There are plenty of resources out there for cocktail enthusiasts from novice to pro, but with tons of information to sift through, what are the essential texts for the lover of all things spirited? From mastering basic techniques and understanding the classics to getting experimental and nerding out, here are the eight essential cocktail books that will take your home bar from well to top shelf.
Written by the man known as “King of Cocktails,” who earned his nickname working at some of the top U.S. establishments, this book is excellent both as an introductory cocktail guide and a handy reference book. It has step-by-step guides to over 500 cocktails as well as basic overviews of bar tools, cocktail ingredients, stocking a bar, and proper bartending techniques.
Technique is essential to the creation of a great cocktail; otherwise, it would just be a bunch of ingredients thrown together in a glass. The Bar Book is a thorough guide to all bartending techniques such as stirring, shaking, garnishing, and even selecting the proper ice for each drink. It’s sure to turn any newb into a bartending pro.
“Give a man a cocktail, he’ll drink for a day. Teach a man the foundations behind building a cocktail, and he’ll drink for a lifetime.” This book may have been published in 1948, but the fact that it’s still relevant is proof that the information presented is timeless. It details the theoretical (and practical) techniques behind the creation of the cocktail, focusing primarily on the six most classic cocktails that every bartender should know.
This compendium from a famed barman at the legendary Savoy Hotel in the 1920s and ’30s has over 750 classic cocktail recipes and is viewed by most as the resource for all things cocktail. Though it was first published in the ’30s, many of the world’s most famed cocktails were invented at the stylish American Bar at the Savoy, including the Corpse Reviver #2 and (allegedly) the dry Martini. It’s a great reference book as well, with excellent illustrations.
This James Beard Award-winning book detailing the history of classic American cocktails has a new update that details the origins of the first American drink: the Mint Julep. Focusing on the story of the 18th century “father of the American bar,” Jerry Thomas, Imbibe includes stories and recipes for over 100 spirits, cocktails, and other U.S. drinks in an informative yet entertaining style.
Are you the type of nerd who isn’t content with just making or drinking a great cocktail but needs to know everything about what goes into it as well? This is the book for you. The Drunken Botanist has engaging, interesting information about the plants that make up any alcohol you could possibly conceive, from the common to the obscure. This is the book that will give you plenty of fodder to entertain and impress your party guests while tending bar.
New York’s decade-old Death & Co is one of the most important establishments in the modern craft cocktail scene, and given that even their normal drinks menu is a novel itself, it’s unsurprising that their cocktail book is one of the most influential among both established and aspiring bartenders. Those looking to master the methods behind not only creating but inventing new cocktails should take a look.
The secretive, exclusive nature of a speakeasy is part of the allure, so it’s impossible to resist a peek behind the curtain — or phone booth, in PDT’s case. The PDT Cocktail Book includes recipes for all 300-plus drinks offered at Please Don’t Tell in New York, along with the process behind opening the bar in the first place.