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Cocktail Books

Wanted to add a new cocktail book to the collection
I have Remixed and Sippin Safari

Going to add PDT and was thinking about Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Recipes by Ted Haigh

Is that any good or should I add a different one? I enjoy the historical context of a lot of the information as well, I really enjoyed reading through Sippin Safari all the stories etc

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  1. Vintage cocktail by Haigh is great on background infor for lost and by gone era classics. If you like reading about the history of a libation and not just the recipe, then you will like this one.

    1. PDT is great, and so is Ted's book. I like Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology for the way he breaks down drinks into families. Although I don't feel that he thinks that way much anymore. He has kind of gone in different directions since then.

      I think that Mr. Boston is now great. Especially the edition edited by Jim Meehan of PDT, it's the 2009. He personally went over every single recipe and adjusted them as needed. He also brought in new recipes from a ton of the top bartenders from around the country.

      The 75th Anniversary edition 2011 edited by Jonathan Pogash is good too, but there are a few changes that take it down a notch for me.

      9 Replies
      1. re: JMF

        Actually after revisiting the Mr. Boston book, while the forward and intro info. in the 2009 edition is better, the 2011 75th Anniversary edition is a better book overall with all the cocktails of the 2009, plus many new ones, with attribution to the creators.

        1. re: JMF

          I like the info on page 153 in Vintage Spirits, and page 243 in PDT.

            1. re: JMF

              Wanted to take this cocktail book thread on a tangent to discuss PDT. This has to be nominated for the best cocktail book with the worst index. Here's what I mean. If you want to find a cocktail for the night by base spirit you are ok but it still make take you 10 minutes to get through all the whiskey cocktails. If you however think differently and want a drink based on secondary or lessor ingredients the god help you! I often have a citrus or amaro or absinthe in mind when thinking of a drink and in these cases the PDT index is awful. To all you cocktail book writers out there, please include all ingredients in the index to reference quickly to find a drink for those of us who do not have a Rain Man like memory. Better yet, might I suggest a table like page with base sprits on one axis and secondary ingredients on the other axis. Other things that chap me about this great book is when key ingredients like Absinthe are not listed in bold as ingredients. Also, the alphabetical misplacement of Death Bed before Daiquiri is a huge editing blunder. I welcome all thoughts.

              1. re: DrinkinLife

                Having done a cocktail book and heard all the criticisms, you can't please everyone. And you can't do everything people want without making a 200 page book with a 50 page index.

                Too much text, too little text, not organized by spirit, not enough description about bartenders, no color, not indexed by spirit, not indexed by obscure ingredients, not a web app, not an e-book, etc. Sometimes the criticisms are contradictory, meaning you can't be everything to everyone and if you went in one direction, you'd piss off the others.

                The way I search for cocktails in a book is to open it up and scan until I find thing I can and want to make. People who want complex algorythms to figure out what to make are probably better suited to use databases like Kindred Cocktails or CocktailDB.


                1. re: yarm

                  I do the same scanning all the time but this can be laborious. Also, it would have been helpful in PDT and any other book to have all ingredient in bold or prominent so scanning is quick and easy.

                  1. re: yarm

                    The Table idea would take your 50 page index down to 8, 4 for the drinks and 4 for everything else. Hope someone tries it.

                    1. re: yarm

                      Agreed Fred. Your book is set up to be able to very quickly scan for key ingredient(s). Well done.

              2. i dig 'the fine art of mixing drinks' by embury, though i guess it might be a bit dated.

                and then there's always the out of the box and magnificent 'the gentleman's companion'.

                1. Café Royal Cocktail Book is one of my favorites. Great for 1937, and great for today with drinks like the Lion's Tale and 20th Century that first made their appearance there and became classics.


                  1. I'll second The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Personally, I think a lot of the suggested proportions and other ideas are way off, but I still think it's a great read, and Embury writes with a lot of character.

                    I'm kind of a sucker for old books, though, since I think you get a sense of what the world was like back when it was written, which makes up for it being pretty dated. Really, I think it's more interested *because* it's dated.

                    Then again, if you're looking for a book full of useful cocktail recipes, I wouldn't say it's a top pick.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: A_Gonzalez

                      Yes, with any cocktail books that are written before 2000 I find that proportions may have to be tweaked. Ones from 1970-2000 may have to be worked over completely or abandoned. Before that classic styles may need some reworking. Classic Tiki may be fine as is or may have to be balanced due to excessive sweetness or sourness.

                      Our present day tastes have changed drastically over the years. I've done a lot of research on history of tastes in the US, and bit of Europe. Looking at what people liked to eat and drink. Flavors and aromas, perfumes and spices, since the 1700's. Up until about 1800 popular tastes changed slowly with fits and starts as new items entered the picture due to a variety of reasons. then in the 1800's this picked up and every 30-40 years popular tastes changed. By the 1900's this had picked up to every 20 or so years. Since about 1970 tastes changed pretty radically every ten years, but since 1995 it is getting even shorter to about every 3-5 years.

                      1. re: JMF

                        I think a lot of the fun of looking at the recipes in old cocktail books can be in trying to tweak/adjust them so that they "work" for our present day tastes. Even though I can't, for the life of me, figure out how to make all that creme de menthe in the Savoy cocktail book palatable.

                        Also, I think I remember a section on Scotch where Embury insists that blended whiskies are superior to single malts, but now I'm doubting myself, since I'm not even sure if they were making single malt whisky when the book was written. Hmm, I might be going crazy.

                        1. re: A_Gonzalez

                          Single malts have always been around, but in very small quantities until the 80's when they were pushed. The thing bout blends it their consistency, and that they tend to be conservative. even the more out there blends are not as extreme as many single malts. it's the nature of the beast.

                    2. A-Gonzalez brings up a point that makes me ask, what type of books are you looking for? Historical? Which your Beachbum's and Dr. Cocktail books suggest? Or ultra modern like Jim Meehan's book? Classical cocktails? Modern era/1900's? New Renaissance since early 2000's to 2010? Or cutting edge present day?

                      Let us know and we can make some suggestions. A few of us here have extensive cocktail and spirit libraries.

                      If you want to see a modern day historical but cutting edge look at cocktails. One I can highly recommend is one of our fellow 'hounds books with a look at present day Boston cocktails. Mr. Yarm's, Drink and Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book, just came out last month. It is very well done, and a great in-depth look at the modern cocktail scene in one of the top cutting edge cocktail scenes in the world. The focus is mainly on the best Boston cocktail recipes of the past few years.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JMF

                        I guess formost I want the book to give me some ideas for modern cocktails that I can make, I have a pretty large home bar so assume I have or I can acquire pretty much anything that is needed

                        I have spent a lot of time reading head to cover Beachbum Remixed and have made many drinks in the book and am ready to branch out some more - perhaps with some more modern rum variations and gin based

                        I just got PDT in the mail and it looks really nice, I enjoy the historical aspect of the books so if it has recipes that are readily usable and some history that is even better

                        Yarm's book sounds like something that would interest me

                        It is good to know which books are more for reading and dont have any cocktail recipes per se versus which books will actually contain recipies that I can use without much modification

                        With many tiki cocktails the amount of lime is really high and has to be toned down I have found

                        1. re: Dapuma

                          Something that just came to mind if you want modern cocktails. Gary "gaz" Regan's 101 best New Cocktails 2012. Gaz had the best bartenders in the world submit recipes to him and then he made and tasted them and picked out what he thought were the best. I like the recipe on page 177.

                      2. A few thoughts...

                        The Bartender's Bible by Robert Hess is a great resource for a number of well-crafted classic cocktails. There are a few clunkers in there (his mai tai comes immediately to mind) and not a ton of historic info, but it's a very useful volume nonetheless.

                        I love the PDT book, but it's worth noting that a LOT of those drinks get into the realm of requiring esoteric spirits, having access to some somewhat obscure ingredients (like fresh shiso leaves), or doing things like making your own birch bark infused bourbon. Just realize going in that many recipes in the book are the kind of things that require a seriously dedicated home bar. That said, almost everything I've been able to make from there has been excellent, and in some cases, his tweaks to classic cocktails absolutely save the drink. Not much in the way of history behind the drinks, but it is a seriously gorgeous book.

                        I loved Vintage Cocktails. Fun background, classic drinks, and really nice packaging.

                        1. PDT for sure.

                          Just last night made the Satan's Whisker out of Vintage Cocktails. Love the history and the recipes are pretty spot on.

                          Yarm's book is also very good. It's not all slick and glossy but there are some (many!) killer recipes.

                          Warren Bobrow's new book, Apothecary Cocktails, just showed up in my mail box. Knowing Warren, I'm sure it's got some great stories and recipes. I haven't had time to absorb much of it yet.

                          For the gin-lover, All the Gin Joints is pretty awesome.

                          Have to get you over the house and you can flip through to see what you might like.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: BillB656

                            Warren's a good guy. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but I expect to get one soon.

                            Where do you know him from?

                            1. re: JMF

                              Met Warren onlne a few years back when he inquired about our bitters. He's been a wonderful advocate and supporter (and all around nice guy) since. How about you?

                              1. re: BillB656

                                I know Warren as a fellow NY food/beverage writer and because of my ex-distillery, spirits, and bitters...

                            2. re: BillB656

                              Sounds good, just let me know when :)

                            3. The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff is a great book, great cocktails, and you can pick it up and find plenty of things to make with a fairly well stocked liquor cabinet. My go to cocktail book for sure.

                              I'm surprised so many people love PDT. I have it, enjoy reading it but never pick it up to make something because as Big Crunch said "a LOT of those drinks get into the realm of requiring esoteric spirits".

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: thimes

                                Dale DeGroff's book is fantastic as a beginner to moderate level book. Everyone into cocktails should have it as part of their library/collection, as well as Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology, and Robert Hess's The Essential Bartenders Guide. These three guys, and their books, revolutionized the cocktail industry after the depth's of depravity it sunk to from the late 1960's to around 2000, and helped mold and support the growth since they came out.

                                In Dale's Craft of the Cocktail, the intro and info section is very well done and covers more than many other books do. The cocktail recipes are cutting edge for 2001/2002, but it is already dated when it comes to where cocktails have progressed over the last 12 years. Since then, there have been drastic changes and advancement in the industry.

                                With the PDT book, many people are thinking they have to use the specific brands mentioned. When you can sub in any similar brand.

                                You don't have to use for example Wild Turkey Rye, any Rye will do. So base spirits aren't a problem. Also many liqueurs you can sub in other brands as in triple sec/curacao, creme de cacao, any similar Amaror, etc.

                                It is only very specific ingredients where you need the exact item such as Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, or Fernet Branca.

                                I would think that many people buying the PDT book would have, or want to get, many of the ingredients like mentioned above.

                                1. re: JMF

                                  That is the problem I have with recommending PDT (again I own it, so I'm not against it). While you can sub out base spirits, I'm not sure I agree with that as a blanket statement.

                                  As an example, not all Gins taste the same. I'm not sure I'd say Hendricks and Bombay Sapphire would result in the same cocktail. So if you subbed out the based liquor and didn't like the cocktail is it because you don't like the cocktail or because you subbed out each spirit for a similar spirit . . . . hard to say. Unless PDT is nothing more that product placement, I have to assume that they called for those brands for some reason.

                                  Of course subs are allowed (it would be silly to assume otherwise) I think it just takes a fairly sophisticated knowledge sometimes which makes it hard for me to recommend the book.

                                  That said, if you're into cocktails - have a well stocked bar - like buying various bottles to experiment with - go for it. It can be a very fun book.

                                  1. re: thimes

                                    As I said, when subbing a spirit you have to use something similar to get similar results.

                                  2. re: JMF

                                    Agreed about the DeGroff book. A good resource, but very, very dated. I also think the ratios in his drinks are usually bad and tend towards overly sweet or just plain boring. As a classic book, it's hard to say you should not buy it, but considering that the dozen or so drinks I've made from it were almost uniformly bad, I simply can't recommend it.

                                    The issue with the PDT Book for me often has to with with things like dandelion-infused rye, or goji-berry infused bourbon. A lot of things are proprietary, can't be subbed, and are somewhat expensive and extravagant for someone on a budget with a home bar. Furthermore, a lot of the garnishes require picking up stuff in advance that one might not always have around. That said, there are a LOT of recipes that anyone with a decent home bar can make, and perhaps more importantly, Meehan has a really good sense for the ratios that make a great drink. I highly recommend it for someone with an extensive home bar, but with the caveat that it can be daunting, and there are a number of things you may never make.

                                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                                      I can relate to your comments and agree that it's not a book for beginners. When I first bought it, I was frustrated with how few cocktails I had all of the ingredients for. Two years later, my home bar is much larger, I'm much smarter about what are reasonable substitutes, and could make an approximate version of a lot if not most of the proprietary ingredients with some online research and guessing.

                                      The problem for me is less that I can't figure out how to infuse rye with dandelion or bourbon with goji, but whether I consider it worth the trouble. For a drink that I'm confident that I will, I might. In any case, I like the PDT book much more than the DeGroff and Regan's books, not that those aren't useful.

                                      I have the Ted Haigh book and like it but it was a more recent purchase that I haven't spent as much time with.

                                      A recommendation that I would add to the ones above (for non-beginners) is Kevin Liu's Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers, and Classics Hacked with Science. It's not a book of recipes though, more a book about cocktail craft, flavor balancing, techniques/information on how to improve your cocktail making all backed up by science.

                                      I'll buy almost any cocktail book though that I hear much positive about. The only one I've ever regretted buying was The Modern Mixologist by Tony Abou-Ganim which might be ok for someone who really likes vodka based cocktails but I don't. Would have never bought it if I realized that was all it was.

                                      1. re: bg90027

                                        I also agree about Kevin Liu's book.

                                      2. re: The Big Crunch

                                        Good call, bg, on Kevin Liu's book. It has a terrible title, but it is very interesting if you don't mind rocking your inner geek.

                                        I also like Fred Yarm's Dink and Tell, which is recipes from the current Boston cocktail scene. It's full of interesting and good recipes. The Boston connection in irrelevant.

                                        I think PDT is a pretty important book. I always feel free to substitute. It may result in a different, but equally good drink.
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