The best folklore, fact, and fallacy-busting books about spirits & cocktail history

Anistatia R. Miller Author Of Spirituous Journey: A History of Drink, Book Two
By Anistatia R. Miller

Who am I?

I’ve been researching and writing with my co-author husband Jared Brown about spirits and mixed drinks for three decades. After writing more than three dozen books plus hundreds of articles about the history and origins of alcoholic beverages, you could say I am addicted to the topic in a big way. While we’ve travelled and tasted drinks around the world we’ve also amassed a few thousand books on the subject. It’s served as a launch point of our secondary careers as drinks consultants and master distillers for global spirits brands. I'm currently finishing my doctoral thesis on early-modern English brewing at the University of Bristol to put a feather on the cap of my long career.

I wrote...

Spirituous Journey: A History of Drink, Book Two

By Anistatia R. Miller, Jared McDaniel Brown,

Book cover of Spirituous Journey: A History of Drink, Book Two

What is my book about?

The second volume of an award-winning two-part history, Spirituous Journey: A History of Drink, Volume 2 revisits and revises much of what is generally known about spirits and mixed drink history, covering the eighteenth through twentieth centuries. A few surprises include the earliest known use of the word “cocktail” in a London newspaper in 1798; the Tom & Jerry was not named after or invented by Jerry Thomas; and the true stories behind the origins of both the Bloody Mary and Bloody Cesar. Spirituous Journey reminds readers that the world of spirits and drinks is more than just a shake, stir, or throw. There's pride in a rich history, too.

The books I picked & why

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When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba

By Basil Woon,

Book cover of When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba

Why this book?

Privately published in 1928 by Horace Liveright, British playwright and journalist Basil Woon captured the energy that took hold of Havana during Prohibition in the USA, as Americans flocked by the thousands to drink, gamble, and party served by hundreds of Cuban and self-exiled American bartenders amid the tropical beauty that is Cuba. This book opened my eyes to clues that helped me sort out the true origins of the Mary Pickford, the Mojito, and the El Presidente. While my husband and I travelled to Havana once a year for ten years, this book guided us to the places we wanted to visit to capture the spirit and essence of Cuban cocktails.

The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails

By Dave Wondrich, Noah Rothbaum (editor),

Book cover of The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails

Why this book?

This is the very first and very major reference work to cover the subjects of spirits, mixed drinks, cocktails, and the people who created them from a global perspective, providing authoritative, enlightening, and entertaining overviews. It makes this not only a valuable source but a great recreational read for enthusiasts to scan and share with friends and family. Into pub quizzes? This book offers enough libatious fodder to create thousands of brain-teasing questions.

Thrilling Cities

By Ian Fleming,

Book cover of Thrilling Cities

Why this book?

My husband and I have spent three decades travelling the world in search of great drinks and great drink stories. You could say this one volume ignited a wanderlust in us both when we first kicked off our drinks writing career. Written between 1959 and 1960, some of the places mentioned don’t exist any longer but brought back fond memories for me. The Musket & Henrickson pharmacy in Chicago which had a late-night café frequented by Playboy Club entertainers and mafiosi is just one example. What Fleming offered in his portrayals of Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Geneva, Naples, and Monte Carlo undoubtedly inspired Anthony Bourdain’s portrayals of places in his fabulous TV series.


By Michael Musto,

Book cover of Downtown

Why this book?

Once again, personal history meets drink history with this book about nightclubbing in New York’s Greenwich Village during the 1980s. Musto escorts readers through the hotspots that made Manhattan’s nightlife tingle and zing. Fuelled on vodka, vodka, and a side of whiskey and beer, Musto races through the Cat Club, Area, Limelight, Max’s Kansas City, Mudd Club, CBGB’s, Indochine, and other hideouts that kept the pre-cocktail revival night culture alive and kicking. 

New York Cocktails: An Elegant Collection of Over 100 Recipes Inspired by the Big Apple

By Amanda Schuster,

Book cover of New York Cocktails: An Elegant Collection of Over 100 Recipes Inspired by the Big Apple

Why this book?

Last but certainly not least, Amanda Schuster’s recipe collection spends more time weaving a fantastic fabric of anecdotes and origin stories about a range of famous and infamous mixed drinks made in Manhattan. From familiar concoctions such as the Cosmopolitan’s New York origin stories and the eponymous Manhattan to more contemporary classics such as the Penicillin and the Purple Rain, readers will find inspiration in mixing and conversing about the drinks and the people who mixed them in the city that never sleeps.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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