Summer is here, and with longer days and poolside lounging comes the need for a good book. This is not, however, the time for challengingly cerebral volumes like Jancis Robinson’s (excellent) “Wine Grapes.” Nor is it the time for dense histories on the origin of corn whiskey. The best summer reads bring the season’s easy-breezy attitude to the forefront.
A cross section from across the world of booze (because equality and inclusion matter, folks), this lineup combines education with fantastic storytelling, practical advice from professional drinkers, and enough stories of mishaps (like crying into a plate of schnitzel) to make us all more confident drinkers.
For Poolside Lounging: Wine. All The Time. by Marissa A. Ross
Wish you had a friend who could demystify wine without making anyone in the room feel stupid? Marissa A. Ross is that girl.
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A self-described leisure enthusiast, Ross is proud she’s not a sommelier and does an impeccable job translating “wine-speak” for the casual connoisseur. “Wine. All the Time.” entertains as it educates, encourages ample drinking, and doesn’t mince words. Alongside practical vocabulary, a list of common grapes, and descriptions we can all understand, Ross reminds readers that wine is an intoxicant, and we shouldn’t be afraid to enjoy it in excess wholeheartedly.
Filled with humor and an everyman attitude rarely seen in wine, this is the perfect book to sit by the pool with — be ready to laugh.
Pair with: One of Ross’s favorites, a light and bright French red like Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon. Or whatever the hell you want, straight from the bottle.
For Road Trips: Road Soda by Kara Newman
Whether you’re cruising the interstate to a beach resort or backpacking in Wyoming, “Road Soda” is ready to help you drink fabulously while doing it.
In addition to providing thoughtful cocktail tips for those stranded in transit (like using pretzel salt for makeshift Margarita rims), Newman provides details on exactly what to bring and ask for on many travel vessels. The book is small enough to tuck into the tiniest carry-on, but Newman’s advice works just as well at home as on the road, especially if you’re looking for a twist on classics (or just really enjoy Fresca as a mixer). A collision of history, good booze, and a MacGyver spirit (Newman even advocates a “Sour Patch Kids” infusion to amp up a drink), “Road Soda” is a potable adventure anyone can recreate.
Pair With: Newman’s Under My Skin cocktail, mixed in a plastic bag (recipe follows).
For Armchair Travelers: Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson
Rogue spirits writer Jason Wilson dives into the deep end of strange grapes in this book that’s equal parts wine manifesto and travel log. From New Jersey to the Swiss Alps, Wilson examines the world’s most under-appreciated grapes, and the shepherds trying to keep them alive.
Wilson’s adventures take readers to caves, castles, and Austria’s family-run heurigers with photographic detail. He mixes history with humor and prompts readers to ask what it means to be into wine today in an era of “hipster” sommeliers, old white guys, and the farm-to-table obsession. Wilson implores drinkers to reach outside the Cabernet Sauvignon bubble, not just for the history of obscure grapes, but for their delicious, unpretentious wines, too.
Wilson tells it how it is, voicing the awkwardness we’ve all felt in tasting rooms, and even contemplating how he occasionally feels like a snob. “Godforsaken Grapes” is like listening to your favorite uncle tell his travel stories: wonderful at first, and better with each glass of wine.
Pair With: Any wine with an umlaut in the name, like Familie Bauer Grüner Veltliner.
For Overachievers: Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Craft Beer by Nathaniel G. Chapman, J. Slade Lellock, and Cameron D. Lippard
“Untapped” takes university-level research and a sociological lens to craft beer, shining a light on the industry’s growth, economic scope, and behaviors. Dense, but populated with anecdotes with footnotes, this is the perfect read for those who crave a deep dive into the minds of beer lovers. It’s a smart, serious piece of literature that explains the science behind the tsunami of craft brews in America and Europe today. Structured as a compilation of essays, “Untapped” is ideal for picking up and putting down over weekend escapes.
Pair With: The original Anchor Steam Beer
For Low-Key Long Weekends: Brewing Revolution by Frank Appleton
The lone memoir in the summer roundup, “Brewing Revolution” chronicles the five decades Frank Appleton spent upending the Canadian beer scene and pioneering our northern neighbor’s craft beer industry.
An English-born brewmaster and microbiologist, Appleton’s story weaves science with history and ingenuity in a tale where Big Beer is the zero-flavor antagonist. Whether you opt for Coors Light or pray for the demise of Anheuser-Busch, “Brewing Revolution” pulls readers in with its fascinating insights into the beer business from days before the term “craft” was invented and artisanal was a bad thing.
Pair With: A dark brew, like New Belgium 1554 Black Lager
For Urbanites: A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson
Fascinating for booze professionals and novices alike, “A Proper Drink” dives into New York’s cocktail revival and the people behind it, with dizzying detail.
A writer for The New York Times, Simonson digs into America’s cocktail culture in this book, with over 200 interviews plus cocktail recipes and profiles of America’s most influential bartenders. With this book you’ll learn why professionals mix drinks the way they do, and take your home cocktails up a notch with Simonson’s recipes and tips.
Pair With: A classic cocktail, like an Old Fashioned or Moscow Mule.
Recipe: Under My Skin
by Kara Newman
10 ounces Calvados
10 ounces Bigallet China-China Amer
10 ounces Noilly Prat Ambre Vermouth
- Funnel all ingredients into a 1-liter bota bag or bottle.
- Shake gently to combine.
- To serve, pour into rocks glasses, each with one large ice cube, using 3 ounces of cocktail per serving.