Required Reading

November 2nd, 2009

The cocktail world is in better shape today than it has been in decades, and everywhere you look you can see signs of its growth and impact whether it be a new cocktail bitters brand or a fresh bar opening. The local book shop certainly hasn’t been left behind either, with this year seeing a rash of new releases to satiate the demand for mixological information.

With this in mind I thought I would roundup some of my favourite releases this year, as well as some of the ones I’m looking forward to in the coming months. Whether you are shopping for yourself, or for your favourite cocktaillian’s Christmas stocking, one thing is for sure – this year you’re certainly not short of options!

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

Ted “Dr Cocktail” Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, first released in 2004 as the modern cocktail renaissance was beginning to take hold, was one of my first cocktail books and without doubt one of the guiding influences in my journey through classic cocktails. Packed full of notes and history, the book was more than just a collection of weird and wonderful recipes – it was a full on introduction to the varied history of cocktails.

Five years on the work Dr Cocktail and so many others put in has fully come to fruition and appropriately Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails has been rereleased in a brand new, updated deluxe edition. Recipes have been added, histories updated, notes expanded – and perhaps best of all the book is now spiral bound so it will lay flat on your bar as you measure out the ingredients to your Alamgoozlum or Boulevardier. Highly recommended.

The Bartender's Gin Compendium

Gaz Regan, the bartender formerly known as Gary Regan and another early pioneer of the cocktail revival, has also been busy this year with his new tome – The Bartender’s Gin Compendium. An exhaustive look in to the spirit, the book features a complete history of gin, a run through of a huge number of gins currently available on the market and some great gin cocktail recipes, all written in Gary’s unique and charming style.

Perhaps my favourite section though is written by Hugh Williams, former master distiller for United Distillers who oversaw production of Booth’s, Tanqueray and Gordon’s for over twenty years. His run through of gin botanicals is fascinating and enlightening, and worth the price on the cover alone. It’s not a perfect book – the Old Tom section lacks several gins that have been available for a while, and some of the gins featured sadly only have tasting notes supplied by the makers – but nonetheless The Bartender’s Gin Compendium is a great read and recommended for anyone who is a fan of mother’s ruin.


At the other end of the spectrum reproductions of classic cocktail books have continued to flourish this year. Mud Puddle Books have continued their series of painstakingly accurate reproductions with a further six books this year – “Artistry of Mixing Drinks” by Frank Meier, “Cocktails: How to Mix Them” by Robert Vermeire, “Drinks” by Jacques Straub, “Modern American Drinks” by George J. Kappeler and “World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them” by William Boothby – all beautifully recreated to be as close as possible to the original books and with excellent introductions by cocktail luminaries such as David Wondrich and Colin Peter Field.

Jared and Anistatia at Mixellany have taken this one step further with their two books Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars and Bariana, by annotating the entire books with comments on the recipes and ingredients mentioned. Bariana, by Louis Fouquet, was only the second French language cocktail book ever made when it was first published in 1896, and certainly the first one of any note. The history of Fouquet and his book has been carefully researched by bartender Charles Vexenat and each drink has been translated and tested, with Charles’ notes below each drink. Bariana is a fascinating glimpse in to European cocktail craft at the turn of the century and, with a few tweaks from Charles, offers up some tasty drinks.

Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars by American Traveling Mixologists meanwhile, is an altogether more voluminous tome – a collection of seven books published in the 1930s by Charles Christopher Mueller and his compatriots Al Hoppe, A V Guzman and James Cunningham under the collective name “American Traveling Mixologists”. Of course the Traveling Mixologists will be familiar to anyone who knows the European bar scene as the title Jörg Meyer and his roving band of bartenders operate under at various trade shows and guest bar spots around Europe – a title lovingly borrowed from this book.

Perhaps most famous for featuring the Cosmopolitan Daisy – a gin-based Cosmo created a full sixty years before the drinks supposed creation – the book features more than 1,300 more drinks. Thankfully London bartender Myles Davies has been through the book and annotated notable recipes and ingredients that are no longer to be found making browsing the book for drinks a pleasure more than a chore.

If that lot isn’t enough for you then I also highly recommend Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller’s first volume of Spirituous Journey, a look back through the history of drink starting with the ancient Arabic term “al kol”. The second volume of that is due in December, as is Beach Bum Berry Remixed, a collection of Jeff Berry’s first four books, revised and updated complete with 40 newly discovered tiki drinks as well as over 30 modern tiki recipes – even as I’m a non-tikiphile I’m looking forward to that one!

Note: In the interests of full disclosure, some of the books mentioned here were supplied to me for review, and some of the authors and publishers are friends. Purchasing the books through the links on this site pay me a small commission which helps support the costs of running Oh Gosh!.

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