Y'all know that I am a big cocktail fan. I am not in the nerdy category with those who call themselves mixologists and use 16 ingredients, 9 of which I have never heard of, to make a drink. I like the classics, and I like the classics with a twist, and my cocktail bookshelf reflects this. In addition to recipe books for cocktails, I also have a few choice volumes about their history. I love a little history with my booze.
There are two books, both released in the past year or so, that look in depth at a single classic cocktail, its history, lineage, and how ingredients have changed over the years. This is presented with the thoughts of people working in the field, recipes both old and new, and photographs that make you turn to your liquor cabinet, no matter what the time of day.
The first is Old Fashioned by Robert Simonson and Daniel Kreiger. His mother was an Old Fashioned drinker and she inspired his quest for the perfect drink, which leads down a long path if you have the curiosity and stamina to follow it. An Old Fashioned is one of my favorite drinks, but I seldom order it away from home. Because it has been so bastardized over the decades it is a singular bartender who can get it right. And my version of right is probably not the same as yours. This book definitely has the cocktail you like to call your own, and may even open you up to a variation or two. Guaranteed you will come away a smarter individual.
The second book in this same vein is The Negroni by Gary Regan, all the history, lore, and recipes a person can want. Until I read this book I had no idea that a Negroni could be made with anything other than Campari, and that there are so many Campari type liquors out there.
Here is a quote from the book that I feel pretty much sums up the experience of so many of us Negroni lovers.
"The Negroni is the favorite classic cocktail of almost anyone who works in a bar. It’s said that every bartender eventually has an affair with the Negroni. The reason for this is that it takes young bartenders down a path from which they will never return. It is the Mrs. Robinson of cocktails: stunning, sexy, and mature. Its dark, alluring color is only a preview for the bittersweet aromas that expand on the palate." —Dushan Zaric, the 86 Co.
There are sure to be purists that will shun most of the recipes provided, but if you have an open mind, prepare to have it blown away.
There have been many books of the mixologist type published over the past few years, but not a single one deserved space on my bookshelf. The Old Fashioned and The Negroni are definitely shelf worthy.