In the two years or so since my interest in cocktails really blossomed, I’ve collected somewhere around 50 books related to drinks and drinking. And while I have a few books on wine, bar ware, and other stuff, by far most of my books are cocktail guides–what cocktails are, how to mix ‘em, and so on and so on. My favorites among these are the books published prior to 1960 (especially the ones dating to Prohibition, and on back to the turn of the last century), as they tend to display a comfortable familiarity with the flavor and character of different spirits and liqueurs that you almost never find in bars or in bar guides anymore.
Almost. Y’see, the latest addition to my bookshelf is brand new, just published earlier this month. Killer Cocktails: An Intoxicated Guide to Sophisticated Drinking is the latest book by David Wondrich, Esquire magazine’s chief cocktail authority and author of Esquire Drinks, one of the books that got me started down this path.
Wondrich is more than a cocktail writer–he’s a deity of drink, a scholar of the soused with a knowledge and understanding of the mixological arts that is as deep and wide as the river of fine hooch that once flowed at the old Waldorf Bar every night. This book has 78 recipes, some the old classics of the sort that he trotted out in Esquire Drinks and on the Esquire Drinks Database (the Daiquiri, the Aviation, the Manhattan, etc.), but even better, this one has some new-ish drinks crafted in the classic form, many by Wondrich himself. It’s written with the beginner in mind (“Step 9: Dump the ice into the shaker as gently as possible.”), and most of the recipes are easy to make (easy, assuming you have stuff like Peychaud’s bitters, yellow Chartreuse and imported apricot brandy on hand). And while Wondrich is prone to the occasional cocktail-geek emphasis on impossible-to-find ingredients (his recipe for the “Improved Holland Gin Cock-tail” calls for a spirit–Holland gin, or Genever–that’s virtually vanished from the U.S market), he has a great sense of balance in a cocktail and an enthusiasm for perfection in a drink that can only be a good thing in the long run–especially if some of the vanilla-Stoli-and-Diet-Coke drinkers can be persuaded to get on the outside of one of these creations, and hence be set on the road to righteous inebriation.
Dave Wondrich: keeping hope alive.
You can–and should–buy this book; do so here or here: