2020 André Simon Drink Book Winner: Max Allen

Max Allen’s twitter pic
Photo by Adrian Lander

I had intended to cover the winning books from the 2020 André Simon Awards last week. However, the very sad news of Steven Spurrier’s death changed all that. Although I haven’t read Max’s Intoxicating: Ten Drinks that shaped Australia, I am delighted that Max Allen won, which I think is a much more imaginative choice than last year’s winner.

Press release:



3rd MARCH 2021: LONDON – The André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards 2020 took place last night in their first ever Zoom, socially distanced ceremony. Joined by an international audience, from Australia to America, this year’s winners were toasted by the guests, courtesy of Liberty Wines.

The winning books were whittled down from an inspiring longlist and shortlist to just four unmissable reads. The main Food and Drink awards provide a taste of other cultures through food and drink at a time when travel isn’t possible while the recipients of this year’s John Avery Award and Special Commendation explore the environment and science.

The prestigious awards celebrate the best of contemporary food and drink writing and are now in their 42nd year. The judging panel was guided by this year’s independent assessors: Lisa Markwell, food editor of the Sunday Times for the food books and John Hoskins, MW, wine expert and restaurateur, for the drink books.

André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards 2020 winners:

Caroline Eden – Red Sands – Quadrille (Food Award)
Max Allen – Intoxicating: Ten Drinks that Shaped Australia– Thames & Hudson Australia (Drink Award)
Harold McGee –  Nose Dive
– John Murray (Special Commendation)
Mark Kurlansky – Salmon
– Oneworld (John Avery Award)

Intoxicating: Ten Drinks that Shaped Australia won this year’s Drink Award. In search of answers, award-winning writer Max Allen takes us on a personal journey through Australia’s colourful and complex drinking history. We taste the fermented sap of the Tasmanian cider gum, enjoyed by Indigenous people long before European invasion and help brew an iconic 1960s Australian lager. Allen also introduces many of the characters from Australia’s boozy history and offers a glimpse of how drinking culture might evolve in the future.

John Hoskins MW, remarked: “There has been an astonishing range of brilliant drinks books this year. What made the short-listed group stand out was their ability to break new ground, to give a really fresh interpretation of their subject. And what made ‘Intoxicating’ the outstanding work in the group was Max Allen’s achievement in weaving the minor world of drinks into a major historical and cultural context. His is a book that anyone with an interest in humanity would enjoy; it is a drinks’ book that will stand the test of time.”

Caroline Eden has this year scooped the 2020 Food Award for Red Sands. Beginning on the shores of the Caspian Sea, in oil-rich Kazakhstan, Eden guides us into the kitchens of underground desert mosques, through the world’s largest walnut forests in Kyrgyzstan, to remote orchards in Tajikistan. Lit up by emblematic recipes, Red Sands is full of human stories, forgotten histories and tales of adventure. According to Lisa Markwell: “In a year of vicarious travel and virtual feasts, Red Sands gave us the most sumptuous and delicious escape into other lands. Caroline Eden wears her 10 years of research lightly in this book, with its compelling exploration of the ‘stans’ through their food, where it intersects with politics, people, geography and history.”

John Avery MW
Believed to be the last photo taken of John @ the 2011 André Simon Awards
presentation in March 2012. It was a quick shot not posed at all.
He died very shortly afterwards and is now remembered by
the Award given in his memory – see above.
My e-bike @Tulloch Station on the West Highland Line
Corrour, the next station south, is in the middle of Highland moorland and has no road access.

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