The best cocktail books

10 authors have picked their favorite books about cocktails and why they recommend each book.

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Apéritif

By Rebekah Peppler,

Book cover of Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way: A Recipe Book

Another beautiful book with beautiful photography by a dear friend in Paris, Rebekah Peppler. This James Beard nominated recipe book takes you through how to create a classic apéro through the seasons, and then inventive riffs. I’ve personally tried so many of these recipes and they have you dreaming and yearning for that moment with friends, setting suns, chilled glasses and the sound of crystal in celebration of another day.

Apéritif

By Rebekah Peppler,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Jackie Kai Ellis is a designer, bestselling author, pastry chef, entrepreneur, lifestyle writer, and other bits n’ bobs. Jackie left design to pursue her passion for pastry in Paris. After finishing her studies, she founded the award-winning pâtisserie, Beaucoup Bakery & Café in Vancouver – featured in countless publications and media including Bon Appétit Magazine. Jackie turned her passion for authentic storytelling and launched her bestselling memoir, The Measure of My Powers: A memoir of food, misery, and Paris,.


I wrote...

The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris

By Jackie Kai Ellis,

Book cover of The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris

What is my book about?

On the surface, Jackie Kai Ellis's life was the one that she and every woman wanted. She was in her late twenties and married to a handsome man, she had a successful career as a designer, and she had a beautiful home. But instead of feeling fulfilled, happy, and loved, each morning she'd wake up dreading the day ahead, searching for a way out. Depression clouded every moment, the feelings of inadequacy that had begun in childhood now consumed her, and her marriage was slowly transforming into one between strangers--unfamiliar, childless, and empty. In the darkness, she could only find one source of light: the kitchen. It was the place where Jackie escaped, finding peace, comfort, and acceptance.

Tequila Mockingbird

By Tim Federle,

Book cover of Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

It’s hard not to relish a clever pun, especially when it involves an allusion to good literature, and it’s even harder not to relish an entire book of them. Tim Federle combines the Great Books and great drinks with cocktails such as Brave New Swirled, The Cooler Purple, Paradise Sauced, Moby-Drink, The Sound and the Slurry, and The Last of the Mojitos.

Tequila Mockingbird

By Tim Federle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

December 2013: Goodreads Choice Award (Food & Cookbooks)December 2013: Entertainment Weekly Great Gifts for Book LoversDecember 2013: BookPage Best of 2013October 2014: Clue on Jeopardy Congrats. You fought through War and Peace , burned through Fahrenheit 451 , and sailed through Moby-Dick . All right, you nearly drowned in Moby-Dick , but you made it to shore,and you deserve a drink! A fun gift for barflies and a terrific treat for book clubs, Tequila Mockingbird is the ultimate cocktail book for the literary obsessed. Featuring 65 delicious drink recipes,paired with wry commentary on history's most beloved novels,the book also includes…

Who am I?

One of my fondest childhood memories is the holiday parties that my parents threw. Lying in bed I could hear roars of laughter crash the silence and gently ebb as the grownups shared stories and made merry. Later in life, I came to realize how different that kind of drinking is from the frat-boy binging of college and the anxious bracers at singles’ bars. As an adult, I became a Catholic theologian, got married, and had a family of my own. My wife Alexandra and I have relished an evening cocktail together in order to unwind and catch up on each other’s day (Alexandra has homeschooled all six of our children, which is itself a compelling reason to drink daily).


I wrote...

Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

By Michael P. Foley,

Book cover of Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

What is my book about?

Drinking with the Saints pairs beer, wine, and cocktail suggestions with the feast days of the Church year: you look up a date, read a brief sketch of the saint whose feast is being celebrated that day, and make a drink in his or her honor. The book contains over 350 cocktail recipes (38 of them original), and it even includes drinks for Lent. Besides all the tasty beverage ideas, Drinking with the Saints encourages a culture of Christian merriment and festivity. Christianity and alcohol have had a long and illustrious history together, from Chartreuse (made by Carthusian monks) to Trappist beer to Franciscan missionaries literally planting the seeds of the California wine industry.


The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song

By John Zmirak, Denise Matychowiak,

Book cover of The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song: A Spirited Look at Catholic Life & Lore from the Apocalypse to Zinfandel

This could be the most bizarre monograph you will ever have on your bookshelf. The subtitle is no lie: for every letter of the alphabet, Zmirak has assembled an entertaining assortment of food recipes, drinking songs, history lessons, wine suggestions, or one of the Ten Commandments impishly explained. In the dedication, Zmirak and contributing author Denise Matychowiak list as their inspirations Pope Benedict XVI, food authors Paula Wolfert and M.F.K. Fisher, and Weird Al Yankovic. Need I say more?

The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song

By John Zmirak, Denise Matychowiak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This sequel to the highly-praised Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living allows you to view Catholic life from a unique perspective. Starting with the wines, beers, and liquors made around the world by monks, the authors explore everything from Irish history to the secrets of the Knights Templar, with drinking games, food, and cocktail recipes, and rollicking drinking songs.

Who am I?

One of my fondest childhood memories is the holiday parties that my parents threw. Lying in bed I could hear roars of laughter crash the silence and gently ebb as the grownups shared stories and made merry. Later in life, I came to realize how different that kind of drinking is from the frat-boy binging of college and the anxious bracers at singles’ bars. As an adult, I became a Catholic theologian, got married, and had a family of my own. My wife Alexandra and I have relished an evening cocktail together in order to unwind and catch up on each other’s day (Alexandra has homeschooled all six of our children, which is itself a compelling reason to drink daily).


I wrote...

Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

By Michael P. Foley,

Book cover of Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

What is my book about?

Drinking with the Saints pairs beer, wine, and cocktail suggestions with the feast days of the Church year: you look up a date, read a brief sketch of the saint whose feast is being celebrated that day, and make a drink in his or her honor. The book contains over 350 cocktail recipes (38 of them original), and it even includes drinks for Lent. Besides all the tasty beverage ideas, Drinking with the Saints encourages a culture of Christian merriment and festivity. Christianity and alcohol have had a long and illustrious history together, from Chartreuse (made by Carthusian monks) to Trappist beer to Franciscan missionaries literally planting the seeds of the California wine industry.


Imbibe!

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

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.

Imbibe!

By David Wondrich,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Imbibe! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


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.

Book cover of Straight Up or on the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail

Order a Martini (straight up, or with ice chiming against the glass), then settle with this charming book and the “quintessential cocktail” that merits its own chapter in the imbiber’s US history tour. Grimes wears learning lightly while pointing out the cultural vagaries over four centuries of pleasurable distillation, brewing, and fermentation. Who knew the American Revolution was first fomented in 1700s village taverns? Or that the familiar Gilded Age “Bronx” (named by the Waldorf-Astoria’s master mixologist) was the very first cocktail to use fruit juice?

Author Grimes chides the 1960s Yuppies (a.k.a. young urban professionals) for purist insistence on “imported beer” and “the rarest of single-malt Scotches,” but concludes the country and the cocktail survived and are all the better for it. He gets no argument from me!

Straight Up or on the Rocks

By William Grimes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Straight Up or on the Rocks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Nightclubs and country clubs figured in my father’s business distributing snack foods in post-WWII “Steel City,” Pittsburgh, where I was served “Shirley Temple” cocktails in martini glasses alongside my parents’ Manhattans. (To my five- and six-year-old eye, the trophy was the maraschino cherry.) Decades later, teaching American literature in the university, my interest deepened in Jack London’s writing, and my book on him demanded close attention to the history of US cocktails and other drinks. London’s memoir, John Barleycorn, frankly details his drinking and eventual capture by alcohol. As a scholar-researcher, I was “captured” by the backstory of US cocktail culture.


I wrote...

Gilded Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America's Golden Age

By Cecelia Tichi,

Book cover of Gilded Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America's Golden Age

What is my book about?

America’s Golden Age of Cocktails jibed with the dawn of the telephone, electric lights, and the airplane. In the post-Civil War decades, bartenders’ innovations gave rise to the Manhattan, the Martini, and myriad other drinks popular to this day. Suddenly, ice was no longer a cheating bartender’s dilution, but an asset to chill whiskey, rum, or gin beverages compounded with flavorings, juices, and fruit garnishes that pleased both eye and palate. The new mixed drinks flourished at barrooms, sporting events, luncheons, balls, reunions, and on railroad cars, yachts, and ocean liners.

Cocktails honored America’s cities, celebrities, tycoons, scamps, and scoundrels. Colleges had signature drinks, and actresses were toasted with cocktails compounded in tribute to their starring roles on stage. The Temperance Movement warned against these demonic drinks, but cocktails stirred or shaken won the day.

Bitters

By Brad Thomas Parsons, Ed Anderson (photographer),

Book cover of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas

Whiskeys rule, but the modern bar dare not lack a battery of bitters that extend beyond from the familiar Angostura and Peychaud’s. By the “dash,” cocktails demand bitters which, all too often, appear to be an afterthought. (Yet my New Orleans-born Sazerac cocktail would taste “off” without Peychaud’s and my favorite Old Fashioned unthinkable without two dashes of time-honored Angostura.)

Bitters inducts us into the realm of these botanical “drugs” distilled from flowers, spices, citrus peels, tree bark—all originally dispensed in apothecary shops as cures for digestive woes, stomach troubles, even gout. By the Gilded Age, bitters transited to the bar under brands sounding sketchy (e.g. Flint’s Quaker Bitters), but Bitters opens a new botanical wonderland for my armchair imagining, and for others’ venturesome do-it-yourself distillation. Key Lime Bitters, anyone?

Bitters

By Brad Thomas Parsons, Ed Anderson (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Nightclubs and country clubs figured in my father’s business distributing snack foods in post-WWII “Steel City,” Pittsburgh, where I was served “Shirley Temple” cocktails in martini glasses alongside my parents’ Manhattans. (To my five- and six-year-old eye, the trophy was the maraschino cherry.) Decades later, teaching American literature in the university, my interest deepened in Jack London’s writing, and my book on him demanded close attention to the history of US cocktails and other drinks. London’s memoir, John Barleycorn, frankly details his drinking and eventual capture by alcohol. As a scholar-researcher, I was “captured” by the backstory of US cocktail culture.


I wrote...

Gilded Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America's Golden Age

By Cecelia Tichi,

Book cover of Gilded Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America's Golden Age

What is my book about?

America’s Golden Age of Cocktails jibed with the dawn of the telephone, electric lights, and the airplane. In the post-Civil War decades, bartenders’ innovations gave rise to the Manhattan, the Martini, and myriad other drinks popular to this day. Suddenly, ice was no longer a cheating bartender’s dilution, but an asset to chill whiskey, rum, or gin beverages compounded with flavorings, juices, and fruit garnishes that pleased both eye and palate. The new mixed drinks flourished at barrooms, sporting events, luncheons, balls, reunions, and on railroad cars, yachts, and ocean liners.

Cocktails honored America’s cities, celebrities, tycoons, scamps, and scoundrels. Colleges had signature drinks, and actresses were toasted with cocktails compounded in tribute to their starring roles on stage. The Temperance Movement warned against these demonic drinks, but cocktails stirred or shaken won the day.

Drinking Distilled

By Jeffrey Morgenthaler,

Book cover of Drinking Distilled: A User's Manual

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.

Drinking Distilled

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.


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 Joy of Mixology

By Gary Regan,

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

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. 

The Joy of Mixology

By Gary Regan,

Why should I read it?

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


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 Bloody Mary

By Brian Bartels,

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

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. 

The Bloody Mary

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.


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.


Book cover of The United States of Cocktails: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia)

Longtime New York City bartender Brian Bartels makes for an erudite and humorous guide to American cocktails as he surveys the country state by state. Chock full of quotes and quips, plus offering a stunning array of obscure drinking facts along with local lore, the book is not just an amble but a true tour de force. The United States of Cocktails makes for the perfect drinking companion to simply pop open and browse for a drink to make tonight, or to read cover to cover. Educational and transportive, Bartels’ charm keeps readers returning to this impressively researched tome.  

The United States of Cocktails

By Brian Bartels,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An exploration of the beloved cocktails, spirits, and bars that define each state in America

The United States of Cocktails is a celebration of the cocktail history of every state in America. After traveling around this great nation and sampling many of the drinks on offer, cocktail authority Brian Bartels serves up a book that is equal parts recipe collection, travelogue, historical miscellany, bartender's manual, and guide to bar culture today-with bar and drink recommendations that are sure to come in handy whether or not you are crossing state lines. Delving into the colorful stories behind the creation of drinks…

Who am I?

I have been researching and writing about cocktails for over two decades. My first book, The New Cocktail Hour, appeared in 2016 and I have since written seven more books pairing mixed drinks with topics such as classic movies, vinyl music, the DC Comics universe, Westerns, and travel. Cocktails are truly global concoctions, invented by using tea from the Far East, sugar from the Caribbean, liquor from Europe, and citrus from the tropics. The best books about mixed drinks transport us to a worldly state of mind wherever we are. 


I wrote...

Booze Cruise: A Tour of the World's Essential Mixed Drinks

By André Darlington,

Book cover of Booze Cruise: A Tour of the World's Essential Mixed Drinks

What is my book about?

In 2020, I circumnavigated the globe expressly in pursuit of cocktails, following in the footsteps of drinks writer Charles H. Baker Jr. a hundred years ago. Because of the recent spread of the craft cocktail revolution worldwide -- and a global distillery boom -- there has never been a better time to imbibe on Earth. I wanted to experience it all for myself and share my adventures. Booze Cruise includes a romp through over 40 of the greatest cocktail cities on the planet along with drink recipes, local intel, food pairing tips, and more. 

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