. 13 2013 11:53 AM
Liz Swanson from Stamford, CT

Peach Sangria: adapted from Southern Living:

Deliciousness hinges on the ripeness of the peach!

1 (750-milliliter) bottle rosé wine (dry, like a Bandol)
3/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup peach schnaaps
1/3 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pound ripe peaches, peeled and sliced $
scant pint fresh raspberries
2 cups club soda, chilled


1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a pitcher; stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peaches and raspberries. Cover and chill 8 hours.
2. Stir in chilled club soda just before serving.

Jun. 13 2013 11:52 AM
gordon from london

Green Dragon is the queen of botanical infusions.

Jun. 13 2013 11:51 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Gave up the hard stuff decades ago. A pint of Guinness, bartender, and take your time.

Jun. 13 2013 11:51 AM
lee from nyc

1) vodka or gin... very tiny dash mulled cilantro juice, "..." even smaller rosemary extract juice, agitated cucumber slice, squeeze and insert lemon squeeze... shake serve over ice... (preferred gin greenn-hook aromatic gin)
2) in the future... (wnyc special) the same drink with minute @ extractive of cannibis

Jun. 13 2013 11:51 AM
Sarah from Gowanus

This is a stimulating morning show; the drink should be citrus or coffee-based and have a salty rim.

Jun. 13 2013 11:50 AM
Rochelle from Jersey Shore

Devil in the White City

1 ½ oz gin – the bartender recommended Brokers’ Dry Gin
½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liquor
½ oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Lemon Juice
5-6 thin slices English cucumber

Jun. 13 2013 11:50 AM

We love spicy drinks, like the habanero-infused tequila margaritas we make, recipe here -

Jun. 13 2013 11:49 AM
JM from Williamsburg

I made one at home with muddled sweet peas...
2oz vodka, 3/4 lemon, 3/4 simple, shaken with about 2 tsbs muddled peas, and double strained. Color and taste are amazing!

Jun. 13 2013 11:49 AM
Tony from UWS

Whatever drink becomes "The Brian Lehrer Show", it must have a certain level of sweetness to match Brian's.

Jun. 13 2013 11:47 AM
Linda from Jersey Shore

I'm a gin drinker and love cucumber in a gin and tonic.

Jun. 13 2013 11:46 AM
Mat from Harlem

By the way, that Vodka-mint drink I've been calling an "Exotic and Tonic" ... PATENT PENDING!!!

Jun. 13 2013 11:42 AM
Mat from Harlem

I've been making a yummy summer drink by putting a sweet mint variant I grow at home in a bottle of vodka. Let it sit for a few hours then mix with tonic. Yum. And so easy.


Jun. 13 2013 11:07 AM
Hal from Brooklyn

What about homemade limoncello? Can I get Everclear in the New York City area?

Jun. 13 2013 10:50 AM

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