I love curling up with a good book in springtime. Chillier days call for snuggling on the couch with my spirit animal Jasper to read, and I love taking a book to the park when I can feel the sun on my face once again. What’s even better than reading in a comfortable place is doing so with a good drink to sip between pages, and this season’s crop of boozy books has quite a number of inspirations, all from unique angles of storytelling.
The One Bottle Cocktail: More Than 80 Recipes With Fresh Ingredients From a Single Spirit
Not everyone with a home bar has access to esoteric bottled ingredients, or if they do, it isn’t cost effective to purchase an entire bottle for one drink. For instance, what to do with all that Crème de Violette to mix up a single batch of Aviations? (At least with a good vermouth one can still enjoy it on the rocks or in other recipes before it goes off.) Here, writer Maggie Hoffman explores flavor possibilities from the natural world in single-booze recipes divided by spirit – vodka, gin, agave, rum, brandy and whiskey – as well as occasions. All recipes are sans modifiers such as vermouth, amaro or liqueur. Admittedly, these recipes, contributed by bartenders around the country, require extra steps like making syrups and squeezing fresh juices, and then there’s the same problem as the Violette – what to do with them once the coupes are empty if not serving a crowd (for instance, I can never see myself making El Gallito on p. 28 from loads of cilantro, green onion, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, agave nectar, adobo sauce from a can of peppers, salt and vodka for a casual “Oh, I just threw this on” kind of affair).
However, I would absolutely make the blueberry syrup for The Gincident by Kristina Magro of Chicago’s Pub Royale and Estereo on p. 45. The ingredients for Castor’s Gold on p. 97 by Adam James Sarkis of Phoenix Cocktail Club in Milwaukee – light rum, honey syrup, lime juice and horseradish – are revolving staples in my house as well. I loved the idea of Welcome Home, Dorothy by Caitlin Liman of Trick Dog and co-founder of the Chicago Style cocktail conference on p. 142. Based on Armagnac or Cognac, it features lemon juice, simple syrup, strawberries (which I often eat for breakfast anyway) and rooibos tea (which I drink in the afternoon).
I like that Hoffman includes a Bonus Drinks section at the end of each chapter to suggest subbing other spirits into the same recipes like pisco or rye or mezcal. I do think a few of the recipes sound a bit ongepotchket (Yiddish for “overly complicated”), but enough of the 4 or 5 ingredient recipes intrigued me to want to give it a go. What spirits to use for your drinks? Pick out a few winners from the NY International Spirits Competition! (Out now, 10 Speed Press, $22)
Bars, Taverns and Dives New Yorkers Love (Where to Go, What to Drink)
To say this book by artist/writer/bartender/pro-level bon vivant John Tebeau was a labor of love is the understatement of the year. This work is a pure passion project, born from a few of Tebeau’s impressively detailed illustrations of bars he has true affection for. It became a mission to illustrate favorite neighborhood haunts spanning all five boroughs and discuss what makes them so unique and beloved, why some regulars aren’t even local to those locals. Great bars can be found all over the city, but they are easy to miss from afar. Tebeau even ventures out to Staten Island and the Bronx to complete the story, because, after all, it isn’t a true civilization in these outer boroughs if there isn’t a friendly bar to come home to (Adobe Blues, Joyce’s Tavern or Bronx Alehouse) after a long commute. Even for the consummate New Yorker, there might be a few surprises. For instance, how have I lived in New York for the better part of three plus decades and missed places like The Keep (p. 108) in Ridgewood, Queens? Tebeau describes it as “…a fantastic antique shop with a full bar run by an Edward Gorey character. Or maybe a long-forgotten alternate set for the old Addams Family TV show…” Okay, granted this bar only opened in 2014, but there are many in this book that are much older I’ve somehow yet to explore. I’m so righting that wrong.
It’s been a devastating era for the Big Apple’s beloved watering holes, as so many neighborhood standbys are closing at an alarming rate. But it’s heartening to know there are still so many wonderful bars all around town (and Tebeau seems to not have missed very many) still open to belly up to. All the important details about them are mentioned in each warmly-worded and inviting description, with sections about best times to visit, how to get there, what to order, and best seats as well as other fun facts and house recipes. With the detailed illustrations, the book also happens to make nice-nice on the eyes. (releases April 10, Rizzoli, $30)
Booze and Vinyl
Drinking would be a very solemn ritual if music didn’t exist to accompany it. How many times have you ordered another round at a bar because a favorite song just came on? For this book, sibling co-authors Andre and Tenaya Darlington present some of their favorite records across many genres of music – pop, classic rock, metal, punk, alternative, hip hop, jazz, folk, etc. – and suggest drink pairings for them, with suggestions for Side A and Side B. In some instances, the choices are obvious, like an Old Cuban for Buena Vista Social Club, Planter’s Punch for Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers, a Zombie to go with Michael Jackson’s Thriller. However, some of these are truly inspired, like a Milk Punch (with cookies) for The Velvet Underground and Nico, because Max’s Kansas City, the NYC bar where the band famously hung out, served that drink by the pitcher or a Between the Sheets to go with Madonna’s Like a Virgin (as well as Beauty Spot, one of the drinks created for the book by various bartenders, this one by Jen Marshall). I also give major points for thinking of a Suffering Bastard to pair with Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison.
Each album is presented with the authors’ own “liner notes” to introduce the record and pairings, provides instructions for setting the scene with Before You Drop the Needle and suggests best occasions for the listening parties. In some instances there are even snack recipes (Munchies!) provided to complete the mood and provide nourishment for an intense listening session. There’s some helpful advice at the end to close out the tracks and make the most of mixing drinks at home. (releases April 17, Running Press, $25)
Drinking Like Ladies: 75 Modern Cocktails From the World’s Leading Bartenders
The authors of this book, bartenders Misty Kalkofen and Kirsten Amann, met through a Boston chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and after founding their own drinks column and blog, were able to hold events and raise funds for women’s charities such as Jane Doe, Inc. Boston LUPEC became Toast Club, a reboot of a real, historic 19th century women’s networking club. The book examines what it is to be a “girly drink” via profiles of extraordinary women throughout the ages and drinks to match them, created by female bartenders from around the globe.
As historians, Amann and Kalkofen have gone really out of the way to celebrate a broad (pardon the pun) spectrum of women from world leaders, scientists, activists, educators, sports heroes and every other type of so-called “badass” historical figure, most of whom are impressively obscure selections deserving of more time in the spotlight. For instance, Dubai bartender (by way of the U.K.) Rebecca Sturt created Catch Me If You Can to celebrate runner Wilma Rudolph, who willfully beat a string of debilitating childhood illnesses that affected her lower body to eventually become a star athlete in her teens and go on to win track and field gold in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Ezra Star of Drink Boston contributed Elements of the Stars to honor astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, whose groundbreaking thesis in the 1940s identified stars as predominantly composed of hydrogen and helium. The drinks (arranged through chapters according to base spirit, with a separate chapter on punches and low ABV concoctions) show true creativity, if sometimes running a bit on the complicated side. But it’s worth it to pick up this book for the historical profiles alone, and raise a glass to these extraordinary women and their accomplishments no matter what. (releases June 19 but available for pre-order, Quarry Books, $20)