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The Best Cocktail Books: Bartenders Pick Their Favorites

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Welcome to the Eater Library, a new column in which Eater gets experts in their field to recommend the best guides to their craft. First up, in honor of Cocktail Week, bartenders discuss their favorite cocktail references. Some are traditional cocktail books — Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology, for example — but others get a little more creative with their recommendations. How about Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking for understanding how aromas play in cocktails? Or Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg's Flavor Bible for discovering new taste combinations? Below, bartenders from Charleston to Portland and all points in between share the texts of their trade.

[Photo courtesy Rhiannon Enlil]

Rhinannon Enlil, Cure and Erin Rose, New Orleans, Louisiana

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
In Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanist, you won't find another repetitive collection of cocktail photographs and infusion recipes. Instead, you'll receive an engaging education about the plants that make up literally every alcoholic beverage in the bar: beer, wine, gin, sake, everything. Full of great informative sidebars, gardening tips, and even how to brine your own olives. Plus you'll still get cocktail photographs and infusion recipes. This book is unlike any other in my collection, and eminently useful.
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[Photo courtesy Nick Kosevich]

Nick Kosevich, Eat Street Social and Bittercube, Minneapolis, Minnesota

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
A much more in-depth look in regards to understanding flavor than a "cocktail book" might get into, this book is great for learning how aroma molecules work and interact with one another. Simply being inspired by that understanding has been amazing for our company. We use the section on spices and their connectivity frequently when developing menu updates.
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[Photo: The Grocery]

Hallie Arnold, The Grocery, Charleston, South Carolina

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg
It's a matchmaking flavor reference that helps me find what is compatible with just about any ingredient. I particularly like the easy to follow approach the authors took to listing the flavor affinities. It's fun to discover a flavor component to take a cocktail to another level.
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The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan
This is the cocktail book I've had to re-purchase the most often. It is the cocktail book I lend out the most and never get back. That either shows how amazing the book itself is, or how bad my bartender friends are. Either way, its pages of advice, history, and flavor charts are well worn on my bookshelf.
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[Photo courtesy Daniel Shoemaker]

Daniel Shoemaker, Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, Portland, Oregon

The Gentleman's Companion: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker & Flask by Charles Baker
Few folks have the distinction of yachting the globe, imbibing the whole time with the likes of Faulkner and Hemingway. What's more, Baker's pen has an overriding tone of frivolity, as he writes in an outdated style with a wink and a wry smile. In fact, his greatest passage might be instructions on how "To Salvage a Guest from the effects of hanging — by rope, not the morning after." This book is far more than a reference tool. In fact, it's not even that. He will tell you to juice half a lime, then wax poetic on how, as he did so, they admired the cascading sunset over the mountains; only after much narrative will he provide the rest of the recipe, broken equally by more narrative. Not useful, so much as a whole lot of fun to read over the bar.
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The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury
This is arguably the first cocktail manual written by a civilian. Embury breaks down categories of drinks, methodology and general technique, as well as the theoretical approach to constructing a cocktail. His preferred rendition of a daiquiri, set amidst a series of different iterations and proportions, is the inspiration behind our mantra at the bar: de gustibus non disputandem est, there's no accounting for taste. Everyone has a different palate, and he is unabashed in stressing that finding your personal preference is a journey everyone must make on their own.
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[Photo: Matt Moore]

Jeret Pena, the Brooklynite, San Antonio, Texas

Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin
This book is an oldie but goodie. Whether you are a novice or a pro, this book is perfect for whatever walk of life. It gives great detail on the history of the drinks as well a thorough description of the forgotten spirits that once ruled the cocktail world. I have particular interest in it being the first mention of the Aviation cocktail. It also was the first documented crème deviolet. There is no tellin' where the Aviation cocktail would be today without it. I would recommend this for "spirited" folks, or people that have a passion for cocktails and would like to have a foundational knowledge that encompasses a bit more detail.
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· All Cocktail Week 2013 Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Eater Library [-E-]

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