GSN Review: Autumn 2012 Cocktail Guides

Food & Wine Cocktails 2012 by Dana Cowin & Jim Meehan (Food & Wine Books)  Another in the excellent series of annuals published by Food & Wine Magazine.  If you want to get an accurate snapshot of what’s happening in top bars around the U.S., this is the one volume to get.  This year, they’ve revamped the content to an alphabetical list of the classic cocktails that includes several new variations on each by about fifty top mixologists.  Other sections include recipes for party food, and a recommended list of the top 100 American bars.  GSN Rating: A

Cuban Cocktails by Anastasia Miller & Jared Brown (Mixellany)  More than just a follow-up to Anastasia & Jared’s previous volume Cuba: The Legend of Rum, this new book details the development of important Cuban cocktails including the Cuba Libre, Daiquiri, Mojito and Pina Colada.  As with all of their books, there is a lot of research and history here.  But what makes it invaluable are the myriad variations of recipes in chronological order culled from many rare and obscure sources.  As an example there are almost 50 different versions of the Daiquiri from the last 275 years to play around with.  Kudos to the authors for bringing an oft neglected, but quite important segment of cocktailian development to light.  GSN Rating: A-

gaz regan’s 101 Best New Cocktails 2012 (Mixellany)  Literally gaz’s hand-picked choices of cocktails as submitted to him for consideration.  No particular theme or style is represented, but this is rather a compendium of creations from bartenders around the globe.  Each cocktail has a short piece on its creation by the mixologist, along with the recipe and a b&w photo of it.  This makes for a fun sojourn into new realms, which will require you to make more than a few trips to the store to track down obscure spirits and ingredients to make your own infusions and garnishes.  GSN Rating: B

Destination: Cocktails by James Teitelbaum (Santa Monica Press)  If there were one book published this year that made me jealous, it would have to be this one.  James has somehow managed to take the vision and style of travel guides like those published by Fodor’s and Frommer’s and apply it to bar hopping.  And what a long strange trip it is.  Starting with the premise that a bar that has great cocktails is worthy of a visit, he globe hops from New York (arguably the primordial bastion of the great American libation) all the way to far-flung Australia with many stops in between.  Along the way, a picture is painted of how bar-craft and bars themselves have developed over the past few centuries.  Lots of b&w photos grace the pages, along with several of the author’s own cocktail recipes, making this a hefty 400+ page tome.  If you find yourself in one of the over forty major cities, you WILL want to have this book with you to plan your visit.  My only question is, with most of these cocktails ranging in price from $10-20 each, who will foot the bill if I choose to follow his trail.  GSN Rating: A

Traditional Distillation: Art & Passion by Hubert Germain-Robin (White Mule Press)  Not a cocktail book by any means, this is a brief, yet fairly comprehensive look at how to distill grape brandies.  Of particular interest to cocktailians is the section on tasting the finished product.  Understanding what to look for in a spirit, and how to do it, is the next big leap forward in mixology after learning the basics of shaking and stirring.  A very nice selection of full-color period advertisements and alembic still blueprints are included, making this less of a dry treatise and more of an artistic statement on the craft.  The first in a planned series of books, this is a fine start to a promising collection.  GSN Rating: B+

Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons (Ten Speed Press)  With the endless cocktail books that seem to come out on a weekly basis, it is surprising that there aren’t more volumes on one of the essentials of pre-prohibition drinks.  “Bitters” delivers, and then some.  An up-to-the-minute look at the dozens of new craft bitters on the market, along with a dozen recipes for making your own forms the foundation of this work.  As if this weren’t enough, there is a section on setting up your bar, a lengthy list of classic and new-wave bittered cocktails with gorgeous mouth-watering color photos of the drinks and an intriguing collection of food recipes that call for bitters.  I honestly, cannot recommend this book highly enough, as it is beautifully produced, well written and comprehensive in scope.  GSN Rating: A+

Slushed! by Jessie Cross (Adams Media)  I’ve often thought that frozen alcoholic desserts are an area just begging for further exploration.  “Slushed!” fills the bill handily.  Everything from popsicles, ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, mousse, granitas, sorbets, sherbets, and even frozen cakes and ice-cream sandwiches are here with easy to follow directions.  A lot of these will be perfect for the finishing touch to a spirited dinner party, or a lively alternative to the usual over-sweet freezer treats that leave you wishing you hadn’t eaten afterwards.  There are a smattering of color photos, but the real treats are the creative and luscious recipes.  GSN Rating: B+

Never Cook Sober Cookbook by Stacy Laabs & Sherri Field (Adams Media)  As if you needed an excuse to drink from morning until night, here is your justification.  Not a book about drinking while cooking (not recommended), but a book about using spirits and liqueurs in your food; this book starts with a hearty breakfast of everything from tequila eggs to Frangelico French toast, then moves on to a filling lunch of vodka turkey wraps, wine pasta and beer hot dogs, and finally tucking in to a dinner of rum fajitas, gin shrimp and brandy steaks.  If you still have room after all of that, there’s a collection of boozy desserts to cap off the meal.  An interesting drink/food pairing also accompanies each recipe.  Unfortunately, there are no pictures, but if you have a vivid imagination, you can certainly imagine the flavors by reading the recipes out loud.  GSN Rating: B

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