5 Great Reads for the Cocktail Connoisseur

In this age of instant information available to all on the inter-webs, I still find that there is no substitute for the depth of knowledge and level of "give-a-shit" that you find in a good old fashioned printed book. As Geordi La Forge would have us know, reading is fundamental, and this is certainly true when it comes to bolstering your knowledge about the great American cocktail. Whether it is inspiration, motivation or inebriation you seek, the answers are contained within. Here's my list of essential pubs that should be on any man's shelf right above the whiskey.

  1. How's Your Drink, by Eric Felton: My personal favorite because of the rich, historical context that accompanies each drink. Felton does an amazing job of weaving an engaging storyline that grounds you in time for each recipe and lets you savor the sights, sounds and culture of the era that gave birth to a particular drink.  
  2. Imbibe!, by David Wondrich: Here is the scholar's contribution to cocktail epistemology. This will be your definitive reference on, um, pretty much everything cocktail related. This is also a great reference for historical tales, but really shines with detailed recipes, instructions and particulars that delight the inner knowledge-snob in all of us.
  3. Bitters, by Brad T Parsons: It's not just Angostura and Peychaud's anymore. There's a whole wide world of tasty bitters out there waiting to be discovered. The best bitters? The one you make yourself. Learn the nuances of this essential ingredient from a master, and try your hand at your own house-made product. It's also a James Beard Award winner. So....
  4. Death & Co Modern Classic Cocktails by David Kaplan et al: I can't say enough good things about this book. It's sexy, full of great images and recipes, and has a spot-on index. Written by bartenders at the top of their game, this book will be your source for advice on technique. If you're a bartender, the backbar arcana will feel like home - if not, you'll appreciate the peek behind the scenes of a modern cocktail icon. This is my go-to guide for finding modern ingredients for classic cocktails. 
  5. The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey, by David Haskell and Colin Spoelman: Thank you David and Colin! You have planted the seed of what will ultimately become the greatest backyard moonshine op upstate NY has ever seen. It is not possible to read this book and not dream of having your own hillbilly still in the shed, it's just too plausible. Your wife will thank you ;)

So light a fire in the hearth, mix up a Brandy Alexander, and nerd out with a good book this season.