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.


The books I picked & why

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Drinking Distilled: A User's Manual

By Jeffrey Morgenthaler,

Book cover of Drinking Distilled: A User's Manual

Why 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.


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?

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. 


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

By Niki Segnit,

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

Why 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.


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

By Robin Robinson,

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

Why 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.


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

By Brian Bartels,

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

Why 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. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cocktails, whisky, and cooking?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about cocktails, whisky, and cooking.

Cocktails Explore 34 books about cocktails
Whisky Explore 20 books about whisky
Cooking Explore 61 books about cooking

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Bourbon is My Comfort Food: The Bourbon Women Guide to Fantastic Cocktails at Home, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, and Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar if you like this list.