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Top 5 Craft Cocktail Books


Inspiration for that next Signature Craft Cocktail comes from many places, but one of the best is from published cocktail books. Let's face it we'd love to travel the world's bars to find and taste concoctions in person, but unfortunately, we can't. These books are great for a few good reasons. They contain sage Craft Cocktail advice to aspiring cocktail apprentices and they contain tried and true Craft Cocktails. The authors of these books took great care in curating the recipes and advice.


So let's get straight to it! These are in no particular order.


Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails

A Craft Cocktail Revival cornerstone, Death & Co established itself as a quality over quantity bar from the start. The bar staff is encouraged to question the norm and always explore, "how can this drink be better?"


What makes this Craft Cocktail book extremely special is that each recipe comes with the how and why the cocktail came to be. How the bar staff experimented and why they chose certain directions over others. It goes to great lengths to explain the different ingredients and how they affect the taste of a cocktail.


This book is a concise, modern guide to mixing drinks. It is fantastic for intermediate bartenders or home bar enthusiasts wanting to step up their game.


The book focuses on:

  • What goes into building a world-class bar - 12 pages

  • Cocktail ingredients deep dive - 52 pages

  • Craft Cocktail education - 40 pages

  • Process of creating new cocktails - 30 pages

  • Recipes - 140 pages

Amazon Link


Meehan's Bartender Manual

2018 Spirited Award-winning book

Jim Meehan, Cocktail Craftsman, helped establish the famous New York speakeasy called PDT (Please Don't Tell). This is his follow-up book to his 2012 award-winning book, The PDT Cocktail Book. Where in that book Meehan's focus was on a particular time and place, PDT. This book is all about the profoundly layered onion of bartending itself.


Meehan's experience is poured out in this book with rich cocktail history, practical bartending know-how, and invaluable tips on how to innovate. If there is another book that does such a good job explaining the craft, I have yet to see it.


The big improvement of this book over Meehan's previous is the organization. There are only 100 recipes, but each one includes the information on the origin of the drink, the logic behind it, and ways to "hack" it for the curious Cocktail Craftsman.


The book focuses on:

  • Bartending secrets - 168 pages

  • Recipes - 250 pages

  • Craft Cocktail education - 44 pages

Amazon Link


The Dead Rabbit

2016 Spirited Award-winning book

When the craft cocktail bar, The Dead Rabbit & Grog, opened in Lower Manhattan, it took the world by storm. Winning award after award, the owners Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon set out to have a world-class bar crew and nailed it.


Their drinks manual is all original cocktails that are takes on classic formulas. It covers everything from punches, fizzes, daisies, cobblers, etc., and yes... cocktails.


What makes this book special is that it goes beyond cocktails, in-fact you could almost not call this a cocktail book as the majority of the drinks covered are technically not cocktails. The word cocktail has become synonymous with mixed drinks with alcohol, but traditionally a cocktail as, "a stimulating liquor composed of any kind sugar, water, and bitters."


The book focuses on:

  • Recipes - 226 pages

  • Craft Cocktail education - 48 pages

Amazon Link


Cocktail Codex

2019 Spirited Award-winning book

A follow-up book from their best-selling book Death & Co. authors Alex Day, David Kaplan, and Nick Fauchald took evolving a classic to the next level with this instant classic cocktail book.


You won't find a history lesson or the science behind cocktails in this book. The authors cut straight to the core using a brilliant organization method they call "root cocktails." Six classic cocktails (Old Fashioned, Martini, Daquiri, Sidecar, Whiskey Highball, and Flip) are deeply explored. Using these 6 cocktails the book goes into how to evolve the drink by experimenting with the core liquor, the balance, how to make it seasonal, and more.


This book is great for budding Cocktail Craftsman because it teaches how to experiment. The pages with recipes are full of Craft Cocktail education. You not only learn how to make some amazing new cocktails, but you get to follow the experiment that created it.


The book focuses on:

  • Recipes - 120 pages

  • Craft Cocktail education - 120 pages

Amazon Link


Liquid Intelligence

2013 Spirited Award-winning book

Dave Arnold is a scientist first. His approach to cocktails is as though he is solving a problem. Breaking it down, coming up with proven, repeatable solutions to the problem. It is hard to argue that his way is not "the" way to make cocktails.


The book has 25 pages on how to make perfect ice. You will never make ice the same way again after reading this. It is this level of detail you can expect out of Dave's book. There are recipes in the book, but they are there as a solution to the cocktail problem presented.


The book is broken down into four parts. The first is about the equipment and education. The second is about classic cocktails and how to experiment with them. The third covers new techniques and ideas to elevate the craft. In the final part of the book, Dave takes on 3 different journeys in experimentation that really make you understand his process. This is a must-have for those that want to understand the how and why of Craft Cocktails.


The book focuses on:

  • Equipment and Fundamentals - 63 pages

  • Ice - 25 pages

  • Craft Cocktail education - 55 pages

  • Advanced Techniques - 50 pages

  • Preparation - 144 pages

  • Cocktail Scientific Method examples - 45 pages

Amazon Link


It was really tough to narrow down the list of cocktail books to 5 top picks. There are a lot of classic books that I left off this list, but I feel deserve some honorable mentions. These books were at the core of the Craft Cocktail revival: The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan and The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff.


Cheers!

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