My favorite books to chronicle the history of cocktails

Why am I passionate about this?

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson has written the book Gin: A Global History and is completing Liqueur: A Global History. Her work has been seen in the Los Angeles Times, Imbibe, Sierra, and Gourmet. She is Senior Editor at Chilled magazine, as well as Cocktail/Spirits Historian at the Center of Culinary Culture in Los Angeles. With her husband David Solmonson, Lesley co-wrote The 12 Bottle Bar, a #1 best-selling cocktail book on Amazon. Named one of the “9 Best Cocktail Books" by the Independent UK, The 12 Bottle Bar is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of the American Cocktail. The Solmonsons’ work has been featured in numerous media outlets.

I wrote...

The 12 Bottle Bar: Make Hundreds of Cocktails with Just Twelve Bottles

By David Solmonson, Lesley Jacobs Solmonson,

Book cover of The 12 Bottle Bar: Make Hundreds of Cocktails with Just Twelve Bottles

What is my book about?

When the Cocktail Renaissance of the 21st century erupted, classic and modern recipes began to appear by the hundreds in magazines and books. As co-authors David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson started mixing and shaking, they quickly became disillusioned with the ingredient demands – availability, cost, and future usability – of the recipes. Surely, they thought, there was a better way to build a bar on a budget with a fixed number of bottles and still make a wide array of cocktails.

The ultimate goal was to write the kind of drink book you actually want to read. While the book is definitely an instruction manual for creating your bar and mixing drinks, it’s also a compendium of drink history, trivia, bar tricks, booze ballads, and just general nonsense.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Cocktail Boothby's American Bartender

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson Why did I love this book?

William T. Boothby’s bartending guide was published 29 years after the first cocktail recipe book written in 1862 by American barman/impresario Jerry Thomas. In my opinion, Cocktail Boothby’s offers a more mature vision of cocktail culture in the 19th and early 20th century’s Golden Age, serving as a boozy time machine back to the era when many classic cocktails – the Manhattan, the Martini, the Mint Julep, to name a few – were born. Along with a thorough compendium of recipes, the book includes Boothby’s “Valuable Suggestions” to bartenders (“Do not serve a frosted glass to a gentleman who wears a mustache”) and his “Ten Commandments” of bartending, as well as a selection of old advertisements and various handwritten recipes. The author’s celebration of, as he calls it, “the art of mixology”, never fails to delight me.

By William T. Boothby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cocktail Boothby's American Bartender as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of two National Best Book Awards!

"If one had to pick a single name to stand as dean to the whole tribe of San Francisco bartenders, it would be the Honorable William T. Boothby, head bartender at the Palace Hotel and author of one of the most useful bartender's guides of the golden age of American drinking. This exceedingly scarce little volume is a surpassingly sound effort, full of well-considered recipes with a real West Coast flavor."-David Wondrich, author of Imbibe!

"The bartending community is rejoicing! The new Anchor Distilling Edition of Cocktail Boothby's American Bar-Tender, based on the…

Book cover of The Savoy Cocktail Book

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson Why did I love this book?

Harry Craddock was a master behind the bar, and The Savoy Cocktail Book may be the most thorough chronicle of classic recipes from the Prohibition era. With the 18th Amendment, Americans had only two choices if they wanted a drink in a bar: go to an illegal speakeasy or head to places beyond the grip of the teetotalers. One of these spots was the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel, so named because it was one of the first bars where one could sip “American” cocktails. The no-nonsense layout and massive breadth of the recipes make this a must-have for both the layman and the professional. Among Harry Craddock’s words of wisdom is this nugget: “Shake the shaker as hard as you can: don’t just rock it: you are trying to wake it up, not send it to sleep!” I follow this advice with every drink I shake.

By Harry Craddock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Savoy Cocktail Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published by Constable in 1930, the Savoy Cocktail Book features 750 of the Savoy's most popular recipes. It is a fascinating record of the cocktails that set London alight at the time - and which are just as popular today. Taking you from Slings to Smashes, Fizzes to Flips, and featuring art deco illustrations, this book is the perfect gift for any budding mixologist or fan of 1930s-style decadence and sophistication. Updated with a new introduction and recipes from The Savoy.

Book cover of Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson Why did I love this book?

I’m a loud and proud proponent of the magical nature of tiki drinks. In my opinion, it is utterly impossible to be sad or angry or frustrated when you are served a drink with an umbrella – and sometimes an orchid, a pineapple spear, and a swizzle stick – in it. Jeff Berry, aka  ‘Beachbumb Berry’, is one of the undisputed experts in the world of tiki culture, and Potions of the Caribbean is a vividly-designed, detail-packed adventure of a book. With Berry’s always thorough research and reflections, the book traces the origins of tropical drinks back 500 years eventually culminating in the tiki craze that took the United States, and later the world, by storm. Coupled with Berry’s in-depth history are vibrant, historical photos and juicy recipes that make your mouth water. To me, the happy-go-lucky tiki era embodies a sense of optimism, a time when a flaming, fruity punch, or a whimsically garnished cocktail could make you could forget your troubles. The pages of Potions of the Caribbean bring that optimism -- adorable umbrellas included -- to life before your eyes.

By Jeff Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book, Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean strains five centuries of West Indian history through a cocktail shaker, serving up 77 vintage Caribbean drink recipes - 16 of them lost recipes that have never before been published anywhere in any form, and another 19 that have never been published in book form. Even more delicious are the stories of the people who created, or served, or simply drank these drinks. As a hybrid of street-smart gumshoe, anthropologist and mixologist (The Los Angeles Times), Jeff "Beachbum" Berry…

Book cover of The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson Why did I love this book?

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Tony Conigliaro’s Drink Factory laboratory in London where I found a mad scientist’s lair filled with complex, technical equipment, dry erase boards covered in formulas, and shelves of esoteric, bottled ingredients. While The Cocktail Lab finds a logical home in the era of molecular mixology, it is far more than that, showcasing its author as part chemist, part bartender, and part magician. First and foremost, the book captures what Conigliaro calls his “love affair with liquids”. The book’s cocktails – many of which I have tasted – are sensory experiences that capture not only flavors, but aromas, textures, and even memories. While modernizing many classic recipes, Conigliaro simultaneously pushes the definition of what a cocktail is and can be. For me, The Cocktail Lab celebrates the ever-evolving possibilities of liquid pleasure in the modern world and how a cocktail can be a transformative experience. 

By Tony Conigliaro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cocktail Lab as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the U.K.'s preeminent bartender and one of the leading authorities on "modernist mixology" comes this collection of 60 revolutionary cocktails, all grounded in the classics but utilizing technologies and techniques from the molecular gastronomy movement.

The right cocktail is more than just a drink. It's the perfect combination of scent, color, sound, and taste. Utilizing a broad spectrum of influences—including gastronomy, perfumery, music, art, and design—Tony Conigliaro has established himself as one of the most innovative and thought-provoking mixologists in the world. In The Cocktail Lab, Tony presents his best and boldest creations: drinks like the Vintage Manhattan, Dirty…

Book cover of Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson Why did I love this book?

First, I have a confession. I know and love David Kaplan and Alex Day, two of Death & Co’s partners. The moment I stepped into Death & Co’s original location in Manhattan’s East Village, I knew I was in a special place. Small, dark, and moody, the bar embodies the best parts of the 21st century drinks culture with its spectacular cocktails made by a top-of-their-game bartending team. The Death & Co book captures the alchemy that can happen behind the bar; it is an unabashed love letter to the industry. Packed full of classic and innovative recipes, as well as boozy recommendations, insights, and observations, it is everything a modern cocktail book should be. 

By David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald, Alex Day

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Death & Co as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The definitive guide to the contemporary craft cocktail movement, from one of the highest-profile, most critically lauded, and influential bars in the world.
Death & Co is the most important, influential, and oft-imitated bar to emerge from the contemporary craft cocktail movement. Since its opening in 2006, Death & Co has been a must-visit destination for serious drinkers and cocktail enthusiasts, and the winner of every major industry award—including America’s Best Cocktail Bar and Best Cocktail Menu at the Tales of the Cocktail convention. Boasting a supremely talented and creative bar staff—the best in the industry—Death & Co is also…

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