Five Summer 2022 Drink Books Reviewed
September 03, 2022
I reviewed 5 books for Alcohol Professor. The reviews are here. I've also pasted the post below, which originally appeared on AlcoholProfessor.com.
The books are (links are to Amazon)
- The Bartender's Cure
- The Little Book of Whiskey Cocktails
- Cocktails, A Still Life
- Cocktails of Asia
- Black Mixcellence
Boozy Book Reviews: Late Summer 2022
New cocktail books are hitting the market at a faster rate than any normal person can review them, and yet we persist! Here is the latest round of new books to stimulate your brain about whetting your whistle.
Cocktails of Asia: Regional Recipes and the Spirited Stories Behind Them by Holly Graham
This book comes from editor of DRiNK Magazine Asia Holly Graham, who is based in Hong Kong but travels extensively, as is evident from her Instagram account @hollygrahamdrinks. Much like that snapshot of her life, the book is a snapshot of the most important cocktails, bars, and bartenders in Asia. The book features recipes of course, and they tend to be the type of drinks found at hotel bars on the World’s 50 Best Bars list with unique regional ingredients and molecular mixology techniques used to prepare them. The first ingredient in the first cocktail in the book, A Moveable Feast by Agung Prabowo of Hong Kong bar Penicillin, is vodka distilled with clams and seawater.
While many of the cocktails may serve more as inspiration rather than direct instruction to the home bartender, the drinks provide a window into both the theory and techniques of modern mixology in Asia. Before each recipe, Graham introduces the bar and bartender from whence it came, putting into perspective the city’s bar scene and the bartender’s history and role within it. Several photos of each bar accompany each recipe, providing a helpful visual image of where we’d be enjoying that cocktail; not just what is in it.
In addition to the cocktails attached to specific bars, included are several classics of Asia (including the Bamboo and Pegu Club). Other short sections include the aromas in baijiu, the history of Batavia arrack, and information about Japanese bartending beyond what we know about the hard shake and ice diamond carving. Cocktails of Asia provides a great deal of information about the best bars in a large part of the world; after all, a snapshot is worth a thousand words.
Black Mixcellence by Tamika Hall with Colin Asare-Appiah
This recipe collection comes from Kingston Imperial, the publisher that issued T-Pain’s Can I Mix You a Drink? book in 2021, featuring the same dramatic style of drink photography of bright drinks set against dark backgrounds. It is a collection of 70 recipes, mostly originals, from Black bartenders. A majority of those recipes come from Asare-Appiah, a globally known long-time brand advocate at Bacardi. The recipes are all relatively easy to execute at home, with a few infused syrups and other homemade ingredients, but nothing that requires a centrifuge.
The book is introduced with some brief but interesting history of Black mixology and traditions, including the history of Caribbean rum, the tradition of “pouring one out” for lost friends and family, the tale of Nearest Green who taught Jack Daniel to distill, and the Black Mixologists Club dating to 1898. Other featured players in Black drink history introduced in the book include bartenders Cato Alexander of New York and Dick Francis of DC, moonshiner Bertie “Birdie” Brown, and three mixologists of old famous for their Mint Juleps.
The Bartender’s Cure: A Novel by Wesley Straton
As the narrator Samantha learns about craft cocktail bartending in this novel, so too will you, down to the tiny details. You’ll learn about cocktail history, shaking versus stirring, how bartenders live and behave and talk about their regulars, building rounds and the order of adding ingredients to the shaker, the “bartender’s handshake,” and so much more. The Bartender’s Cure will give the reader a crash course in mixology without ever having to get sticky in the process.
This backseat bartending is wrapped inside a plot of a young woman killing a year in New York before starting grad school but falling in love with the profession and a fellow bartender. The book is categorized as fiction but it’s the true-life story of so many mixologists who abandoned their well-made plans and followed their passions.
The Little Book of Whiskey Cocktails by Bryan Paiement
As advertised, this is a little book containing whiskey cocktails: 40 vintage and modern cocktails (drinks like the Paper Plane, Penicillin, and Kentucky Buck along with the Mint Julep and Irish Coffee), plus ten originals from the author that all sound good too. Each cocktail is introduced with a paragraph or two on its history (for the classics) or inspiration (for the originals). The front of the book is filled out with a brief introduction to whiskey history and global whiskey styles. It is all pretty simple, and all packaged in a cute little book with a silver shaker on the cover, and it should fulfill its role perfectly as a second item in the gift bag when buying someone a bottle of whiskey as a present.
Cocktails, A Still Life by Todd M. Casey, Christine Sismondo, and James Waller
In the last couple of years there have been a slew of cocktail books paired with a concept: witchcraft, fashion design, puns, Star Wars, movies, books, and more. The problem with many of them is that the author may succeed in coming up with great drink names to pair with the concept in their area of expertise but fail at coming up with good-tasting drinks; or the drink descriptions are filled with since-disproven cocktail myths rather than accurate facts. In Cocktails, A Still Life, the text of the book was mostly written by noted cocktail and spirits author/journalist Christine Sismondo, so the text is of equal quality to the concept.
As for the drinks, the sixty cocktails are all classics or modern classics, organized into occasions for drinking like aperitivo hour and after dinner. It’s a solid selection with few surprises. But this is a cocktail book of art; the oil paintings that accompany each drink are the focus. They seem very well done (to this cocktail writer) and as noted by coauthor James Waller, artist Todd M. Casey is, “especially adept at painting the transparent glass and shiny surfaces that appear in any realistically rendered picture of cocktails, wine, or beer.” It is a celebration of art in the glass and on the canvas.
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