Choirgirl21

Quintessential Cocktail Book

27 posts in this topic

Hoping this isn't a repeat - I did search the beer & wine index to no avail. I'm finishing up the Christmas list and was thinking I'd like to add some cocktail related items to the list. I've started to get into making "real" cocktails and actually was able to drink and enjoy my first Manhattan this year (I'm really getting into bourbon in general), but don't know much about how to do so and often find myself helplessly searching the internet for a good idea when I'm thirsty so a good cocktail book is at the top of my list.

So I thought I'd see what everyone's favorite essential cocktail books are.

I personally would like a book that covers the basics of cocktail making and how to develop a balanced cocktail (list of what to get to have a well stocked bar would be nice as well) and that covers your standard cocktails (like Manhattans), but is generally more modern - using trends that are current and with recipes for newer cocktails as well, or twists on old ones. Not sure if this can be found in one book, but would love suggestions for one or two that fit the bill, and just to hit what books you reach for most. Thanks!

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It's a little bit dated now, but I think Gary Regan's _The Joy of Mixology_ is a must own.

Past there it gets murkier, but that's the only "YOU MUST OWN IT AND READ IT" book in my opinion.

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I have Dave Wondrich's "Killer Coktails." It's spiral bound and is supposed to stand up on the counter, but I've never used it that way. It's a nice introduction to classic cocktails and basic proportions of ingredients (e.g., this is how you mix a "sour") so you can experiment and learn to make up your own drinks. I'm not a mxologist, nor do I play one on the internets, but as someone who wanted to learn cocktails and had a failry basic bar to start, I really enjoyed this book.

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Dale DeGroff's The Craft of the Cocktail is my fallback volume--it has 500 recipes, including all the classics, some decent modern twists, and good cocktail lore from someone who really knows his stuff. If you want something more focused, with 100 recipes, you could get his The Essential Cocktail, but it's actually slightly more expensive (and also about 5 years newer).

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Thanks for the suggestions so far. The Joy of Mixology and DeGroff's first book seem to both be well liked for this purpose on Amazon at least, but I hate that the drinks are in alphabetical order. I see comments in reviews about a chart in JOM that makes it sound like identifying drinks to make based on a certain spirit or ingredients you have would be easier, but I can't see them in the preview to see how helpful they'd be.

I wondered if the index served that purpose but some things aren't even listed there (no maraschino liquor even though there is an aviation recipe in the book, weird).

The layout of Killer Cocktails appeals a bit more although it seems less "all-encompassing" than the other 2, which could be just fine for me to get started.

Can I just mention, I could do completely without all of the history. Maybe a little blurb for each classic cocktail, but I've discovered as much as I enjoy reading, I am not a person who reads the text in cookbooks very often. I know it's sort of contradictory, I'm asking for a book so I can learn about cocktails, but don't want a lot of text, but I guess I just want it to be more functional than historical. I wouldn't rule out a book for having stuff I wouldn't likely read all the way through, but as I collect more food/alcohol books, space does become more of a consideration. Random blurt.

In any event, these all look like great places for me to start. I may pop into a local bookstore to check them out in person before adding them to my wishlist. Keep 'em coming. :)

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The chart in JOM can be invaluable - like the time my dad bought the wrong liquor (i.e. not triple sec) for my mom, so I had to rejigger her usual "Cosmo". Also, it has a chart with the relative weights of various liquors for making pousse cafes that I found very useful.

In either case, it has an index, if you're looking by spirit. I'll double check it in a bit and see if it lists all the drinks in there.

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I personally would like a book that covers the basics of cocktail making and how to develop a balanced cocktail (list of what to get to have a well stocked bar would be nice as well) and that covers your standard cocktails (like Manhattans), but is generally more modern - using trends that are current and with recipes for newer cocktails as well, or twists on old ones.

I hate that the drinks are in alphabetical order.

I am a big fan of the Food & Wine Cocktails that have been released every year since 2005. The format changes every year, but generally it starts out with a list of all the spirits that are featured in that issue. Then there is a section on home bar tools. The main part of each issue are the drinks, usually categorized by spirit. There's always a section on classics, but it is also very good about providing recipes from top mixologists around the world that were on the menus that year. Generally, each issue closes with a sampling of bar food recipes in specific restaurants, and also a list of the best bars found in different cities. Each issue is a small booklet, and I see they run $2-$5 each on Amazon for past issues, $15 for the new issue. I can't recall which issue featured an entire section by Todd Thrasher. Derek's and Adam's recipes have also been featured.

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I am a big fan of the Food & Wine Cocktails that have been released every year since 2005.

Very cool, thanks for this suggestion! I will definitely add a couple of the most recent ones to my wishlist.

Does anyone have The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails? Doesn't appear to be comprehensive or cover all of your traditional cocktails, but I like that it has a section that pairs up liquors/drinks with ingredients based on seasonality and it looks like it might be a nice compliment to one of the above books.

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F&W Cocktails 2009 is the one that features Todd Thrasher and guess what, his section is titled Seasonal Cocktails. 20ish recipes spanning the four seasons. I just perused all the issues, I think there's no need to go earlier than 2009--they aren't as interesting and focus less on individual bartenders recipes/techniques.

Ignoring parts of your criteria, I would suggest Robert Hess's The Essential Bartender's Guide. Spiral-bound, it's a great book for the beginner yet I have never outgrown it. Nice survey of classic and forgotten cocktails, plus some of his newfound recipes. If you dabble in this book, you will learn the fundamentals pretty well, IMO.

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I'll second Wondrich's "Killer Cocktails". While he's known as a cocktail historian now, the history is only enough to teach you the basics of the drink style. It's very helpful to learn the various types of cocktails you'll be making (i.e. sours, daisies, daiquiris, fizzes, manhattan variants, etc.) and how to make your own versions of recipes. He's big into getting the reader to balance their own recipes based on the original. The recipes are not complete, like Mr Boston's, but you'll get the original of each style and variations on the theme.

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The more recent book I find myself using the most this year is the PDT Cocktail book. Covers a wide range of different cocktails, including pretty much all of the classics.

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This also ignores some of your categories (it has a backstory on every drink), but Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails is a great reference for many of the older "classic" concoctions. FWIW I saw a copy sitting behind the bar at Proof when I was there a few weeks ago.

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This also ignores some of your categories

Please, ignore away. I clearly have quite the list of criteria. (And don't fully expect that any single book will meet all of them).

Thanks for all of the great suggestions. I am trying to make time to get to a local bookstore to look through some of them, but in the meantime I put a few on my Amazon wishlist.

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Bought the ebook of beta cocktails last week for $8, boy is that eye opening! Probably an instant classic of very unusual drinks.

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To those of you with any of the Food & Wine cocktail books, how redundant do you feel they are? I just got the '09 book today and am currently drinking a Bitter Moon from the aperitif section since I happened to accidentally leave a half a glass or so of white wine in the bottle last night (horror or horrors turned out to be a happy accident :) ) and overall like the book (especially for $5!) and think I will try a lot of the drinks.


Was considering also ordering the current '12 book to see their new ratings for best spirits and more current cocktails, but don't know how much overlap, if any there will be. Any thoughts? The newer version is a bit pricier ($11) hence my slight hesitation.

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I don't think they are very redundant at all. 2009 was the last year they did spirits ratings, so no worries there. 2010 draws on many more bartenders for the recipes vs 2012, and has more variety. I personally like it better. But 2012's format is to feature 4 cocktails: a classic, a slight riff, a major "re-invention", and the mocktail version. I recall upthread that this might interest you.

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I don't think they are very redundant at all. 2009 was the last year they did spirits ratings, so no worries there. 2010 draws on many more bartenders for the recipes vs 2012, and has more variety. I personally like it better. But 2012's format is to feature 4 cocktails: a classic, a slight riff, a major "re-invention", and the mocktail version. I recall upthread that this might interest you.

Interesting, thanks. I may get the 2010 for now then to tide me over and wait for the price to drop on the 2012. I think that will keep me busy for a while. :P

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If you have any interest at all in delicious, delicious tiki drinks, Beachbum Berry Remixed is a fantastic volume to own as part of your core cocktail library.

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The more recent book I find myself using the most this year is the PDT Cocktail book. Covers a wide range of different cocktails, including pretty much all of the classics.

Think I want to change my answer to this. Picked up a copy and it is very comprehensive, looks like it will be fun to try out the PDT recipes. Gorgeous book. Drawbacks are that it isn't spiral bound, and some of PDT's riffs on classics are a bit novel (3:1 for a martini, no bitters), but definitely those are quibbles.

The author, Jim Meehan, has also been the deputy editor of the Food & Wine cocktail books for the past 6 or 7 years, but again I see little overlap. Given Choirgirl21's interests I would still recommend the Food & Wine series, but PDT would be a great first book for most to read.

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Yeah, I've recommended the PDT Cocktail book to a number of people asking for just a single book. Not being spiral bound is probably my biggest complaint after using it pretty extensively for almost a year. Well, that and the fact that it is so pretty that I don't want to spill bitters all over it, which is inevitable.

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Hoping this isn't a repeat - I did search the beer & wine index to no avail. I'm finishing up the Christmas list and was thinking I'd like to add some cocktail related items to the list. I've started to get into making "real" cocktails and actually was able to drink and enjoy my first Manhattan this year (I'm really getting into bourbon in general), but don't know much about how to do so and often find myself helplessly searching the internet for a good idea when I'm thirsty so a good cocktail book is at the top of my list.

So I thought I'd see what everyone's favorite essential cocktail books are.

I personally would like a book that covers the basics of cocktail making and how to develop a balanced cocktail (list of what to get to have a well stocked bar would be nice as well) and that covers your standard cocktails (like Manhattans), but is generally more modern - using trends that are current and with recipes for newer cocktails as well, or twists on old ones. Not sure if this can be found in one book, but would love suggestions for one or two that fit the bill, and just to hit what books you reach for most. Thanks!

Does anyone have any updated thoughts on the question Choirgirl21 asks above about books, as well as ideas for items to include in a gift of cocktail-related items?  A friend recently said that she'd like to start adding cocktails to the mix when friends come over, and I thought some cocktail-making tools, ingredients, a book, or some combination of those would make a nice gift. The trick is that they shouldn't add up to more than about $50, and nothing should take up a lot of space.  My friend tends to be nostalgic for all things '60s, so a nice pitcher from The Hour in Old Town would be great except that would likely violate the cost/space rule. 

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You may think this is akin to getting dark socks as a gift, but I would suggest the Rosle ice tongs.  They definitely don't take up space, and they address one of the worst cocktail party fouls out there, namely, the non-hygienic handling of ice.  This is the only brand I know of that have teeth on the front of the tongs, so getting the ice cubes out of a Tovolo silicon mold is easy.  Even oXo's ice tongs are too unwieldy for me, the teeth are spaced too far apart so handling cubes is a clumsy task.

 

It's a neutral gift, sure.  You can replace barspoons with chopsticks for stirring, you don't need a fancy mixing vessel, but IMO you'd be hard pressed to replace this particular tool for handling individual, slippery ice cubes.

 

BTW, your friend sounds like she needs a punch bowl, except those are huge.  You might also consider a basic boston shaker, it is very versatile, but I don't know of any 60s style ones that would be decorative.  

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Well I can tell you that I've really enjoyed The Modern Mixologist. Every drink that I've made so far has been excellent, and a few have gone into regular rotation I like them so much. There is a good bit of basic cocktail info in the front for someone who's newer to the process. The potential downside is a few of the cocktails use some outlandishly expensive ingredients, but that's all part of the fun and I don't mind that I might not ever get to make those "as is" myself.

 

The other things I treated myself to last year when I started getting more into cocktails that have been invaluable are a double jigger and a good hand juicer (the latter I seriously don't know how I lived without for so long, for cooking as well!). I already had a decent shaker although I may upgrade in the future but that would of course be essential as well if she doesn't already have one.

If you wanted to invest more in the items and less on a book, I liked someone else's suggestion of the Food & Wine annual cocktail books. I like some better than others as some are easier to search by ingredient. So far I've gotten the most use out of the 2009 book, which can be purchased with Amazon prime for $6.

 

Bitters are also a fun gift idea.

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I know the glass shakers don't get the drink as cold as the metal ones do, but I think these are just lovely. 

 

Edit.  Oops.  I just saw the $50 limit.

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What was I thinking. Your friend would love the 1965 edition of Esquire's Party Book. Food, cocktails, music, games, and party themes--it advises on all. It suggests parties featuring sherry, and has cocktail recipes featuring ingredients that are just now available again (I am partial to the byrrh-cassis highball ). I see you can get it for $10.

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