“At last, a definitive guide to the medicinal origins of every bottle behind the bar! This is the cocktail book of the year, if not the decade.” —Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

“A fascinating book that makes a brilliant historical case for what I’ve been saying all along: alcohol is good for you…okay maybe it’s not technically good for you, but [English] shows that through most of human history, it’s sure beat the heck out of water.” —Alton Brown, creator of Good Eats

Beer-based wound care, deworming with wine, whiskey for snakebites, and medicinal mixers to defeat malaria, scurvy, and plague: how today's tipples were the tonics of old.

Alcohol and Medicine have an inextricably intertwined history, with innovations in each altering the path of the other. The story stretches back to ancient times, when beer and wine were used to provide nutrition and hydration, and were employed as solvents for healing botanicals. Over time, alchemists distilled elixirs designed to cure all diseases, monastic apothecaries developed mystical botanical liqueurs, traveling physicians concocted dubious intoxicating nostrums, and the drinks we’re familiar with today began to take form. In turn, scientists studied fermentation and formed the germ theory of disease, and developed an understanding of elemental gases and anesthetics. Modern cocktails like the Old-Fashioned, Gimlet, and Gin and Tonic were born as delicious remedies for diseases and discomforts. In Doctors and Distillers, cocktails and spirits expert Camper English reveals how and why the contents of our medicine and liquor cabinets were, until surprisingly recently, one and the same.
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