The best books to start a drinker’s library

Who am I?

I was raised in a ‘hospitality forward’ household to say the least. My parents always had family and friends over the house eating and drinking and although no one was in the food and beverage industry, most of the folks all had something to say about food and beverage. It was a fundamental part of the conversation. It carried over to me and became something that I focused on even before I was ever in the service industry. With experience, I became more knowledgeable, and my tastes became wider and a bit more refined, but the seeds were planted long ago.

I wrote...

The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book

By Frank Caiafa,

Book cover of The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book

What is my book about?

Frank Caiafa—bar manager of the legendary Peacock Alley bar in the Waldorf Astoria—stirs in recipes, history, and how-to while serving up a heady mix of the world's greatest cocktails. Learn to easily prepare pre-Prohibition classics such as the original Manhattan, or daiquiris just as Hemingway preferred them. Caiafa also introduces his own award-winning creations, including the Cole Porter, an enhanced whiskey sour named for the famous Waldorf resident.

Each recipe features tips and variations along with notes on the drink's history, so you can master the basics, then get adventurous--and impress fellow drinkers with fascinating cocktail trivia. The book also provides advice on setting up your home bar and scaling up your favorite recipe for a party.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Drinking Distilled: A User's Manual

Frank Caiafa Why did I love this book?

When recommending books on drinking and drinking properly, not necessarily making drinks properly, there are few recent releases that cover this ground. Jeffrey’s fun primer on the basics of drinking, its culture, and traditions make this a great first floor requirement in the skyscraper of imbibing. I would add that this would be a perfect gift for novice enthusiasts as it will help dodge plenty of missteps for sure.

By Jeffrey Morgenthaler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Drinking Distilled as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An opinionated, illustrated guide for cocktail beginners, covering the basics of spirits plus making and drinking cocktails, written by celebrated craft cocktail bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

This easy-reading, colorful introduction for cocktail beginners, with approximately 100 succinct lessons on drinking culture, spirits, and cocktail making, is delivered in the pithy, wry style Morgenthaler is known for in his instructional videos and writing for beverage publications. Novices will learn how to order a drink, how to drink with the boss, how to drink at the airport, and more. Twelve perfect starter recipes—ranging from a Dry Gin Martini to a Batched Old-Fashioned (perfect…

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

Frank Caiafa Why did I love this book?

Unlike Drinking Distilled, which mostly covers the guest's drinking experience, Gary Regan’s seminal volume looks outward, from the bartender’s perch behind the bar. Anyone interested in how the other half lives would do themselves a great service by starting here. Gary’s overview on what makes a great bartender and by extension a great bar, will find a new appreciation of their favorite bartender’s craft, adding more enjoyment to what may have been previously taken for granted when out about town. 

By Gary Regan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Joy of Mixology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thoroughly updated edition of the 2003 classic that home and professional bartenders alike refer to as their cocktail bible.

Gary Regan, the "most-read cocktail expert around" (Imbibe), has revised his original tome for the 15th anniversary with new material: many more cocktail recipes—including smart revisions to the originals—and fascinating information on the drink making revival that has popped up in the past decade, confirming once again that this is the only cocktail reference you need.

A prolific writer on all things cocktails, Gary Regan and his books have been a huge influence on mixologists and bartenders in America. This…

Book cover of The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook

Frank Caiafa Why did I love this book?

Recommending books with various recipes would be too easy (after all, that’s what my book is for). I think it would be an interesting leap for enthusiastic imbibers to explore what works and why. The Flavor Thesaurus will also carry over to the kitchen where everything ties together. I have used this reference book to the point of disintegration, especially when turning the calendar pages of seasonality as foods and ingredients disappear from the radar for months at a time. It has alternately saved and educated me through the years.

By Niki Segnit,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A perfect reference for the aspiring foodie.” –Chicago Tribune

Winner of the André Simon Award * Observer Best Books of the Year * Guild of Food Writers Best First Book Award

A complete guide to the 99 most essential ingredients and their numerous flavor combinations, offering inspiration for the cook who has everything.

Whether a flavor is defined by a "grassy" ingredient like dill, cucumber, or peas, or a "floral fruity" food like figs, roses, or blueberries, flavors can be combined in wildly imaginative ways. In this lively and original book, Niki Segnit identifies the 99 fundamental ingredients of food…

Book cover of The Complete Whiskey Course: A Comprehensive Tasting School in Ten Classes

Frank Caiafa Why did I love this book?

Knowing what we drink and how it’s made can be as interesting as knowing what to do with it once it’s on your table (or bar). Among the many whiskey books out there, The Complete Whiskey Course does a great job at covering a lot of ground in an unpretentious and welcoming manner. From the distilling process to label identification (a very handy chapter for newbies and pros alike), origin stories, and unique tasting notes, this book makes for a fun gateway platform for deeper educational dives as the drinker’s interest and experience grows.

By Robin Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the definitive book on understanding and appreciating the world of whiskey. Renowned whiskey educator, Robin Robinson, demystifies the "water of life" in a definitive, heavily illustrated tome designed to take readers on a global tour of the ever-expanding world of whiskey. Across ten robust "classes" ,Robinson explains whiskey history, how it defined the way whiskey is made in different countries and regions, the myriad styles, how ageing and finishing works and the basics of "nosing" and tasting whiskey. In chapters dedicated to American whiskey (including bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye), American Craft whiskey, Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Japanese and…

Book cover of The Bloody Mary: The Lore and Legend of a Cocktail Classic, with Recipes for Brunch and Beyond

Frank Caiafa Why did I love this book?

Ending as I began, on the lighter side of things, I think that The Bloody Mary makes for an interesting single subject cocktail book as one can find. From its convoluted origins to its over-the-top renditions, the bloody mary is one of the very few recipes that have been consistently enjoyed from the Prohibition era throughout the 20th century and onward to today. Most proponents of the drink all claim to make the best one, so understanding the nuances of something as fun and all-encompassing as this brunch-time favorite, is bound to keep conversations going. And if nothing else, if you’re going to begin a drinker’s library, you may as well start with the one that’s the first drink of the day. 

By Brian Bartels,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Finalist for the 2018 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Book Awards 

The definitive guide for those devoted to the brunchtime classic, the Bloody Mary, with 50 recipes for making cocktails at home.

The Bloody Mary is one of the most universally-loved drinks. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and beyond, there simply isn't a wrong time for a Bloody.

In The Bloody Mary, author Brian Bartels—beverage director for the beloved West Village restaurants Jeffrey's Grocery, Joseph Leonard, Fedora, Perla, and Bar Sardine—delves into the fun history of this classic drink.(Did Hemingway create it, as legend suggests? Or was it…

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By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

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Who am I?

Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

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What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

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