Hit the Books

I like books. I like to read books, I like to flip through books without really reading, I like to have books around.

I also like to drink–duh–and so over the past few years I’ve managed to accumulate way more books on cocktails, bartending, spirits and their role in culture and history than I ever thought existed. Most of these came cheap–old bar manuals are everywhere, and most are only worth a couple of bucks–but even the pricier vintage cocktail guides can be found for a bargain, assuming you’re willing to be diligent in your searching (both online and in used bookstores) and say the occasional prayer to Trader Vic. And then, there’s the sporadic reprint, which for a reasonable price puts a tome of well-established libational wisdom into the hands of a cocktail geek like myself.

Anyway, here’s my booze bookshelf–my plan is to refer back to this post on occasion, both to flesh out individual books a bit as well as to explore some of the worthwhile (or worthless) drinks each one contains. At some point I may give some rating system as to the worthiness of each book, but just putting it down in a list is enough work for now.

(note: for the date on each book, I’ve listed the publication or printing date for the edition I own, and not necessarily the original publication date for the book)

Cocktail guides, bartending manuals and other works pertaining to mixed drinks

The Algonquin Bar and Cocktail Book
by Anna Kiernan

Bacchus Behave!
The Lost Art of Polite Drinking
by Alma Whitaker

The Bartender’s Book
Being a compilation of Sundry Alcoholic Potations, Libations & Mixtures together with Recipes and Tables to make Everyman a Proficient Practitioner of the noble Art of Mixology
by Jack Townsend & Tom Moore McBride

Bartender’s Guide
by “Trader Vic” Bergeron

Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log
by Jeff Berry & Annene Kaye

Beachbum Berry’s Intoxica!
by Jeff Berry

The Bon Vivant’s Companion
or, How to Mix Drinks
by Jerry Thomas, edited and with an introduction by Herbert Asbury
1927 edition, printed 1934

Bottoms Up
by Ted Saucier

Bottoms Up
Guide to Pleasant Drinking
cocktail guide published and distributed by Town & Country Liquors, Inc., Great Neck, NY

Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Drinking Recipes
by Harman Burney “Barney” Burke

Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes
with Recipes for Food Bits for the Cocktail Hour – The Art and Etiquette of Mixing, Serving and Drinking Wines and Liquors
by Harman Burney “Barney” Burke

Cakes and Ale
by Edward Spencer

Classic Cocktails
(reprint of The Ideal Bartender)
by Tom Bullock and D.J. Frienz
2002 (originally published in 1917)

The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century
by Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead

by “Jimmy” late of Ciro’s London
undated; first published in 1930

The Cocktails of The Ritz Paris
by Colin Peter Field

The Craft of the Cocktail
by Dale DeGroff

Cups of Valor
by N.E. Beveridge

Esquire Drinks
An Opinionated & Irreverent Guide to Drinking
by David Wondrich

Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts

Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em
by Stanley Clisby Arthur

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks
by David Embury
1958 edition

The Flowing Bowl
by Edward Spencer

For Snake-Bites – or something
undated; flyleaf reads “Compiled in order to preserve some evidence of the genius and artistry of those good old days,” so probably Prohibition-era

The Gentleman’s Companion
2 volumes, including Being An Exotic Drinking Book, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker & Flask
by Charles H. Baker, Jr.
1946 (originally published 1939)

Here’s How!
by Judge Jr.

The Hour
by Bernard DeVoto

How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion
Containing Clear and Reliable Directions for Mixing All the Beverages Used in the United States, Together with the Most Popular British, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish Recipes, Embracing Punches, Juleps, Cobblers, Etc., Etc., Etc., in Endless Variety
by Jerry Thomas
2004 reprint of 1864 edition

The Joy of Mixology
by Gary Regan

Killer Cocktails
An Intoxicating Guide to Sophisticated Drinking
by David Wondrich

The Journal of the American Cocktail – Volume 1
Anistatia Miller, ed.; published by the Museum of the American Cocktail

Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender’s Guide

The Official Mixer’s Manual
by Patrick Gavin Duffy, revised and enlarged by Robert Jay Misch

Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide

Old Waldorf Bar Days
by Albert Stevens Crockett

On Drink
by Kingsley Amis

The Savoy Cocktail Book
by Harry Craddock
1999 (originally published 1930)

Shaken Not Stirred
A Celebration of the Martini
Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown

So Red the Nose–or, Breath in the Afternoon
Cocktail Recipes by 30 Leading Authors
by Sterling North and Carl Kroch

The South American Gentleman’s Companion (2 volumes)
by Charles H. Baker, Jr.

The Standard Bartender’s Guide
by Patrick Gavin Duffy

The Standard Bartender’s Guide
by Patrick Gavin Duffy, revised by James Beard

Standard Cocktail Guide
by Crosby Gaige

The Stork Club Bar Book
by Lucius Beebe
2003 reprint of 1930’s / 1940’s original

Straight Up or On the Rocks
The Story of the American Cocktail
by William Grimes

Trader Vic’s Book of Food & Drink
by Vic Bergeron

Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails
by Ted Haigh

World Drinks and How to Mix Them
by “Cocktail Bill” Boothby

Not cocktails, necessarily, but still of interest to the booze enthusiast

The Alcoholic Republic
An American Tradition
by W.J. Rorabaugh

Big Shots
The Men Behind the Booze
by A.J. Baime

The Impact of Whisky on the Prairie West
James H. Gray

The Cocktail
The Influence of Spirits on the American Psyche
by Joseph Lanza

The Complete Guide to Whiskey
by Jim Murray

A Social History of America
by Andrew Barr

Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Spirits and Beers
by Harold J. Grossman

Kentucky Moonshine
by David W. Maurer

The Epic Story of the Drink that Conquered the World
by Charles A. Coulombe

The Social History of Bourbon
An Unhurried Account of our Star-Spangled American Drink
by Gerald Carson

Tales of the Ex-Tanks
by Clarence Louis Cullen

Ten Nights in a Bar Room
by T.S. Arthur
printing date unknown; originally published 1854; copy appears to be from 1880s-1890s

Vintage Bar Ware
Identification & Value Guide
by Stephen Visakay

8 Responses to Hit the Books

  1. Wow. This is an intense list. I greatly look forward to you implementing some kind of ratings for the books.

    Of your list, I think I only have Craft of the Cocktail, which I consider to be a superb book.


  2. Nice list! (I’m taking notes.) If you can get your hands on a copy… I’d also recommend the “South American Gentleman’s Companion”. Some nice recipes in there. Also, I like “The Ultimate Book of Cocktails” by Stuart Walton. It’s British and I think is scarce over here. (I got mine in London for 5 pounds.) It’s a good book with the first half being a quite thorough treatment of spirits and liqueurs, and the second half being a nice collection of recipes. I think quite a few of the Zig Zag’s current cocktail list came from Walton’s book(s).

  3. I was looking at a book entited “The Complete Book of Spirits,” by Anthony Dias Blue. It included:

    -history on the major types of liquor, including specific distillery history/stories
    -“how to taste” information
    -information on the different varieties of a specific liquor (e.g. whiskeys – irish, scotch, amercian varieties, etc.)
    -ratings of most brands of liquor including pricing information

    Overall, I am very interested in a book that contains this type of information, but I wasn’t sure if there was a better resource out there. Amazon didn’t have any reviews for it.

    Any recommendations?

  4. This is quite an an impressive list. If I may also offer a suggested addition:

    Liking to serve cocktails when I’m entertaining, but not liking to mix drinks one by one when there’s lots of people, I’ve enjoyed “The Ultimate Guide to Pitcher Drinks: Cool Cocktails for a Crowd” by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

    It offers many classics and a myriad variations on the classics, but scaled as you might imagine to serve 10-12 at a time.

  5. I was browsing through some cocktail books on Amazon, and I came to the conclusion that “The Joy of Mixology” is probably a good next purchase.

    Can anyone confirm or deny this?


  6. Thanks for the tips, everyone–keep them coming.

    John–I agree, the South American Gentleman’s Companion is a great resource–I’ve got it on the list, though I went alphabetical by title so it’s further down from Baker’s first work. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Walton’s book, as soon as I stop patting myself on the back for recently snagging a copy of Townsend’s Bartender’s Book, which had eluded me (a reasonably priced copy, anyway) for many months.

    Rick–I don’t have any broad overview books on spirits and wines (at least, nothing more recent than Grossman’ Guide), but I think I’ve browsed through the book you mentioned, and was impressed by it. From what I know of Anthony Dias Blue, his advice should be pretty solid.

    For a good, starting-out cocktail book, the Joy of Mixology would be a very good choice. Basically, if I were to set someone up with a great “starter kit” of books that are easy to find and full of info, I’d choose Regan’s book, along with both of David Wondrich’s books, plus Grimes’ Straight Up or On the Rocks, to get a good idea of how this whole cocktail thing developed. Once that’s all settled and you’re ready to hit the classics, I’d start searching for a copy of Embury’s Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, though it can be pricey–recent eBay sales have gone for $75 and up, though a few months ago I found a copy in a Seattle used bookstore for $3.

    Carry–I’ll have to put the pitcher drinks book on my “to buy” list–thanks for the suggestion.

  7. […] From the illustrious Gentleman’s Companion Volume II: The Exotic Drinking Book later re-published under a title, Jigger, Beaker, and Glass, comes this strange and somehow alluring potion. I did a bit of searching in my library of cocktail books, which I admit is by no means as grand and enticing as some, but I could find no mention of what Mr. Baker refers to as the Balloon Cocktail. Nor did my search turn up any drinks that contain such a combination of ingredients. Therefore, I don’t feel so amiss as to rename the cocktail The Calcutta. […]

  8. The Official Mixers Manual is the best. Fantastic foreward and a great collection of CLASSIC cocktails.

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