Stocking your home bar? Before you invest in spirits, tools and glassware (not to mention that handy bar cart), you should get some expert advice. Luckily, there are plenty of great cocktail books out there to help you make the right choices.
Here are the essential tomes to quench your thirst for both well-made cocktails and the know-how to make them.
For the beginner
If you’ve never hoisted a shaker before, there’s no better beginner’s guide than The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. The Portland bartender and blogger takes you through all the tools, techniques and basic recipes you need.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you should have The Craft of the Cocktail on your shelf. Loaded with 500 indispensible recipes, this was the first guide of the cocktail resurgence, published back in 2002 and written by legendary bartender Dale DeGroff, who brought cocktails out of the wilderness in the 1990s.
For the classicist
Classics are the foundation of all cocktails – even the molecular ones made with naught but a whiff of smoke and a puff of foam. Every home bartender should have at least one good guide to the classics.
Start with Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. This is a lively journey through time, paired with excellent recipes for drinks like the Hanky Panky, the Vieux Carré and the Monkey Gland.
Another great storytelling historian is David Wondrich. Imbibe! is his salute to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, the larger-than-life 19th-century barman who created countless drinks and authored the first cocktail guide, 1862’s How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion, which you should also have in your library.
For the tiki lover
If your ideal drink is made with lashings of rum then lit on fire, you’ll want to turn to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry for all the classic tiki recipes in Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log, Intoxica! and/or Beachbum Berry Remixed.
But for a really thoughtful overview of the mid-20th-century “Polynesian” trend and its rebirth, check out Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki by Martinand Rebecca Cate, owners of the acclaimed San Francisco tiki bar.
For the adventurer
It seems that all the greatest bartenders at the world’s greatest cocktail bars are penning books these days. These beautiful volumes offer luxe imagery, sophisticated bartending techniques and innovative new recipes. They also make great gifts.
Books that any cocktail lover would be thrilled to receive include Death & Co by David Kaplan, The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan, The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual by Sean Muldoon, and The Canon Cocktail Book by Jamie Boudreau.
For everyone else
Are you a proudly Canadian drinker? Try A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails by Victoria Walsh. Feeling the Nick-and-Nora vibe with your swish new bar cart? Check out The Bar Cart Bible by Media Adams. Have an unshaken loyalty to a specific cocktail? There are books about the Caesar, the Old Fashioned, the Spritz, the Negroni, tequila cocktails, and more.
Loving it all and want more? Cocktails: The Bartender’s Bible by Simon Difford comprises 3,000 recipes, 800 of them new. That should keep you busy for a while.
It was legendary New York barman Dale DeGroff who popularized the Cosmo in the 1990s (helped, of course, by the Sex and the City girls). If it’s been a while since you’ve had one, don’t scoff – made properly, this is one delicious drink. This recipe is from DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail.
• 1.5 oz (45 mL) citron vodka
• 0.5 oz (15 mL) Cointreau
• 0.5 oz (15 mL) fresh lime juice
• 1 oz (30 mL) cranberry juice
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
—by Joanne Sasvari