Looking for a little summer reading? Good Spirits News has some suggestions for you!
Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle (Running Press) – If you enjoy puns, this is the book for you. Loaded with 65 easy-to-make cocktails loosely based on literature (Gin Eyre, anyone?), it’s a fun and breezy little volume for the book lover who also enjoys a libation while they curl up with a good read. There are even punch-sized recipes for book clubs, non-alcoholic drinks (The Phantom Tolljuice is clever, no?), recipes for edibles to munch on and even a few literary games to play. GSN Rating: B-
An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl (Gotham Books) – As much an introduction to the perennial classics of the last 150 years, as a guide to the men and women who created them; this book is a primer in all things cocktail. What makes it especially fun are the lighthearted illustrations by Elizabeth Graeber who has a “New Yorker Magazine” style of cartooning. But, the heart of this volume is the collection of stories illuminating how and when and where the world’s greatest bartenders came up with their timeless creations. GSN Rating: B+
Gin: A Global History by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson (Reaktion Books) – I have well over half a dozen books on the history of gin on my bookshelf, and yet there always seems to be more that needs to be said. Ms. Solmonson’s brilliant little tome takes it’s place among the best. It truly is a global history, focusing on the development of gin styles from sweet and malty to dry and crisp, along with relevant period illustrations giving the reader a broad sense of just how important gin has been in the world of spirits. After the well researched facts have been laid out, there are a few appendices which are of especial value. Cocktail recipes by the likes of Dale DeGroff, gaz Regan, David Wondrich and others, along with short bios of gins that are worth seeking out. A very nice volume in an ongoing series dedicated to all things edible and libatious. GSN Rating: A-
Cocktail Kingdom Professional Barware Product Catalogue Vol. 1 (CocktailKingdom.com) –Not so much a cocktail guide as a snapshot of high quality tools available to bartenders today, this is a booklet which replicates many of the 20th century barware guides. Japanese mixing glasses, silver julep cups, copper Moscow Mule mugs, gold barspoons and so on…. I own several of these pieces and use them on a daily basis. You will not be disappointed by the quality of these tools. Do yourself a favor and check out their selection of indispensable barware. They also have a selection of museum quality reproductions of classic, long out of print (re: expensive) cocktail guides. GSN Rating: B+
Vodka Distilled by Tony Abou-Ganim (Surrey Books) – Go to any decently stocked bookshop and you will find myriad books on whiskies, gins, rums and tequilas. How many books can you find on the subject of vodka? Answer: Next to none. that situation has been rectified by the inestimable Tony Abou-Ganim. Do you think vodka is a plain, boring spirit used as a fast route to inebriation? Think again. Tony lays out the fundamentals of this timeless spirit and its many uses. The sheer number of cocktail recipes will keep you coming back for more, as well as the insightful reviews of vodkas currently on the market. What Tony understands that few bartenders realize, is that vodka is as complex and subtle as Scotch whisky. After reading this fascinating book, you will realize that all vodkas are not created equal. Well done, and a crucial asset to your library. GSN Rating A
Obituary Cocktail: The Great Saloons of New Orleans by Kerri McCaffety (Pelican) – Having been to New Orleans several times, I’ve always thought that a book about the bars in the world’s greatest cocktail city would be a no-brainer. Turns out that one was published back in 2011. So, not a new book, but one that escaped my notice until now. An over-sized coffee-table book, Obituary Cocktail takes the reader on a journey through the deepest recesses of some of NOLA’s most iconic bars. For anyone who has sat at the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar or sipped an Absinthe Frappe at the Napoleon Bar, this is a walk down memory lane. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of sipping cocktails at Tujague’s or aboard the Natchez Queen, this will serve as an enticement to make plans to visit and stay for as long as you are able. The pictures give a closer look at many of the details a casual visitor might miss, and the text is insightful and expressive in its love of the Crescent City. Beautiful and elegant, this book is a lovely way to spend an afternoon or evening while sipping a Sazerac or Ramos Gin Fizz. GSN Rating: A
Micro-Distilleries in the U.S. and Canada Third Edition by David J. Reimer Sr. (Crave Press) – I’ve previously reviewed the second edition here. Suffice it to say that the third edition continues the tradition with an up-to-the-minute listing of North American craft distilleries. What is particularly noticeable between the two editions is the exponential number of new distilleries. Virtually every state in the union and every province in Canada now have their own craft distilleries. Ten years ago, this would have been a laughable prospect. Certainly, many of these distilleries will either not make the cut (no pun intended) or be eventually be bought out by some major spirits conglomeration. But, the overall pulse of the industry is one of self-expression, excitement and hope. If you are looking for a weekend road trip to go on a spirits tasting, this tome is invaluable. For the liquor connoisseur, this book serves as a guidepost to the brave new world of craft spirits. GSN Rating: B+
The Dead Rabbit Mixed Drinks List 1st Edition (Drinksology) – No. This is not a list of cocktails that celebrate the method of finding out a woman is pregnant. This is THE list of cocktails available at New York City’s latest world class bar. I myself made a journey down to the tip of Manhattan a few months ago to check out this oddly named neighborhood grocery and grog. Oh my god. If you ever have the chance to darken their doors, do so. A veritable step into everything a bar should be and a replication of the best that a local ever was, is epitomized in the Dead Rabbit. When seated upstairs, you are presented with this menu, which honestly should be called Cocktail History 101-104. If I could have secreted a copy on my person when I left the premises, I would have; but I did the honest thing and purchased a copy. It is amazing, beautiful and of the highest standards both in publication and in choice of beverages. You will learn more reading this scant volume in an hour than you might think possible. To truly grasp the development and significance of cocktails throughout history, you need to obtain a copy of this book. Never mind the hefty price tag, it is well worth it. My only hesitation in giving this an A+ rating, is that the recipes do not specify proportions for the home enthusiast. Still, well deserving of a GSN Rating: A-
Aphrodisiacs With a Twist by Mark Sexauer (1 Pony Rye Corp.) – A true cocktail guide, this book seeks to initiate the reader into the world of alcoholic sexual enhancements. Surprisingly, there have been no other cocktail books published that I’m aware of that seek to go under the covers and undress the world of aphrodisiacs. Many of the ingredients are already in your kitchen, but you may be unaware of their potential libidinous power behind the (um…) stick. Over 250 pages of recipes using everything from Banana to Vanilla are included with eye-catching full-color photographs. Some ingredients will definitely make you think, such as damiana and mustard, but they work! Most recipes are fairly simple and require a minimal amount of preparation, and if you have a decent amount of kitchen tools and spices already, you will be well ahead of the game. An excellent book that shows just how forward thinking West coast bartending is, this book gets a rare GSN Rating: A+.