Bartending is an intuitive and hands-on occupation that requires experts to know their ingredients, tools and techniques, and to think on their feet while they create the perfect cocktail. This is a fast-moving world that doesn’t seem to leave much time for reading, but those serious about their profession will be keen to learn from the masters, and one of the best ways of doing this is to get hold of some of the prominent and highly-acclaimed cocktail guides. A good book can impart valuable knowledge and techniques relating to the bar though practical tips and theoretical discussion, and they can be of great assistance to the beginner and the experienced bartender alike.
The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique
This is a comprehensive cocktail handbook with a special focus on cocktail techniques, from bartender and cocktail blogger Jeffrey Morganthaler. It features over 60 recipes in different chapters themed around the various components of drinks, such as citrus juice or ice. The book is divided into three categories: techniques, ingredients and recipes, though it has fewer recipes than other cocktail guides as it prioritises the crafts, materials and processes. The book is well presented with excellent photography and gives a clear introduction to foundations of bartending.
Authored by the late Sasha Petraske, former owner of Milk & Honey prohibition-era bar in London and New York, Regarding Cocktails is an excellent guide for beginners or home bartenders, with 85 cocktail recipes that are straightforward and easy to follow, accompanied by anecdotes and reflections of a grand figure of the bartending world. The drinks range from classic to modern, include all measurements and tips for serving, and all is made clear with beautiful illustrations.
For those with an appreciation for history, this is an insight into the background of cocktails and the events that have brought us to where we are today, from cocktail historian David Wondrich. It’s often interesting to know the stories behind traditional cocktails, and they can also make for entertaining anecdotes for when serving or enjoying drinks. On this count Wondrich doesn’t fail to disappoint, with particular and peculiar accounts of all of our favourite cocktail classics in the larger context of bar history.
The Drunken Botanist
As the title suggests, this book approaches cocktails from a botanical perspective – a slightly different angle to your average cocktail guide. Author Amy Stewart looks at the flowers, fruits, fungi, herbs and trees that have been used over the years to create the diverse range of flavours used in cocktails. The Drunken Botanist considers biology, chemistry, history and mixology, and offers over 50 recipes and advice for gardeners growing their own ingredients.
Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails
Death & Co is an award-winning Manhattan bar famed for its high-calibre staff and innovative cocktails. The 2014 book, from authors Nick Fauchald and David Kaplan, is an encyclopedic guide to craft cocktails with recipes for more than 500 cocktails, from the timeless classics to the most popular avant-garde drinks of Death & Co bar. This book also has time for a guide to spirits, essential bartending techniques and some bartending philosophy. A large book with beautiful presentation and a cloth cover that makes it more suited to a coffee table than the back of a bar.
Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail
While it’s not exactly the perfect book for beginners, Liquid Intelligence from David Arnold may be a good choice for those bartenders and enthusiasts with a scientific inclination. The book features 120 cocktail recipes, and takes a focus on the science of bartending by looking at such things as the acidity levels, temperature or sugar concentration and the way they affect the finished product. With an increased interest in mixology and a greater range of techniques employed to achieve the perfect drink, this is a topical book that includes practical advice about prepping the bar and cocktails, along with advanced techniques using fire and liquid nitrogen.
The Craft of the Cocktail
This is another wide-ranging compendium from experienced mixologist and bartending trainer, Dale DeGroff. It includes over 500 recipes, information on different spirits and ingredients and their historical contexts, anecdotes from DeGroff’s lengthy experience, as well as practical tips and techniques for working on a bar. This book is well-suited to bartenders of all levels though is especially useful for the beginner.
The Savoy Cocktail Book
This book was first published in 1930 and has, since then, been reprinted five times. The English author, Harry Craddock, worked as a bartender in various cities in the U.S. before bringing the American style of cocktails to The Savoy Hotel in London, where it caused quite a stir. In the more recent editions, the book has been updated to include more modern cocktails, and now comprises over 750 recipes. Even so, the book is an excellent guide to the classic cocktails of a past era and still retains its validity in the bar of the 21st century as a seminal work on cocktails. With such an excellent selection of current and past bartending books to choose from, new bartenders should not miss out on the fantastic opportunities for self-learning that can vastly improve a practice of cocktail making. While, of course, the practical side is all-important to the bartender, starting with some solid theoretical foundations to build upon may give newbies the helping hand they were looking for, and launch a successful career in the world of cocktail making.
If you would like to learn how to create perfect cocktails, why not check out the courses European Bartender Schools have to offer?