With the holiday season upon us and gift giving in full swing, now’s the time to consider what to buy for the curious wine, beer, and spirits lovers in our lives. Beyond alcohol itself, books are an excellent place to start.
Yet, with an endless array of booze books lining the shelves, it can feel daunting to find the perfect pick. To make things easier, we’ve compiled this list of recent releases from our favorite authors — drinks pros and experts who know their Espresso Martinis from their coffee-filter Starburst Margaritas.
From explorations into alcohol’s medicinal ties to guides and recipes collections focusing on singular cities or ingredients, here are 10 of the best booze books to buy this holiday season.
Aaron Goldfarb and Steven Grasse, Running Press, November 2022.
From VinePair writer-at-large Aaron Goldfarb and iconic brand creator Steven Grasse is “Brand Mysticism: Cultivate Creativity and Intoxicate Your Audience,” an exploration into the creative practices, branding, and business models required for a drinks brand to thrive in today’s market. The co-authors conceptualize brand mysticism as “a mentality for all endeavors based on keeping an open mind, taking risks, and developing authenticity,” all of which they deem crucial to the success of a label. The book delves deep into Grasse’s career as the creative mind behind brands like Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum, and seeks to explain how Grasse was able to captivate imbibers with these spirits and more.
Told in two parts, the title takes an unpretentious approach to the booze world and appeals to readers (and drinkers) of all persuasions. With the inclusion of case studies, fascinating life anecdotes from Grasse, and riveting illustrations, “Brand Mysticism” is an ideal gift for boozers and non-boozers alike.
Joshua M. Bernstein, Union Square and Co., September 2019.
“Drink Better Beer: Discover the Secrets of the Brewing Experts” is the perfect book for both established beer lovers and those taking their first steps in the space. With more than 9,000 breweries in the U.S. alone, picking the right beer, and then knowing how to properly drink that beer, can quickly become intimidating. Luckily, beer pro and contributing writer for VinePair Joshua M. Bernstein makes the process easier by sharing intel from over 100 beer professionals.
Bernstein takes readers on a journey through the beer world, offering knowledge on not just which beers to actually buy, but also details on the best glasses for each style and how to keep them clean, how to properly pour a beer, and the best food pairings. The book also contains valuable pointers that help beer lovers determine if suppliers are properly caring for the brews they distribute, all in an effort to help hopheads purchase smarter and get the most from every pour.
Dave Broom, Mitchell Beazley, October 2022.
If you’re shopping for a whisky lover in your life, look no further than Dave Broom’s “A Sense of Place: A Journey Around Scotland’s Whisky.” The book takes a thoughtful exploration of the unique factors that make Scotch as special — and beloved — as it has been for centuries. Over the course of 256 pages, Broom leads readers on a voyage of discovery of some of Scotland’s most prominent distilleries and regions, from Islay to Speyside. Intertwined with reflective commentary on the history of Scotch and predictions on where the spirit will go next, “A Sense of Place” is the ideal pick for whisky novices and aficionados alike.
Tamika Hall and Colin Asare-Appiah, Kingston Imperial, July 2022.
Written by author Tamika Hall and bartender and Bacardi brand ambassador Colin Asare-Appiah, “Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology” celebrates the trailblazing Black and Brown bartenders who have long gone overlooked in discussions about drinks history. In an interview with VinePair, Hall cites the extreme lack of representation of bartenders of color, and the lack of documented cocktail recipes from black mixologists, as the inspiration for writing the book. The co-authors filled this gap by focusing on individual cocktails, as well as innovations attributed to individual creators, with accompanying commentary on how these cocktails and innovations entwine with their own lives.
Dan DiSorbo, Ten Speed Press, May 2022.
While hops may be most commonly recognized for the role they play in giving beloved IPAs their signature bitterness, the cone-shaped flowers transcend multiple styles and play a crucial role in the production of all craft beer. Writer Dan DiSorbo’s “The Book of Hops: A Craft Beer Lover’s Guide to Hoppiness” includes contributions from hop farmers and craft brewers alike, offering a comprehensive deep dive into 50 of the most popular hop varieties and the beers that are produced from them. Ideal for the IPA lover in your life who loves to geek out, “The Book of Hops” features in-depth explanations of each hop variety’s tasting notes, structure, origins, and best uses, all accompanied with detailed photos to follow along.
Camper English, Penguin Books, July 2022.
Ideal for history buffs who also love classic cocktails, “Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails” highlights the storied intersection of alcohol and medicine. While we now know that alcohol may not be the healthiest of beverages — and it certainly wouldn’t be our first pick for treating, say, scurvy — until fairly recently, booze was the medicine of choice for numerous aliments. Author Camper English explores this history, highlighting how beer and wine were once favored over water for hydration, and tracking the ties between malaria and the Gin & Tonic. Take it from us: This is infinitely more enjoyable than high school history class.
Hugh Johnson, Foreword by Eric Asimov, Académie du Vin Library, August 2022.
Widely considered to be one of the world’s finest wine writers, Hugh Johnson first published “The Life and Wines of Hugh Johnson” in 1971. Since then, the book has sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Previously re-published under the name “Wine, A Life Uncorked,” in 2005, this new edition has been updated by Johnson himself, with new chapters dedicated to the wine knowledge he has absorbed in the last two decades. Johnson’s exploration of the wine world pairs historical information with personal anecdotes. From broad topics to niche technical details, “The Life and Wines” is perfect for any wine drinker looking to expand their knowledge.
Derek Brown, Foreword by Julia Bainbridge, Rizzoli, January 2022.
In 2023, if you’re looking to experiment with Dry January or just be more conscious of your drinking, writer and acclaimed mixologist Derek Brown’s “Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No- and Low-Alcohol Cocktails with 60 Recipes” couldn’t be a better place to start. The mind behind D.C.’s iconic (now-shuttered) bar Columbia Room, Brown is sophisticated in his approach to crafting beautifully made low-proof and non-alcoholic cocktails. Along with each recipe, Brown shares relevant historical anecdotes as well as information regarding the best ways to actually craft and serve these cocktails.
Robert Simonson, Ten Speed Press, October 2022.
From VinePair contributor Robert Simonson comes “Modern Classic Cocktails: 60+ Stories and Recipes from the New Golden Age in Drinks,” a compilation of the cocktails that have become modern classics since the beginning of the so-called “cocktail renaissance.” Simonson prefaces the list of over five dozen drinks by outlining precisely what criteria need to be met in order for a cocktail to reach modern classic status. Each recipe features information on ingredients and building instructions, as well as background on the bartender and story behind its creation. In addition to dozens of cocktails already deemed modern classics, Simonson features a few critics’ choices and a few predictions as to what he argues have what it takes to make the cut further down the line.
Neal Bodenheimer and Emily Timberlake, Harry N. Abrams, October 2022.
More than any other city, New Orleans has been at the forefront of cocktail creation for centuries, with classics such as the Sazerac, Hurricane, and French 75 all calling the Big Easy their home. In “Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em,” co-authors Neal Bodenheimer and Emily Timberlake celebrate the culturally rich city through 100 cocktails, each of which was selected to represent where New Orleans began, where it is now, and where they hope it will go in the future. Rather than a recipe book on New Orleans cocktails, “Cure” serves as an ode to the city, featuring interviews with prominent local figures like musician Ian Neville, and cocktail food pairings with recipes provided by local chefs. The book invites readers to explore exactly what it is that makes the city so special and how these qualities inspired the creation of so many beloved cocktails.