My cocktail world has grown infinitely due to lots of taste-testing, but also thanks to some of the greatest books on the topic. As I gear up to host holiday parties and start knocking boozy friends off my gift list, there are a few titles I'm continually drawn to with insane magnetic force. This gathering of books is just a little taste of what's out there on the topic. They have guided me from being a curious drinker to a savvy at-home mixologist.
While my own take, The Cocktail Club, A Year of Recipes and Tips for Spirited Tasting Parties, makes a lovely host or hostess gift and is loaded with recipes perfect for holiday entertaining, these are the books that have inspired me (and my shaker!) and would make a great addition to any drink-centric book shelf.
The Savoy Cocktail Book
Cobblers, Frappes, and Smashes, oh my! The Savoy Cocktail Book is a look into the 1930s cocktail scene and the one book that literally every bartender I know owns and has referenced dozens — if not hundreds — of times. Some of the most famous cocktails in the world are said to have first crossed the bar at London's Savoy Hotel.
Barman Harry Craddock hosted hundreds of weary travelers and welcomed them with his libations. Lucky for us, he wrote down what he was whipping up, so we can get a taste of the sophistication and glam that was being served up. With 750 recipes and tons of inspirational concoctions, this is a must-have book for any drink nerd.
The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff
Dale DeGroff, the King of Cocktails, takes you step by step through every cocktail you need to know. This is the first cocktail book anyone should own. It's simple, straightforward, and really teaches you the basics. There are no crazy wild ingredients or infusions. Everything in its pages can be achieved by any bar rookie, and the pros give props to the man who makes it all look so easy.
Dale guides you through stocking your bar and mixes lively conversation into the pages alongside classic recipes that every aspiring mixologist should know. If you are interested in getting more into drinks, this is exactly where you should start.
The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan
The PDT Cocktail Book is my go-to for any and all leftover strange liquors on my bar. In its pages are all sorts of weird concoctions that never fail to deliver tasty results. This book is the reason I'm no longer afraid of an egg in my drink and even more excited to try drinks with names like Norman Inversion or Judgement Day. Don't worry, there are also all sorts of holiday-worthy pours like Cranberry Cobbler and Hot Buttered Pisco.
This book is not for the faint of heart — it's for adventurous drinkers and daring barmen (and women, of course).
PUNCH: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich
I'm slightly obsessed with punch and pitcher drinks in general. During the holiday season, nothing beats a big batch of something gorgeous that doubles as a centerpiece and bartender. This book from the beloved cocktail historian David Wondrich tells the fascinating story of punch, including historical recipes and tales.
It's pretty enough to showcase on your holiday bar or bar cart, and it shares insight on why punch is still so popular today. Do you know why punch cups are so tiny? Well, you will after you read PUNCH.
Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All by Brad Thomas Parsons
Bitters are the salt and pepper of the bar biz. They're a fascinating little ingredient that can take your Manhattan from traditional to chocolate-y, or push your Old-Fashioned to the orange side. Brad Thomas Parsons delivers a killer book loaded with recipes and formulas alongside the story of this bar staple.
This is a comprehensive guide (totally not in a boring way!) of all things bitters, including how to make your own and what to do with bitters beyond the bar. This holiday, pick up a copy for that DIY drink friend on your list or just go ahead and ask Santa for one yourself. You'll be glad you did.
The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World's First Classic Cocktail by Robert Simonson
Named for one of my favorite cocktails, I knew this one was for me. (Well, really for my husband, because I bought it for his birthday. But he's nice and shares, and thus, his gift and my latest favorite cocktail book ended up on my nightstand.) If you like a little lore with your whiskey, then this book is for you. It covers the story of how this one drink has survived from the early 19th century, through Prohibition, and now back again to being one of our favorites.
It contains over 40 cocktail recipes and pages of stunning photography. Alone or with a bottle of rye, this makes for the perfect holiday gift for the drink lover on your list.