September 15, 2013
My 5 best cocktail books
It is a testament to all things digital that I only have one third as many cocktail books as books about Titanic.
Back in the early 90's when I became a serious student of the doomed ocean liner, there were no online resources or e-books. I couldn't even rely on a Danish book store to order the books I wanted so 3-4 trips a year to London and visits to Foyle's and other amazing book temples were necessary.
Along the way I even had the good sense to visit The American Bar at The Savoy - but not picking up vintage bar books in any of the many used book sellers in Charing Cross Road and the little side streets.
Now some of what I buy are e-books and some are even audio books, but here are the 5 books in my possession I enjoy the most - and unlike Buzzfeed I'm not going to let you suffer through a count down:
1. The Drunken Botanist
This book has it all: Stories, facts, recipes and just a touch of irreverence. Amy Stewart's book can help you with everything from planning a vegetable garden for maximum cocktail enjoyment to enlighten you about the history of Angostura Bitters.
2. To Have and Have Another
Right now I'm on my second read through and I still can't wait to turn the next - digital - page because of the flow of Philip Greene's pen and general greatness of his subject. Mr. Hemingway and his favorite drinks deserve a great book like this.
3. The PDT Cocktail Book
Had this book not existed the Savoy Cocktail Book would occupy this place on my list. But Jim Meehan's book is just a more interesting mix of old favorites and new classics according to my taste buds.
4. The Hour
I have this as an audiobook - until I find and can afford a print edition with this piece of cover art. And I still I laughed out loud at Mr. Bernard DeVoto's more outragerous claims like: Remember always the three abominations are: (1) rum, (2) any other sweet drink, and (3) any mixed drink except one made of gin and dry vermouth in the ratio I have given.
This is treasure - a facsimile of a notebook kept by a Danish bartender in the 1930's - his own personal reference book when the proper proportions of the Sidecar or the Bijoux slipped his mind.
It also holds quite a few Danish cocktails - drinks he either made up himself or drinks that had a short lifespan. Some of the mnamed after Danish actors and popular culture icons. Many of them involving some pretty bad Danish liquors made from raw alcohol and essences.
What about books like The Savoy Bar Book and How to Mix Drinks you may ask. Well, they are great reference books as are my reprints of The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and Bar La Forida Cocktails. But they do not inspire me quite so much to mix stuff on my own or delight me with facts and opinions as the top five do.
What are your favorite bar books?