A smattering of reviews of books sent to the GSN offices since the beginning of the year.
Pretty Fly for a Mai Tai: Cocktails with Rock ‘N’ Roll Spirit by Mitchell Beazley (Octopus Books) If you’re really into puns and cocktails, this book is for you. Basically all of the clever twists you could possibly think of to morph rock songs into drinks. The title is one of the better ones. Here are a few others that are real groaners: “Bourbon to be Wild”, “Rebel Red Bull” and “Eye of the Jager”. Others are pretty good: “Tubular Bellinis”, “Bohemian Daiquiri” and “Champagne in Vain”. A miniscule history of the original song and a typical recipe adorn each page along with a smattering of rather 1980’s style illustrations. GSN Rating: C
American Bar: Recettes des Boissons Anglaises et Americaines par Frank P. Newman (Cocktail Kingdom) A completely authentic reprint of a very hard to find and historically important cocktail book originally published in France. This is the 2nd edition, which is notable for including the first published recipe for a Dry Martini. As well, it represented the epitome of the American craft of cocktails to a French audience. Remember that after prohibition, many world-class bartenders ended up in Paris where their drinks were warmly welcomed, perhaps in no small part to this book. Author Newman (née Newmann) writes in a precise and technical manner in his introduction (sadly untranslated into English), but his observations are spot on. The recipes as well remain untranslated, although there is a helpful French to English glossary. More of a novelty than a book for use today, this beautiful reprinting nonetheless makes a book out of reach for most enthusiasts available once again. GSN Rating: B
Louis’ Mixed Drinks with Hints for the Care & Serving of Wines by Louis Muckensturm (Cocktail Kingdom) It’s saying something when a cocktail book is considered a work of art, such as the iconic Savoy Cocktail Book. This reprint comes close. Holding in your hands you get a sense of the pride and artisanship that was the mindset of both the publisher and the author. The stamping on the cover, the cloth itself and the think and evocative paper inside all lend a sense of awe to the reader. This reprint features an insightful preamble by Philip Duff who notes that Muckensturm approached his cocktails with the lens of a chef. And like a chef, he focuses on wines, even going so far as to list the relative qualities of vintages produced from 1880-1905. But, the cocktails are a snapshot of what was popular at the time in the US as well. Here is the first American printing of the Dry Martini (Just two years after Frank Newman published it in France). Perhaps most interesting is a section on bottled cocktails, which have made a comeback in the bartending world during the past few years. Who knew that Muckensturm was the progenitor of this trend? Overall a gorgeously produced book that has worth in more ways than one. GSN Rating: A
The Home Bartender’s Guide and Song Book by Charlie Roe and Jim Schwenck (Cocktail Kingdom) When did bartenders stop singing? The only one I’ve ever heard is Dale DeGroff and he doesn’t do it while he’s mixing. A rather bizarre book, with quaint illustrations, this is an entertaining if ethnically insensitive book. Irish, Native American or African-American all get subjected to caricatures whether written or illustrated. Perhaps the most interesting discovery about this volume is that it is entirely self-aware that alcohol was illegal at the time of its publication. It may have been that the authors were looking to go out with a celebratory hurrah in trying to recapture the “good old days” of a few decades prior. Granted, there was still plenty of booze available in 1930 in the homes of people who hoarded it once they saw the writing on the wall. But, that being said, there are a few ingredients which would have been difficult to find even a few months into the “noble experiment”. Absinthe had been banned for 15 years and Boker’s Bitters stopped production around 1906. So, perhaps this was just a collection of the authors’ favorite cocktails that they thought would be lost to history unless published. We will never know. One thing is for sure though. Many of these cocktails have survived nearly a century later, whilst the songs have been long forgotten. GSN Rating: B