I can be a little picky when it comes to cocktail books because I find many of them contain the same standard drinks. Or, on the flip-side, some reach just a little too far to be innovative and interesting, often missing the mark with trendy inclusions or overly-sweet show stoppers. The following three books, on the other hand, are great classics that contain an important mix of educational information, historical intrique, and darn tasty cocktails.
1. Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All by Brad Thomas Parsons ($16.15 from Amazon): This cocktail book begins with a succinct history of bitters and how they became popular. Then it settles in with a wonderful collection of recipes to make your own bitters at home, and moves on to discuss cocktails using bitters. I appreciate the many classics including the Negroni and Manhattan, but also love the new inclusions. (Exhile in Rye Ville or Satan's Whiskers, anyone?)
2. The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock ($14.15 from Amazon): The Savoy Hotel was a big hit for the London luxury crowd when it opened in 1889, and this book celebrates the people, community, and cocktails that were found therein. While I've had to slowly stock up on certain spirits to even be able to tackle many of these recipes (Benedictine and Absinthe seem to pop up over and over), I've loved the chance to experiment with new flavors that I'm otherwise unfamiliar with.
3. Dark Spirits by A.J. Rathbun ($16.75 from Amazon): If you take your bourbon and whiskey drinks seriously, Dark Spirits deserves a place on your shelves. What I love about this book is its organization: instead of choosing to divide the chapters by spirit, Rathbun elects to use thematic chapters based on occasions, moods or feelings (Bartender's Choice, Dark Classics, Bubbly Refreshers). In this sense, it encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. And, it's written with a good share of humor and sarcasm, so you'll likely find yourself chuckling away as you stir your evening cocktail.
Do you have any favorite spirits books or manuals?
Related: Straight Up: Favorite Cocktail Books
(Image: Megan Gordon)