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Jan 25, 2008 09:27 AM

Quintessential book for bartending/mixology?

A good friend of mine who grew up with me is currently one of the very few experienced and well-trained bartenders in southern china. he asked me to pick up a bartending book/dictionary for him. This is a tall order for me since i know absolutely nothing about drinks.
Sooo... My question is, is there a equivalent of Larousse Gastronomique or the CIA textbook in the bartending/mixology world?


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  1. For many years, what has been considered the go-to guide is Old Mr. Boston's. It's terrible. The ones I use for reference around here are The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff, and The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan. Regan's book isn't so much a recipe reference as it is a book on cocktail theory, making it easier to learn new cocktails by grouping cocktails by their supporting ingredients instead of base liquor like so many other books. Gary's wife Mardee Regan has her own book called The Bartender's Best Friend that I would recommend for quick reference; there's a lot more cocktails than in Joy of Mixology, but still has a good voice and great recipes.

    1. Agree w/ JK Grence the Cosmic NOT use Mr. Boston's. When I started bartending, I asked one of the old silverbacks behind the bar, and he said, "Get 'Mr. Boston's'...if you want to (mess) up all your drinks." We used his personal file, tho, so I'm afraid I can't help you much more than that.

      1. I have "The Bar Guide" from Williams Sonoma and love it. Bear in mind that all bar books, like dictionaries, are obsolete the day they are printed, since new drinks are invented every day. But this book covers all the basics in a well-organized format. It's a few years old, so I hope it is still available.

        1 Reply
        1. re: HSBSteveM

          Which is exactly why The Joy of Mixology is best for this purpose, for the reasons the Jester stated above. It teaches you why certain drinks work well, which is a timeless value, in addition to its extensive recipe listing. Not simply a dictionary at all.

        2. For sheer volume of recipes you might want to check out Difford's Guide. It's updated yearly so tries to keep up on emerging drinks. This year's edition has 2250 recipes, and all of them are accompanied by photos. I've been thumbing through last year's edition quite a bit lately and am pretty happy so far.