If you’ve never spent time behind the stick, but want to learn more about making cocktails, cocktail ingredients, or just about the history of the things that you’re drinking, then cocktail books are the best place for you to go for that information.
Sure, you could just go on the Internet, but what’s the fun in that? When you’re making drinks, chances are you’re making drinks for other people—entertaining, if you will. Not only will cocktail books give you the stuff you need to shake and stir your way to greatness, but they look damn good on a shelf next to your bottles.
That being said, not all books on a boozy bookshelf are created equal. You can go out to Barnes & Noble and buy any old cocktail book out of their bargain bin, and you’ll get what you pay for—crappy drinks with mildly pleasing photos at best. What you need are the best of the best cocktail books. You need the books that are going to be the Holy Grail for you when it comes to bar knowledge. Below, you’re going to find those books. Some, like Savoy and PDT are cocktail books in the classic sense (the majority of the content being recipes). Some, like The Bar Book and Liquid Intelligence are more than that—they provide in-depth looks at what you need to do to up your game and, more importantly, how.
It’s safe to say Morgenthaler knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing about drink-making techniques (or anything that even comes close to being described as such). Not only has be won awards for his writing, but he’s won awards for his bartending as well. The combination of those two talents has produced a book that is clear and insightful when it comes to learning the basics of things like shaking methods, infusing liquids, and more.
If there was anyone who would be considered a mad scientist of the spirits world, it’s Arnold. One of the owners of New York’s Booker and Dax and the founder of The Museum of Food and Drink, he knows more about the science of drinks than you didn’t know you didn’t know . Ideas and techniques and carbonation, sugar, acidity, and more are all discussed in a scientific yet engaging and approachable manner. You don’t need a PhD to understand what he’s saying or where he’s coming from, but after reading this book, you’ll feel like you’re well on your way to getting your Doctorate of Drinks.
This book is exactly as the title states: a cocktail book that shows you how to craft a wide variety of drinks with only twelve bottles. That may seem like a lot if you’ve not made drinks before, but it’s an easily achievable goal over a couple months to reach that point. From there, you’ll be able to learn a wide variety of classic cocktails fit to impress everyone from girlfriends to parents to bosses and beyond.
Shrubs are an integral part to many cocktails these days, and in his book, Dietsch looks at how combinations of fruit, sugar, and vinegar can yield a variety of liquids fit not just for cocktails, but for consumption on their own as well. If you’re just getting into cocktail additions like bitters, then this is where you want to go next to up your home cocktail game.
Please Don’t Tell, a speakeasy in New York City, is widely recognized for being one of the best bars not only in the city, but the entire country. One look at The PDT Cocktail Book and it’s easy to see why—owner Jim Meehan’s recipes are insight into what has been and is popular and how various ingredients are being combined in new and inventive ways. This book is great for those looking to see what the “Cocktail Revolution” you may have heard of is all about.
Craddock’s 1930 book is one of the first cocktail books to ever be published. Craddock was a bartender at the Savoy in London in the 20’s and 30’s and in that time produced many different classic cocktails, all of which are found within this books pages. With a first-hand look at Prohibition-era drinking, this book is a must for cocktail history buffs, even if you never mix a drink yourself.
Already have these? Still need more? Check these out:
- The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual
- Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails
- Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons (also Parsons’ newest book, Amaro)
- The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff
- Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh