Book review: Difford’s Guide

February 10th, 2008

“Difford’s Guide to Cocktails, Vol. 5″ was the first cocktail book I ever purchased, back when I thought a Woo Woo was a good cocktail, and Jack Daniels was a quality bourbon. Since then my knowledge, and indeed my cocktail snobbery, has expanded, but Difford’s Guide has remained a useful reference for all manner of cocktails both classic and modern.

The latest edition, volume seven, contains recipes for an incredible 2250 cocktails, in a reasonably compact hardback tome. The author, writer and mixologist Simon Difford, has tasted each and every recipe, and offers his thoughts on the cocktail along with a photograph and notes on the origins of the drink. The more famous cocktails even get their own page featuring a brief history of the drink along with a larger, more arty photograph.

Demeanor cocktail

The cocktails range from classic cocktails like the Martinez and Sazerac, to modern concoctions from the past few years using new ingredients like St. Germain. Given the sheer scale of drinks on offer obviously not every one is going to be a cocktail masterpiece. Thankfully though every recipe is rated on a simple 1-5 scale, which provides a useful indicator when trying to pick out drinks to try.

Along with all the recipes, the guide features a short introduction to the basics of mixing drinks, including techniques like shaking and stirring, as well as making garnishes and simple syrup. There is also a guide to the best cocktail bars in various cities around the world with some really nice photography of the bars in question. However, my favorite extra is the very useful index at the back listing every cocktail by what ingredients are used – invaluable if you’re looking for a recipe that makes use of a new ingredient you’ve just picked up.

As a cocktail recipe book it’s hard to find much fault in Difford’s Guide. A good majority of the drinks featured are very sweet mixtures, often made with flavoured vodka, but that’s more a reflection on cocktail culture today than a fault of the book or author. My only real quibble is that a lot of the recipes, both classic and modern, have an extra measure of water included in them, which I think is almost always unnecessary and best skipped.

That aside though, this is an excellent reference for recipes and more than deserving of a place on any cocktailian bookshelf. Difford’s Guide to Cocktails, Volume 7 is available to pre-order from and is available to purchase now at

Note: In the interests of full disclosure, after mentioning Difford’s Guide previously on Oh Gosh! Simon contacted me and sent me this latest edition of the guide. However, I happily paid for the previous two volumes and would have done so again if Simon hadn’t have sent me a copy.

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One response to “Book review: Difford’s Guide”

  1. Dominique Dumand Dominique Dumand says:

    I’m in charge of foreign right for Marabout, the first french practical books publisher and we would like to publish your cocktails V7 books. Who is in charge of your rights for France?
    Looking forward to hearing from you,
    Best wishes

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