Essential Books for Cocktail Enthusiasts.

Essential Books for Cocktail Enthusiasts – From Spirited Histories to Recipe Books

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These essential books for cocktail enthusiasts make fab gifts for the concoctors of cocktails and drinks mixers in your life if you’re still stuck for last minute gift ideas. Most of these recommendations have come from professional mixologists and bar owners we’ve meet and are the cocktail books on my wish list.

We are clearly cocktail enthusiasts – if the stainless steel cocktail shaker that never leaves our Samsonite is any sign. The Christmas-New Year period has always been cocktail time for us, whether we’ve been in Dubai in winter, the only time we could enjoy drinks on the balcony without breaking out in a sweat or in summery Australia or the Southeast Asian tropics when the sunshine calls for refreshing libations.

Here in Siem Reap, where we’ll be having a Christmas-New Year staycation over coming days, we’re planning on sundowners on the balcony sipping everything from Peter Gilmore’s white peach mimosas to Terence’s spiced winter negronis.

If you’re not a fan of cocktails, you will be after thumbing through one of these essential books for cocktail enthusiasts. And if you have a friend who is a lover or mixing alcoholic beverages, you’ll be in the good books if they find one of these essential books for cocktail enthusiasts in their Christmas stocking.

NOTE: a click on the images of the books below will take you to the Amazon store. If you purchase something we earn a small commission. If you are still Christmas shopping and need more last-minute gift ideas, click through for Classic Cookbooks for Serious Cooks for ChristmasChristmas Gifts for Asian Home Cooks, a Guide to Asian Kitchen Essentials, and Christmas Gifts for Travel Photographers and Travellers Who Love Photography.

Essential Books for Cocktail Enthusiasts

Jerry Thomas Bartender Guide

The Jerry Thomas Bartender Guide is arguably one of the most essential books for cocktail enthusiasts and is a must-buy if you have a friend who is a bartender or mixologist fascinated by the history of cocktail. When it was published in 1862 it was the first cocktail book. Published as ‘How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion’ it came with ‘A Manual for the Manufacture of Cordials, Liquors, Fancy Syrups, etc, etc’ by Christian Schultz as good bartenders in those days were meant to know how to make and mix liquor. It includes recipes for historic cocktails we’re still familiar with, like the Mint Julep, as well as more obscure drinks such as the Locomotive. Before it was reprinted, copies sold for thousands of dollars, so you’re guaranteed this will be a book that will be treasured.

The Savoy Cocktail Book

The Savoy Cocktail Book is definitely another of those essential books for cocktail enthusiasts that you’ll spot on any serious bartenders bookshelf. Author Harry Craddock was the most famous English bartender of the 1920s and 1930s when he mixed drinks in The American Bar at London’s grand Savoy Hotel. Craddock has spent some time in the USA learning the craft of cocktail making. The Savoy Cocktail Book was first published in 1930, in the wake of Prohibition and captures the spirit of the times in the cover, type and illustrations. The book boasts over 750 classic cocktail recipes – Craddock was best known for creating the White Lady – and this most recent edition includes newer cocktails concocted by Peter Dorelli, a former Savoy head barman, such as the Millennium Cocktail. It covers everything about cocktail making and drinking, from presentation to consumption.

The Drunken Botanist

With a design inspired by those early cocktail books, The Drunken Botanist only looks old. Published in 2013, it nevertheless makes a fantastic companion to the cocktail recipe manuals above and is easily another of those essential books for cocktail enthusiasts that any beverage lover would be delighted to receive on Christmas Day. Author Amy Stewart explores the countless herbs, fruits, flowers, trees, and fungi – from the ordinary to the obscure and the exotic and often downright dangerous – that people have transformed through distillation and fermentation into alcohol over the centuries. Offering growing tips for gardeners, and fifty drinks recipes for cocktail lovers, the book is a compelling mix of history, biology, chemistry, and mixology.

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual is sub-titled Secret Recipes and Barroom Tales from Two Belfast Boys Who Conquered the Cocktail World. Authored by Sean Muldoon, founder of the multi-award winning bar Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in Lower Manhattan, New York City, and bar manager Jack McGarry, this fascinating book not only tells the guys’ rags-to-riches story that charts their journey from their birthplace of Ireland to running one of the world’s best-loved and most successful bars in USA, it’s also crammed with recipes for everything from communal punches to cobblers, fizzes to toddies, with a whole chapter on absinthe. There’s loads of history, as well as a look into the operation of the Dead Rabbit, inspired by the film, The Gangs of New York.

Bitters, A Spirited History

In Bitters, A Spirited History, bitters lover Brad Thomas Parsons charts the history of this old liquor, once hidden at the back of the booze cabinet, to its rapid rise to star component of countless contemporary cocktails. Part beverage history, part recipe book, and part project guide, Bitters contains over seventy cocktail recipes, including classics like the Manhattan and the Martinez and contemporary cocktails such as Parsons’s own Shady Lane, a chapter on cooking with bitters that boasts a dozen recipes for bitter-sweet and savoury dishes, as well as recipes for customised blends, advice on sourcing ingredients and step-by-step instructions. They might also like Handcrafted Bitters: Simple Recipes for Artisanal Bitters and the Cocktails That Love Them.

Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times

In Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, Paul Clarke, editor of Imbibe magazine and author of The Cocktail Chronicles, introduces reader to a shrub, a drink comprised of fruit, sugar and vinegar. They may sound simple but the variations are apparently unlimited. This vintage drink was popularised during the American colonial era and in recent years has become hip again with the world’s best bartenders embracing the drinks. The shrub is wonderful as it allows you to make use of bruised or aging fruit, as well as being a drink that can be made with soda or spiked with alcohol. Clarke provides a very comprehensive guide to making and serving shrubs. This is definitely one of those essential books for cocktail enthusiasts who want to up their game and impress their cocktail lover friends. You  might also like Wild Drinks and Cocktails and The Wildcrafted Cocktail.

Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits

I didn’t realise until recently – when I had a client who is a cocktail writer – how many bars make drinks such as the piña colada with Malibu, when it tastes even more delicious just made with fresh pineapple and coconut and rum. In Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits author Andrew Schloss provides hundreds of recipes and straightforward instructions that teach readers simple techniques using standard kitchen equipment for making liqueurs and infused spirits at home. You’ll discover how easy it is to make your own versions of Baileys, Triple Sec and Kahlúa so you can keep things fresh and pure and learn how to blend your own flavoured and infused spirits with everything peaches and honey to chocolate and cinnamon, and whatever else takes your fancy.

The PDT Cocktail Book

Another one of the most essential books for cocktail enthusiasts out there, the PDT Cocktail Book, authored by Jim Meehan, the owner and “mixmaster” of the celebrated New York City cocktail bar, is a book for the serious cocktail lover, mixologist and bar operator. Inspired by the secret speakeasies of the American Prohibition era, the cocktail bar’s access is through a fake phone booth in a nondescript hot dog shop. The book boasts over 300 recipes for cocktails available at PDT and shares a lot of behind-the-scenes secrets, from his thinking behind the bar’s design to his favourite tools of the trade and mixing techniques. If your loved-on is so serious about cocktails they are contemplating opening a bar, they will also appreciate Meehan’s Bartender Manual.


Lara Dunston Patreon


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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

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