The best cocktail books for the drinks enthusiast’s library

Cas Oh Author Of CO Specs: Recipes & Histories of Classic Cocktails
By Cas Oh

Who am I?

Cas Oh is a drinks industry veteran and author of the award-winning book CO Specs: Recipes & Histories of Classic CocktailsCO Specs is the product of Cas Oh’s 20+ years behind the bar, mixing drinks, managing teams, and training staff in such notable venues as The Groucho Club and the Hospital Club. Most recently Oh was running the bars at the iconic Ivy Club in London's West End, where he held the tiller for a decade before leaving to finalise the manuscript for CO Specs. Known for his obsessive approach to research and training, his book is the 'one-stop shop' he always wished he'd had.

I wrote...

CO Specs: Recipes & Histories of Classic Cocktails

By Cas Oh,

Book cover of CO Specs: Recipes & Histories of Classic Cocktails

What is my book about?

With tens of thousands of cocktails in existence, how many of those could be considered classic, essential, or even tasty? CO Specs is an A to Z guide to the world’s most popular classic cocktails and distills down to the 200 true classics everyone should know. 

For Bartenders, it's a thorough field manual of all the classics you should know. A one-stop shop. The book Cas wishes he'd had (and spent far too long creating). For the Home Enthusiast - whether you're shaking up a few cocktails after a long day, or mixing something to impress your dinner guests, you'll find all of your favourite cocktails (as well as many gems yet undiscovered) among the CO Specs.

The books I picked & why

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The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks

By David A. Embury, Robert Hess, Audrey Saunders

Book cover of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks

Why this book?

For any serious bartender, they can classify their experience as before they read Embury, and after. I remember reading this book early on in my career; it changed the way I thought about drinks, and made me realise how deep the rabbit hole can go. This isn’t just a list of recipes, but a deep dive into the basic principles of cocktails and their fundamental components. Published in 1948, one beauty of this book is how opinionated and acerbic the author is. David Embury wasn’t even a bartender, he was a tax attorney who loved making cocktails at home for his guests, and yet deploying his sharp mind and ready wit, he managed to write one of the most influential drinks books of all time.

Here's How Mixed Drinks

By W.C. Whitfield, Tad Shell (illustrator),

Book cover of Here's How Mixed Drinks

Why this book?

Who doesn’t love a wooden book? Seriously, its cover is made of wood, and it’s bound together with cut leather. The internal pages have the tea-stained look of an old pirate map and smell like the very old books you find in the back of a goodwill store. My copy was given to me by Dick Bradsell, inventor of some of the most enduring modern classics such as the Bramble and Espresso Martini. It’s a true gem, not just for the wonderful recipes but for the illustrations — by far the most charming and amusing that you’ll find in any cocktail book. But if you’re getting the impression this book is all hokey-charm and no substance, you’d be very wrong. This is a tight collection of well-presented recipes, a really functional resource, as well as a fun one.

Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar

By David Wondrich,

Book cover of Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar

Why this book?

The sun was shining on the cocktail world the day that David Wondrich — a former English professor with a PhD in comparative literature — decided to step away from his existing vocation and turn his attention on drinks. He’s been hugely influential in the rise of the modern cocktail scene and is considered the foremost authority on the history of mixed drinks, shedding light on the origins of well-known, as well as esoteric libations. Imbibe is a fascinating read. Wondrich’s writing style is extremely engaging, you’ll fly through the book and still be left wanting more.

Esquires Handbook for Hosts

By Inc. (Firm) Esquire,

Book cover of Esquires Handbook for Hosts

Why this book?

Handbook for Hosts is a throwback to a golden era, when dinner parties were an artform. This book covers the whole gamut: everything from canape suggestions, food recipes, cocktail recipes, how to stock your home bar, party games, conversation tips, the dos and don’t of hosting, and even 365 excuses for a party! This is the kind of book they don’t make anymore, but you wish they would. It’s entertaining, insightful, and beautifully formatted. Read this book and you’ll be a dinner party Jedi in no time.

The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender's Craft

By Gary Regan,

Book cover of The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender's Craft

Why this book?

Among professional bartenders, when asked to name just one book they would recommend you buy, a great many would point you toward Joy of Mixology. One of the first, and still one of the best books covering all aspects of bartending, cocktail history, and the fundamentals of the broader craft.  Chapter headings such as "The Theory of Mixology", "Foundations of the Bar", and "The History of Cocktails", should give you a picture of how comprehensive it is in terms of scope. A great ‘one-stop shop’ for anyone interested in advancing their knowledge of mixed drinks. 

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