The Museum of the American Cocktail is diminutive but extremely useful, it still lives on my register at work. Anastasia Miller and Robert Hess, with help from a dozen other industry leaders, compiled this little pocket sized wonder. It contains no technical instructions, just 100 of the most important recipes and short tidbits of information about the most important drinks you’ll be making FOR THE REST OF YOUR CAREER (or that people will always ask if you can make at home). Look, the thing is $7, and fits in your pocket. Get a few and give them to bars you like.
The Joy of Mixology touches on every single aspect of bartending, mixology and hosting; these are the 3 things that make a good bartender. Gary Regan is one of the few authors that addresses the practical aspects of being a bartender like, work clean, buy newspapers for guests, introduce people at the bar to other guests they’d like, don’t make change out of your tip jar. Regan writes for over 100 pages on how to do the job right, the core basics of service and technique before even giving you the first recipe. Beginners don’t need a book of 1,000 recipes; they need to know how to make a Manhattan. Gary Regan’s essay on how to make a Manhattan should be required for every bartender.
The Essential Cocktail covers all of cocktail history, trends and practices from punches and nogs, to pre-prohibition classics, tiki hijinks, disco disasters (improved with fresh juices) the renaissance of the cocktail (for which, Degroff is most responsible), modern ingredients and the beginnings of molecular mixology. Dale Degroff is called “King Cocktail” for every reason. This book is elegant, Martha Stewart endorses it; this book could be on a coffee table, if it was never executed upon it would still serve its purpose. But, this book is so much more than its gorgeous packaging and design, In this book, basic history and technique is discussed for every aspect of cocktail creating culture, and to me, this is a huge inspiration. Dgroff talks about pre batching drinks for home parties, making custom ingredients, consulting gigs, and every bizzare technique possible, there is no book more versatile and it is upon his versatility that I base much of my personal style. My kungfu is Degroff clan kung fu.
The strongest list of cocktails you will find, the most cited on any menu is still the Savoy. It’s from 1930, but reprints are easy to find. Harry Craddock still has a lock on the mostest best recipes and the coolest, “doodles,” in the margins.
If you want any idea of where drinks came from or a hint of what a cocktail meant in its time and place, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted “Dr Cocktail” Haigh. Unless you are hiring me to consult for your bar, hire no one, every good cocktail list for the past 10 years has a drink from this book.
I hate books that are split by spirit base. I like them categorized by family, but that doesn’t mean anything to most people. Thus the alphabet wins again, but not with AJ. This book categorizes drinks by a time and a place. Most of the time, you don’t need most of the drinks in a book, but when you are throwing a party you need AJ’s chapter on punch. Other chapters include topics like, “shitty things you drank in college,” or “hot drinks.”
Hess was here for the cocktail renasance or started it or whatever. Anyway, during those days when the initial archeology was occurring Robert Hess was one of the Indiana Jones that kept track of what stuck. Though more brief than Ted Haigh’s descriptions of drinks, Hess still provides great historical insight to cocktails and spirit history.
David Wondrich is why all bartenders have mustaches. All of us. He wrote a book called Imbibe! And then magically all of us grew mustaches and made blue blazers. Imbibe! Is about the, “Professor,” Jerry Thomas, the author of the first bartender’s guide and the first, “celebrity,” bartender. I don’t recommend that you rush out and buy Jerry’s guide because it is kind of like asking Henry Ford about the current trends in the auto industry or explaining the internet using Shakespearean English, it just isn’t the right reference in the modern world. Imbibe! is just a fun account of the history of early American mixology and an inspiration to all modern bartenders to get in touch with their roots.
Punch which is another fun eponymously topic-ed book.
I <3 Tiki so much that that I typed dumb symbols to make a heart. This book takes you on a quest of the origin Tiki through all of its greatest hits (drinks) and amazing stories.
Every chapter of And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis reads like an awesome pitch to a screenplay. I often recommend people read any of these four history texts as a plane read because they are fun page turners that enlighten the reader about history through booze.