I want to know everything about cocktails: making, history, science, and theory.
April 14, 2011 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn how to make truly excellent, craft-quality cocktails. What should I read?

What I'm looking for is something akin to the Joy of Cooking, or Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or, best yet, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.... but for cocktails and spirits, and I wouldn't mind beer and wine too. Oh hive mind, what should I read?

Thanks in advance!
posted by faeuboulanger to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I really like both of Dale Degroff's books.
posted by Perplexity at 11:16 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

First, read all of Robert Hess's DrinkBoy website, and then watch all of the companion videos on The Cocktail Spirit. Hess is a cofounder (along with Degroff) of the Museum of the American Cocktail.
posted by The Michael The at 11:25 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan is an excellent overview of cocktail-making that has a lot of theory and practice in it, not just a big list of recipes.
posted by dfan at 11:31 AM on April 14, 2011

Not a book, but the eGullet cocktail forum has many interesting threads worth checking out.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:31 AM on April 14, 2011

I recently got this book for my husband, and we really like it. I love that it is spiral-bound.
posted by lvanshima at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I asked an earlier question about mixology blogs that may be useful. Books that are frequently recommended on these sites include the Joy of Mixology (recommended above), Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, David Wondrich's Imbibe!, and Dale DeGroff's The Craft of the Cocktail (also recommended above).
posted by rebekah at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2011

I love "The Art of the Bar." It has some classics, but the emphasis is on new recipes, and on stocking you bar with excellent alcohol and delicious (homemade) syrups and other mixers.
posted by pompelmo at 12:07 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't have additional books to recommend, but the Cooking Issues website has some good posts on cocktail science.

One of the best cocktail focused bars in country is the Violet Hour in Chicago. The head mixologist there has posted many of the drink specs (recipes) he uses there.
posted by AceRock at 1:17 PM on April 14, 2011

David Wondrich's previously-mentioned Imbibe! is great for the historical background it gives you; recipes aside, you learn a lot of the ins and outs of why each drink uses the ingredients it does and how they're all related, which to me has been much more valuable than a simple step-by-step guide.
posted by soma lkzx at 3:15 PM on April 14, 2011

Get a subscription to Imbibe magazine, which contains articles on beer, wine, cocktails, even coffee & tea. Because it's seasonal and periodical, it actually motivates me more than a big encyclopedic tome.

As mentioned above, Dale DeGroff's Joy of Mixology is excellent. The most helpful part of the book is his chart showing the relationship between different cocktails. Seeing the kinship between drinks based on similar ingredients is an excellent foundation for experimenting with your own recipes. Realizing how many really excellent drinks share the same basic foundation of a spirit, a citrus, and a sweet liqueur was an eye-opener.

Lastly, I really like Salvatore Calabrese's Classic Cocktails. Partly this is because it was my first good cocktail book, but it's great because of it's not a huge compendium of recipes. It's a well-edited list of great drinks.

Assuming you're just going to be making drinks at home for yourself and friends, you certainly don't need to be able to make 1,001 things. If you can make 15 or 20 really excellent cocktails, you've pretty much got it nailed and the rest is just playing around with exotic ingredients, obscure variations, etc.

posted by Mendl at 4:52 PM on April 14, 2011

+1 to Rebekah's excellent suggestions.
posted by kaseijin at 12:23 PM on April 15, 2011

Response by poster: Incredibly helpful! I'm excited to begin my research. Thanks, y'all!
posted by faeuboulanger at 10:22 AM on April 16, 2011

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