GSN Bookshelf: Summer 2015 Spirits, Cocktail & Beer Books in Review

511rbpaarHL._AA160_The Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth (Workman Publishing)  In spite of the massive 644 page count, this book really only represents a well rounded primer on beer.  Beer is like wine, in that there are so many varieties and styles from around the world that one book can’t contain everything.  Still, all of that taken into account, this book is an excellent introduction into finding out which beer styles you will enjoy the most.  Broken down into four sections (ales, lagers, wheat beers, and tart/wild ales), each has subsections on variations of style, highlighted breweries, recommended brands and the processes used by brewers around the globe.  The writing is easy to read, but somewhat dry.  This would make a great textbook for a college course on beer.  About the only thing I wish had been added would be short tests after each section to test the knowledge you hopefully learned.  GSN Rating: A-

518mLT5pdpL._AA160_Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker by Fred Minnick (Zenith Press)  Lord knows there are already plenty of books written about whiskies.  Not too many focus exclusively on Bourbons.  After explaining what makes a bourbon (there are legal regulations), author Minnick delves into the intrigues behind some of the biggest brands and their sometimes controversial histories.  This makes for interesting reading that few people have access to.  The next section of the book goes into ingredients, techniques and how to do informed tastings.  But, the bulk is devoted to the many different brands, agings and expressions available today.  You could easily spend a small fortune buying each bottle listed here.  Perhaps a better choice is to take this book with you to your local well-stocked whiskey bar and sample a few shots per week.  But, even if you don’t, this book will make you want to.  GSN Rating: B+

51NJo2sASrL._AA160_The Cocktail Chronicles by Paul Clarke (Spring House Press)  Paul Clarke celebrated the 10th anniversary of his blog by publishing this book, essentially a redistillation of the hundreds of articles he’s written over the years.  Starting with the cocktail renaissance, which began right around the most recent turn of the century, author Clarke quickly recaps some of the best cocktails from the past 150 years along with the particular spirits, liqueurs and modifers that each utilize.  The next chapter highlights five of the cocktail powerhouses that have inspired countless other variations: the Daiquiri, Old-Fashioned, Manhattan, Martini and Negroni.  Another section is devoted to contemporary drinks, whether soon to be classics or those just interesting enough to garner a mention at this point in history.  Many of the recipes come from the leading lights of the world’s best cocktail bars post-2000.  The book closes with a short section on the tools needed to make the drinks.  Overall, the book reminds me of Dale DeGroff’s ubiquitous tome, “The Craft of the Cocktail“, minus the pretty pictures.  But, Clarke’s book has a certain mid-century modern charm to it by using simple autumnal colored illustrations scattered throughout.  GSN Rating: A-

512u8W-290L._AA160_The Seeker’s Guide to Bartending by Jennifer Crilley (  This is not a cocktail guide, or even bartending skills 101.  This is a book designed to help any working bartender learn to love their work, and do it stress-free.  In just a few hundred pages, you will learn how to focus on what is in front of you (tools, customers, work station, fellow employees) and move beyond the distractions (money, time, relationship issues, emotions).  Each chapter focuses on one aspect of using your holistic self to become one with the job at hand, and gives examples of how they translate into the everyday issues that all bartenders face.  If any of you have heard Gary ‘gaz’ Regan talking about his Mindful Bartending program, you will recognize many of the same techniques here.  The most useful aspect of this book is that there are dozens of workbook pages devoted to helping you to clearly define your thoughts and goals, while also working out solutions tailored to you.  A great book that is not only practical, but a valuable asset for everyone behind the stick.  GSN Rating: A

41E9h4EZbPL._AA160_The Umami Factor by Robert Rivelle George (Schiffer Publishing)  What makes a great drink?  Some would argue it is the recipe, or perhaps the skill of the bartender.  Maybe it’s just the locale, the company you’re with or the mood you’re in.  This book argues that it is you yourself via taste receptors in both your mouth and stomach.  Umami, literally “deliciousness” is the fifth taste sensation.  The other four being, salty, sweet, sour and savory.  Umami was a Japanese term created over 100 years ago that has been scientifically borne out.  Author Robert George, himself a brewer, states that the combination of unique yeasts and grains or fruits creates an umami in all fermented beverages.  Gaining an understanding of how different combinations interact and beget new flavors is fascinating in itself.  But, as a bonus, there are dozens of recipes for making obscure beverages like metheglin and braggot, along with more familiar drinks like beer, whiskey and rum.  The only real disappointment is that all the measurements are in grams rather than ounces, making extra work for us backward Americans.  This is a fascinating book that will enlighten you as to why fermentation is the basis of why we like to drink.  GSN Rating: A-

GSN Alert: Coming Soon – 2015 Cocktail Books (July-September)

51aCEC3fzPL._AA160_Food & Wine Cocktails 2015 by Food & Wine  (Oxmoor House) The editors of Food & Wine have the inside scoop on contemporary cocktail culture. In Food & Wine Cocktails 2015, they’ve featured over 150 sensational recipes, including: innovative drinks from 25 of the most exciting up-and-coming stars of the cocktail world, plus specially crafted mocktails inspired by them; party-friendly punches, stellar nightcaps, and over 40 simple and essential classics. These incredible creations use every type of spirit and come in an array of styles and flavors that will please any fan of fine drinking.

51aCEC3fzPL._AA160_The Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating the Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker & Glass by Paul Clarke  (Spring House Press)  From Paul Clarke, the 2014 Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer and founder of the groundbreaking spirits blog, The Cocktail Chronicles, comes an approachable guide to the cocktail renaissance thus far and―as the name implies―a chronicle of the cocktails that have come along the way. The Cocktail Chronicles is not a lab manual for taking the cocktail experience to a molecular level; nor is it an historical monograph tracing the details of our forebears as they developed and mixed the drinks we enjoy today. Instead, The Cocktail Chronicles is a collection of approachable, and easily replicable drinks that all share the same thing: a common deliciousness and a role — both big and small — in the ongoing and thriving cocktail renaissance. This collection of expertly curated recipes represent a photo album of sorts―snapshots of people encountered over the years, with some close friends and family members depicted alongside a few dimly remembered strangers.

51aCEC3fzPL._AA160_The Manhattan Cocktail: A Modern Guide to the Whiskey Classic by Albert Schmid and Bridget Albert (University Press of Kentucky)  This essential guide covers everything that the aficionado needs to know about the classic cocktail through an examination of its history and ingredients. Author Albert W. A. Schmid dispels several persistent myths, including the tale that the Manhattan was created in 1874 by bartenders at New York City’s Manhattan Club to honor the newly elected Governor Samuel Jones Tilden at Lady Randolph Churchill’s request. Schmid also explores the places and people that have contributed to the popularity of the drink and inspired its lore, including J. P. Morgan, who enjoyed a Manhattan every day at the end of trading on Wall Street. The Manhattan Cocktail also examines the effects of various bourbons and whiskeys on the aroma and flavor, even answering the age-old question of “shaken or stirred?” Featuring more than fifty recipes as well as notes and anecdotes from personalities as diverse as bartender and mixologist Dale DeGroff and writer Sir Kingsley Amis, this entertaining read will delight both the cocktail novice and the seasoned connoisseur.
51aCEC3fzPL._AA160_365 Days of Cocktails: The Perfect Drink for Every Day of the Year by Difford’s Guide (Harper Design) From one of the world’s most renowned cocktail authorities comes this inventive guide that includes uniquely tailored mixed drinks to celebrate every day of the year. Celebrate every day of the year—whether an anniversary, a birthday, a holiday, or a quirky happening—with a specially created cocktail. Toast Bikini Day with a bikini martini, kick off the Tour de France with La Bicyclette, and honor Ernest Hemingway with a twist on his own concoction, Death in the Afternoon. These distinctive, delectable drinks for everyone, and for every occasion, are all in 365 Days of Cocktails. Complete with a name, recipe, color photo, and short, entertaining entry about the day in history and its significance, 365 Days of Cocktails is a clever, innovative, and stunning collection of recipes every host, aspiring bartender, and mixology fan must have.
51aCEC3fzPL._AA160_Gin & Tonic: The Complete Guide for the Perfect Mix 2nd Revised edition by Frédéric Du Bois & Isabel Boons (Lannoo Publishers) By means of a very practical layout, you’ll never make the wrong choice again. Over 400 gins and 60 tonics are described in detail. A unique ‘gincyclopedia’ gives you a comprehensive and updated list of all available types and brands available on the market. The authors also went to visit the best gin bars. Finally, this book contains original dishes and recipes combined with gin and tonic.
51aCEC3fzPL._AA160_Drinking the Devil’s Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and her Cocktails by Duggan McDonnell & Luke Abiol (Chronicle Books) During the 1870s and ’80s, a single bar-filled block in San Francisco called the Devil’s Acre threw what may have been the most enduring party the world has ever seen. Duggan McDonnell is in love with the city of his forefathers and its ever-flowing cocktails, and it shows in this history-packed drinking tour through one of the most beloved cities in the world. Twenty-five iconic cocktail recipes made famous by the City by the Bay—from the legendary Pisco Punch, Mai Tai, and Irish Coffee to the Gold Rush–era Sazerac and more modern-day Lemon Drop—are accompanied by an additional 45 recipes that show the evolution of these classic elixirs, resulting in such contemporary favorites as the Revolver and the Last Word, guaranteeing to keep the party going and the liquor flowing.

GSN Alert: Coming Soon – 2015 Cocktail Books (April-June)

Here are some GSN recommended books to be on the lookout for in the next few months.

indexWild Cocktails from the Midnight Apothecary: 100 Recipes Using Home-grown and Foraged Fruits, Herbs, and Edible Flowers by Lottie Muir  (April 5, 2015) Lottie Muir is the creator of the Midnight Apothecary pop-up cocktail bar, set in a roof garden in the heart of London, where she also grows many of the ingredients for her mixes. On Saturday nights she sheds her gardening gloves and dons her apron to become the Cocktail Gardener mixologist. Moving from flowerbed to bar, she rustles up seasonal plant-powered cocktails, made with the harvest from her garden and from foraging trips nearby. Starting with The Cocktail Cabinet, Lottie explains both gardening and cocktail-making basics. She tells you what botanicals you will need year-round, including edible flowers, and gives tips on getting the best from your growing space, as well as advice on foraging if you want to venture further than your back garden.
indexTea Cocktails: A Mixologist’s Guide to Legendary Tea-Infused Cocktails by Abigail R. Gehring (April 7, 2015) In classy bars and cocktail lounges across America, tea is making a big splash. Absolut has launched a line of tea-infused vodka, companies such as Owl’s Brew are springing up with teas crafted specifically as cocktail mixers, and foodie magazines such as Saveur and Food & Wine are featuring hot chai toddies and gin-spiked iced teas. Here organic tea company Teatulia partners with Gehring to provide a stunning collection of hot and cold tea cocktail recipes sure to impress any mixologist or tea lover. Learn how to balance the unique flavors of herbal and black teas with just the right spirits to create drinks.
indexDistilled: From absinthe & brandy to vodka & whisky, the world’s finest artisan spirits unearthed, explained & enjoyed by Neil Ridley & Joel Harrison (April 7, 2015) Harrison & Ridley are at the forefront of providing expertise and innovation in the spirits world. From whisky to gin, cognac to exotic drinks, the duo has a wealth of knowledge to share with audiences across the globe. They write about whisky on their award-winning website and regularly pen articles and whisky features for a number of different publications such as Whisky Magazine, Imbibe and the Evening Standard, as well as becoming judges for the World Whisky Awards and the prestigious I.W.S.C. awards. Joel and Neil approach the drinks world with an irreverent, independently-minded spirit and, in the last two years, the duo have hosted over 250 whisky and other spirits tastings around the world from Japan to Lithuania.
indexImbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar by David Wondrich (April 7, 2015) The first edition, published in 2007, won a James Beard Award. Now updated with newly discovered recipes and historical information, this new edition includes the origins of the first American drink, the Mint Julep (which Wondrich places before the American Revolution), and those of the Cocktail itself. It also provides more detail about 19th century spirits, many new and colorful anecdotes and details about Thomas’s life, and a number of particularly notable, delicious, and influential cocktails not covered in the original edition, rounding out the picture of pre-Prohibition tippling.
indexClassic Cocktails (revised) by Salvatore Calabrese (April 21, 2015) Salvatore “The Maestro” Calabrese is one of the world’s foremost cocktail experts—and drinks lovers will salut this expanded version of his classic guide. The New York Times called the original edition “a must-have,” and now it contains even more: new chapters and loads of new images; up-to-the-minute information on the most exciting cocktail trends, tastes, and techniques; and newly uncovered historical tidbits (like the true origin of the Bloody Mary). Fifty new recipes include long-buried favorites like the turn-of-the-century New Orleans classic Absinthe Suissesse, a barrel-aged Blood and Sand, and the Prohibition-era The Angel’s Tit. This elegant volume also includes DIYs for essential cocktail ingredients like Velvet Falernum, recipes for flavored syrups and homemade shrubs, and advice on throwing the very best at-home cocktail parties ever.
indexThe Tippling Bros. A Lime and a Shaker: Discovering Mexican-Inspired Cocktails by Tad Carducci & Paul Tanguay (April 21, 2015) In The Tippling Bros. A Lime and a Shaker, Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay, who collectively have 55 years of professional experience in the beverage industry, step in to provide their expertise on Mexican cocktails. Their 72 exciting recipes go past the classic margarita and include traditional, craft, and spicy drinks such as the Blood-Orange-Cinnamon Margarita, San Fresa Frizz, and Smokey Pablo. The authors also cover the history of tequila, explain the difference between different tequilas, and offer bonus recipes for aguas frescas, syrups, salts, and some of their favorite Mexican dishes. With vibrant photographs throughout, this is the must-have book on the subject, perfect for home cooks, bartenders, and those who just want to know more about tequila and mezcal.
indexBitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails: Restorative Vintage Cocktails, Mocktails, and Elixirs by Warren Bobrow & Philip M. Dobard (May 1, 2015) The Cocktail Whisperer, Warren Bobrow, has been using bitters and shrubs in his quest for added zest in many of his craft cocktails, adding depth and mystery to a generic mixed drink. Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails will send your taste buds back in time with 75 traditional and newly-created recipes for medicinally-themed drinks. Learn the fascinating history of apothecary bitters, healing herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and vinegars that are making a comeback in cocktail and non-alcoholic recipes. If you love vintage cocktails, you’ll surely enjoy this guide to mixing delicious elixirs.
indexThe Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, with Recipes & Lore by Gary Regan (May 5, 2015) The Negroni is one of the simplest and most elegant drink formulas around: combine one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari, then stir and serve over ice. This bitter, sweet, and smooth drink has inspired countless variations as well as legions of diehard aficionados. In The Negroni, Gary Regan–barman extraordinaire and author of the iconic book The Joy of Mixology–delves into the drink’s fun, fascinating history (its origin story is still debated, with battling Italian noblemen laying claim) and provides techniques for modern updates (barrel aging and carbonation among them). Sixty delightfully varied and uniformly tasty recipes round out this spirited collection, which is a must-have for any true cocktail enthusiast.
indexThe Craft Cocktail Party: Delicious Drinks for Every Occasion by Julie Reiner & Kaitlyn Goalen (May 5, 2015) Julie Reiner, the co-owner of The Clover Club in Brooklyn and The Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, has written a book that provides inspiration for the rest of us, not only the cocktail geeks. She wants to balance the needs of the everyday drinker with those of the passionate mixologist. Recipes are organized around seasonality and occasion, with different events and themes appropriate to the specific time of the year. Each section will include a mixture of holiday-inspired drinks, classic cocktails, and innovative new drinks, all along with fun cocktail lore. Tricks, tips, and techniques–such as batching and infusions, tools of the trade, notes on spirit types, and easy substitutions to utilize what you already have on hand–will round out the amazing amount of information in Reiner’s book.
indexCocktails & Dreams: The Ultimate Indian Cocktail Book by Yangdup Lama & Gitanjali Chaturvedi (May 15, 2015) Cocktails and Dreams is put together by people who represent the modern, young India a bartender and a well-travelled development professional in some senses an unlikely cocktail. It comes at a time when India now exposed to the outside world does not consider drinking as a social taboo but enjoys a fine cocktail or two. With a significant change in urban lifestyles, the fifty original recipes help people to look beyond the traditional whisky on the rocks and rum and Coke.
indexVermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture by Adam Ford (June 1, 2015) Previously fallen from grace, vermouth is once again the next big thing in spirits. Over the years, vermouth has fallen from grace, but the truth is, without vermouth, your martini is merely an iced vodka or gin. Now, once again, vermouth is being touted as the hottest trend in spirits. It is showing up in copious amounts on the best cocktail menus in the best cocktail lounges around the country. Vermouth has a rich history, deeply intertwined with that of America, and this book offers the first-ever detailed look into the background of this aromatized, fortified wine, as well as vermouth’s rise, fall, and comeback in America.
indexThe Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating the Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker & Glass by Paul Clarke (June 15, 2015) From Paul Clarke, the 2014 Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer and founder of the groundbreaking spirits blog, The Cocktail Chronicles, comes an approachable guide to the cocktail renaissance thus far and—as the name implies—a chronicle of the cocktails that have come along the way. The Cocktail Chronicles is not a lab manual for taking the cocktail experience to a molecular level; nor is it an historical monograph tracing the details of our forebears as they developed and mixed the drinks we enjoy today. Instead, The Cocktail Chronicles is a collection of approachable, and easily replicable drinks that all share the same thing: a common deliciousness and a role — both big and small — in the ongoing and thriving cocktail renaissance. This collection of expertly curated recipes represent a photo album of sorts—snapshots of people encountered over the years, with some close friends and family members depicted alongside a few dimly remembered strangers.