Cocktail Books

There’s something about summer that brings out the bartender in me. I suppose it must be the allure of sitting outside and enjoying the balmy evening air to the accompaniment of a  little jazz, the twinkle of fairy lights and nibbles. Oh, and the fireflies. Never get tired of watching the fireflies in the summer. I consider them payment for the humdity.

Anyway, here’s a round up of a few cocktail books I have on hand at home and given that it’s wedding season I also think they’d make a great gift with a bottle of premium liquor… and maybe glasses thrown in. Champagne coupes and a bottle of expensive bubbly would be pretty awesome too.

~Atomic Cocktails Karen Brooks, Gideon Bosker and Reed Darmon This is a fun retro styled book which shakes up all sorts of 50’s cocktail nostalgia. The copy accompanying each recipe can be flat out hilarious and drinks include such things as Havana Moon Tea and Cognac Zoom. Read, drink and watch Mad Men.

~Highballs and High Heels Karen Brooks, Gideon Bosker and Reed Darmon Yep, this is from the same guys as above with the same retro styling. With the tag line “a girl’s guide to the art of cocktails” this one is designed for the ladies and the authors have a whole lot of fun with that. Drinks are named Minivan Mom Meltdown Mixer, Bad Hair Day Blaster, Spy Girl and Venus Envy. The accompanying copy is, as could only be expected, full of sass and attitude.

~Tequila Mockingbird Tim Federle Cocktails with a literary twist. This one takes the olive for fabulous and cleverly named cocktails: A Rum of One’s Own, The Yellow Wallbanger, One Hundred Beers of Solitude, The Rye in the Catcher. And then this one which, while hilarious, doesn’t exactly make you want to drink it: The Unbearable Lightness of Peeing…with pineapple juice and absinthe no less. I just couldn’t! This makes a great choice for the English majors in your life. My only complaint is that I really did not care for the oft creepy, sepia toned drawings within.

~The Architecture of the Cocktail Amy Zavatto  This one covers the classics listed alphabetically with a brief history and anecdotal snippets about each one. Nothing special about the drinks really but the design is clever…especially for all the architects out there.

~Southern Cocktails Denise Gee I had forgotten I even had this book until this round up but after going through it I realized it has some really good drinks in it…Upsy-Daisy Lemonade, Scarlett O’Hara and a Mint Julep Martini for starters. And then there’s the Milk Punch which is, and I quote “de rigueur for any daytime soiree in the South, where it’s typically served in a sterling silver punch bowl” and for me embodies Southerners as I see them: sweet and innocent on the outside with one hell of a sting. I first had this at a New Year’s Day soirée and when I asked what it was and was told Milk Punch I assumed, at least my brain made the leap, given dozens of little kids running around, that it was a wholesome drink made for their pleasure. Imagine my shock when I tried some and found it heavily laced with bourbon. There’s also a chapter on finger foods southern style…black eyed peas con queso and spiked pimento cheese. Uhm, yes please.

~Hip Sips Lucy Brennan So I must confess to a certain fondness for this book given that this was written by the owner of Mint and 820 Lounge in Portland, her restaurant and bar which were close by the house we used to live in. It has a really fun but classic design  as well as some really interesting drinks. I was a fan of ordering the Ruby which was made using beet infused vodka or the  Bella with blackberry puree but they were also well known for their avocado daiquiri. Chapters include sentimental sips, fruit escapes and Lucy’s twists, with several pages on cocktail basics.

~Spritz Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau If there’s one book to carry you through warmer months, this would be it. It has a classic vintage design to it and  covers Italian drink recipes using the classic spritz ratio: three parts prosecco, two parts bitter liqueur and one part soda. These are the quintessential Italian drinks of summer…light, slightly bitter and designed to be drunk as an aperitif with a simple nibble…think olives or potato chips which can be enjoyed as you lazily watch the boats float by on Lake Como. This book talks about prosecco, spritz styles and the types of Italian amari traditionally used. A chapter in the back has a handful of recipes to accompany the drinks.

~The Essential Cocktail Book Dale Degroff  This is a nicely organized round-up of both classics, newer drinks and some of the authors own creations. Degroff is a bartender by trade and worked at and developed the drinks menu for the Rainbow Room in NYC. Which is to say, the guy has some serious cocktail cred. The book is divided into sections on classics, modern classics, martinis, sours, highballs, tropicals, punches, sweets and innovations. It has a nice straightforward design which appeals to me with lots of great photos but what I love the most is that every cocktail comes with info on its history and any quirky little details that make it interesting.

~Death and Co. This book comes from the NY bar of the same name. If you’re serious about cocktails this is the definitive guide on how to make them. It’s a deep dive into theory, philosophy and ratios and the science of shaking and stirring. There are some fun bits on their regular customers and how they inspired certain cocktails and the cocktails are divided into chapters according to the liquor used. Obviously, a lot of the cocktails have been created at the bar and there is frequent talk of how a drink got its name…always fun. The only downside is kind of a biggie: the drinks require an extensive ingredient list, frequently with unusual liqueurs that can be hard to find and/or expensive. That aside, this is probably the best book for the diehard cocktail enthusiast.

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