Posts Tagged ‘Ian Buxton’

It’s looking to be a long winter, so why not curl up with a good book?  GSN presents the latest round-up of new titles coming out in the next three months.  Learn some new tricks, brush up on your knowledge, and try a new cocktail or two!

The Pocket Guide to Whisky by Blair Bowman (Birlinn Pocket Guides) The ever-expanding world of whisky can be a daunting one, with a deluge of new brands, distilleries and literature on the subject making it all but impossible for the amateur whisky drinker to find their feet in the industry. Following on from the bestselling Pocket Guide to Wine, Blair Bowman provides a compact and accessible, easy-to-use guide to help budding whisky enthusiasts on their way. Uniquely, The Pocket Guide to Whisky explores every kind of whisky, from the well known Scottish giants of Glenlivet, to the exotic Japanese Hibiki, and includes the ever-growing and hotly debated blended whiskies too! This little volume will tell you everything you need to know, from what to look for in whisky and what to avoid, to getting the best value for money to the perfect accompaniments to your dram and the ideal whisky for every occasion. From novice to expert, this guide enables whisky lovers to find out more about the brands they already like and to make informed choices as they explore further.

Whiskies Galore: A Tour of Scotland’s Island Distilleries by Ian Buxton (Birlinn Ltd) Island whiskies have long held a fascination and a powerful emotional draw on whisky drinkers the world over. Their special combination of heritage, mystique, and remote location captures the imagination; their highly distinctive flavours are often imitated but seldom bettered. There have been few books on island whisky and none written in recent years. But Whiskies Galore is not your average whisky book. It is not merely a catalogue of distilleries, but a story of discovery and adventure. Join Ian Buxton on a personal journey across Scotland’s islands, where he learns to shoot with high explosives, ends up hurling his dinner into the sea, and comes face to face with a basking shark. Combining an expert’s knowledge of whisky with a travel writer’s fondness for anecdote, and with a keen description of place, he provides a special treat for all who love the islands’ magical drams.

The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Spirits: Selecting and Savoring Whiskey, Vodka, Scotch, Rum, Tequila . . . and Everything Else (An Expert’s Guide … and Savoring Every Spirit in the World) by Richard Carleton Hacker (Skyhorse Publishing) Everyone thinks that they know how to drink, but do you really know the difference between a scotch and a whiskey? How about a gin or vodka martini? Do you know whether Johnny Walker is a single malt or a scotch? Well now is the time to finally learn the definitive answers to these questions, and so many more that you’ve always had about your favorite drinks. In The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Drinking, world-class connoisseur and celebrated critic Richard Carleton Hacker provides you with all the information that you’ll ever need to properly enjoy and imbibe very type of spirit, and to start drinking alcohol the right way. Complete more than a 100 full color photographs, The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Drinking is a perfect buy for every alcohol consumer, whether novice or aficionado. With The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Drinking you’ll be the most knowledgeable drinker in every bar that you walk into and at every cocktail party that you attend.

What a Swell Party It Was!: Rediscovering Food & Drink from the Golden Age of the American Nightclub by Michael Turback (Skyhorse Publishing) Opening this book is like swinging open the doors to another time and place, when big city life was a unique mixture of innocence and sophistication, romance and formality. It spotlights twenty-five legendary clubs that thrived in the 1930s and ’40s, just as Jazz exploded into mainstream popularity and alcohol was no longer illegal to serve. Through these pages and recipes, enter past the proverbial velvet rope into establishments forever-immortalized, such as Chez Paree in Chicago, Café Trocadero in Hollywood, The Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, The Blue Room in New Orleans, and New York City’s Cotton Club. In addition to including entrée, appetizer, dessert, and cocktail recipes from their original menus, each featured venue will be introduced with vivid anecdotes and history, narrated in a breezy style and illustrated with reproductions of vintage photos.

Sunny’s Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World by Tim Sultan (Random House Trade Paperbacks) The first time he saw Sunny’s Bar, in 1995, Tim Sultan was lost, thirsty for a drink, and intrigued by the single bar sign among the forlorn warehouses lining the Brooklyn waterfront. Inside, he found a dimly lit room crammed with maritime artifacts, a dozen well-seasoned drinkers, and, strangely, a projector playing a classic Martha Graham dance performance. Sultan knew he had stumbled upon someplace special. What he didn’t know was that he had just found his new home. Soon enough, Sultan has quit his office job to bar tend full-time for Sunny Balzano, the bar’s owner. A wild-haired Tony Bennett lookalike with a fondness for quoting Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett, Sunny is truly one of a kind. Born next to the saloon that has been in his family for one hundred years, Sunny has over the years partied with Andy Warhol, spent time in India at the feet of a guru, and painted abstract expressionist originals. But his masterpiece is the bar itself, a place where a sublime mix of artists, mobsters, honky-tonk musicians, neighborhood drunks, nuns, longshoremen, and assorted eccentrics rub elbows. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming city, Sunny’s Nights is a loving and singular portrait of the dream experience we’re all searching for every time we walk into a bar, and an enchanting memoir of an unlikely and abiding friendship.

Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned by Alba Huerta & Marah Stets (Lorena Jones Books) Craft cocktail maven Alba Huerta succinctly tells the story of drinking in the South through themes such as “Trading with the Enemy,” “the Rural South,” “the Drinking Society,” “the Saltwater South,” and others that anchor the menu at her destination bar, Julep. With historical overviews, 15 bar snack recipes, and 65 bespoke cocktail recipes, ranging from the iconic Mint Julep (and variations such as Rye Julep and Sparkling Julep) to modern inventions like the Snakebit Sprout, Liquid Currency, and Hot July, Huerta recounts the tales and traditions that define drinking culture in the American South today. Approximately 80 evocative cocktail and location photographs convey the romance and style that distinguish Julep and serve to inspire beverage enthusiasts to relive Southern history via the bar cart.

Belgian Abbey Beers by Jef Van den Steen (Lannoo Publishers) Belgian beer expert Jef Van den Steen looks at the history and production of all thirty Belgian abbey beers. What are the remarkable stories about this authentic, labor-intensive product? In which way are Trappist beers different from the others? In Belgian Abbey Beers, Jef Van den Steen unravels the different stages in the production process of the beers and talks very passionately about the origin and development of the various breweries within the walls or under the license of the abbey. Each brewery is presented with practical information, different types of beer, and tips for tourists. Photographer Andrew Verschetze magnificently captures the beers from the barrel to the glass.




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Here’s my seasonal roundup of some of the latest cocktail and spirits related books on the market. 

101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die by Ian Buxton (Hatchette)  This is the second volume by Ian Buxton, which oddly enough has almost the exact same title as his previous book.  Be that as it may, this book will appeal to collectors and those who want to try to expand their whiskey experience.  Broken down into an alphabetical list of countries from Australia to Wales, with a few interesting bonuses at the end, most of the whiskies listed are relatively accessible to consumers, and not priced into the stratosphere.  You could still easily go broke trying to collect them all, but hey, you only live once, and it might be fun to try.  The writing is informative and breezy with a conversational style and the full color pictures of each bottle are appealing.  A nice little  coffee table book for the whiskey enthusiast.  GSN Rating: B+

Iconic Spirits by Mark Spivak (Lyons Press) A tidy little book full of history and anecdotes behind twelve of the world’s most iconic spirits.  You’ll find moonshine, absinthe and St. Germaine’s stories alongside those of gin, rum and scotch.  The stories themselves are written like miniature Ken Burns documentaries, and followed up with a smattering of some of the most loved cocktails that feature each spirit.  Photos are few, but there is a full color section in the middle of the book which show a variety of liquor advertisements from the last few centuries.  This is a great book for bartenders to read, as it will give them plenty of stories to share while they’re creating classic libations for their customers.  GSN Rating B+

The Best Shots You’ve Never Tried by Andrew Bohrer (Adams Media)  The author tends bar at Rob Roy in Seattle, so that’s a good sign.  Despite the somewhat gaudy cover, the book itself is filled with a wide variety of excellent recipes.  Though calling them shots, these are actually miniature versions of cocktails.  Why has no one else thought of this before?  It actually makes sense, and allows for cocktail flights or tasting parties.  Everything from miniature sidecars and pisco sours, to market fresh shots, holiday and dessert drinks to some pretty wild shots calling for unusual ingredients like yogurt, sweet & sour sauce and a packet of Italian salad dressing.  The recipes in here can be made by anyone and will keep you busy for a while.  Bring out this book at your next party and make sure you have plenty of shot glasses on hand.  GSN Rating: A-

Let’s Bring Back The Cocktail Edition by Leslie M.M. Blume (Chronicle Books)  The title of this book was a mystery to me, until I discovered that the author’s previous tome was entitled, “Let’s Bring Back”.  So, this is a follow-up to a book about semi-forgotten lore from days gone by.  When applied to cocktails, we’re looking at a collection of libations from the golden age of bartending, i.e. pre-prohibition.  Sourced from period guides of the day, this recipe book is similar to Ted Haigh’s excellent book “Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails”.  Arranged in alphabetical order starting with the Algonquin and ending with the Zombie, there are 144 cocktail recipes listed along with some short anecdotes behind their creation.  But, rest assured there aren’t too many here that you’ll find in Haigh’s book; and unlike that book, you won’t have to track down obscure spirits.  Overall, this is a fun book for those looking to hearken back to the days before molecular mixology.  GSN Rating: B+

Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book by Frederic Yarm (Print on Demand via Amazon.com) No, not the Mr. Boston Cocktail Guide, this is a compendium of recipes from Boston area bars, taverns and pubs created over the last few years.  The author was inspired by “Left Coast Libations” which was published a few years ago and which I have previously reviewed. The backbone of this new volume is a chapter about the bars themselves broken down by neighborhood.  Other sections include bartending technique, syrup recipes (over 20), and a short list of online sources for syrups in case you’re too lazy to make your own.  As this is a print-on-demand book, there are no frills here (i.e. no pretty color pictures), but each drink has a one line description of where it originated.  GSN Rating: B

The Artisan Soda Workshop by Andrea Lynn (Ulysses Press)  It’s the next “new” thing in mixology.  Making your own sodas and syrups for cocktails.  And why not?  Why limit yourself to whatever you can buy from your local bottler?  What’s great about this book is that it makes it easy for anyone who has access to a halfway decent produce and spice market to make their own better tasting mixers at home, providing you buy one key piece of equipment, a Sodastream.  It’s an investment, that I myself have been using for over a year now to great benefit.  The 70 recipes are accompanied by a few dozen color pictures and easy to follow instructions.  It would have been nice to have this slight volume spiral bound in order to keep it open while working, but that’s just a wish.  Honestly, this book will provide the basis of hundreds of new cocktail ideas for you.  It gets my vote for best new cocktail related book of the season.  GSN Rating: A+

Drinking in Maine by Michael Sanders & Russell French (Table Arts Media)  This book is along the lines of San Francisco’s Absinthe Brasserie & Bar’s book “The Art of the Bar” which was published several years ago.  Full of recipes calling for artisanal and locally sourced products, spirited and otherwise; this book is a snapshot of current cocktail trends in our most Northeastern American state.  Each drink has a beautiful photograph, ingredients, clear instructions and a bit about where the drink was created.  Additional sections list info on contacting the restaurants where they are served, some syrup and infusion recipes, as well as where to purchase many of the handcrafted ingredients which are made in Maine.  Really, a quite pretty little volume with the only drawback being that you’ll need to make a hefty investment in the ingredients to accurately recreate the drinks.  GSN Rating: B+

Dr. Cocktail by Alex Ott (Running Press) Part health guide and part bartending guide, this new book comes from a direction that few mixologists have explored.  How can you make an alcoholic drink that is good for you, and tastes like a real cocktail?  Ott certainly has the street cred, as he has worked as brand rep for several large companies, as well as earning the title of “Best Bartender of the Year”.  The recipes are varied and beautifully photographed, and each drink has a short essay on the health properties of the ingredients.  Of particular note are the sections on garnishing.  This book is perfect for the foodie as well as the advanced mixologist, as there is a lot of content here that gets you thinking about the effect what we imbibe and ingest has on our bodies.  GSN Rating: A+

The New Old Bar by Steve McDonagh & Dan Smith (Midway)  I’ve always thought that pairing cocktails with small plates was a fantastic idea.  The authors do this very thing as a business venture called The Hearty Boys.  This book gives a lot of insight into bar snacks and why they work so well with cocktails.  Two thirds of the book is given over to cocktail recipes, both classics and many originals.  The balance is composed of snack recipes ranging from the sweet and sublime Bacon and Cashew Brittle to the quintessential Acadian comfort food, Poutine.  Lastly, there is a section of appropriate toasts for special drinking occasions, my favorite being, “I’ve drank to your health in taverns, I’ve drank to your health in my home, I’ve drank to your health so damn many times, I believe I’ve ruined my own!”  GSN Rating: B+

New Orleans Classic Cocktails by Kit Wohl (Pelican)  Having been to New Orleans several times, I can honestly say that in my opinion, it is the spiritual birthplace of the cocktail.  So many of the great libations hail from NOLA, that it’s almost inconceivable.  The Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, Vieux Carre, Grasshopper and Hurricane are bit a few of the classics from the Crescent City.  So, it’s no wonder that there have been a number of books written about these wonderfully inventive drinks.  This latest contains the usual suspects, but also includes plenty of originals by noted NOLA mixologists such as Chris Hannah, Chris & Laura McMillian and Neal Bodenheimer.  Rather than focusing on New Orleans itself, this book is really just a collection of recipes with a few notes about the drinks along with a shot of the cocktail.  It would have been nice to have a picture of the drink and it’s creator in the bar where it originated, but it was not to be.  To get the true flavor of New Orleans, you need to see the people and atmosphere of the city, as well as sip its drinks.  GSN Rating: B

Micro-Distilleries in the U.S. and Canada Second Edition by David J. Reimer Sr. (Crave Press)  The fact that there’s a book like this at all in it’s 2nd edition, says something about the state of distillation in North America.  It’s encouraging to realize that there are more craft spirits available today than there have been in the last 100 years.  And not just base spirits like vodka, bourbon or rum; but interesting liqueurs, infusions and even amaros and aquavits!  If you want to get an idea of what’s happening in the American and Canadian spirit worlds, this is your book.  Basically a fairly comprehensive list (at time of publication) of distilleries along with contact info and notes about their portfolio with a few recipes, this book will give you an idea of what’s “out there” for your back bar.  More of a catalogue than a book you’ll want to sit down and read.  GSN Rating: B

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