Where does a bartender on the rise go to find reputable recipes that are beyond the ordinary? Where does the party host with the most go for the inside scoop on the old fashioned cocktails making their way back into the mainstream trendier bars? Where is that little tidbit of ice breaker cocktail trivia to be found that gives you the edge over the other guy at the end of the bar?
Let’s face it, anyone can throw together a book with slapped together recipes to get someone drunk and call it a bartender’s guide to everything. Throw a few catchy, sexy drink titles in there with flashy photos and someone will buy it. There is no guarantee the cocktails will be great or even remotely good. With the barrage of bartending books out on the market touting 1,000 to 2,800 recipes it is difficult to know where to start. If the recipes are not of quality and satisfying, it does not matter how many are in the book. If a book is awkwardly arranged with recipes difficult to find, it is also not much use. So, where does one start?
Dale DeGroff’s book, The Craft of the Cocktail, is a fabulous starter book for the beginner and seasoned cocktail enthusiast. Dale is internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest mixologists. His book spans setting up a basic bar, selecting and using tools correctly, and the techniques he teaches bartenders who train through his seminars. He includes 500 recipes that are classic and current cocktails. The most fascinating aspect of Dale’s book is the stories and histories behind the cocktails. There is a wealth of personal stories to be told about the individual drinks and how they came to be or the famous people who consumed them. This is an invaluable tool not only for the recipes, but for the little crumbs of information and fascinating facts you will glean in reading this book through and through.
The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan is another excellent learning tool for the bartender, professional or amateur, interested in learning the mechanics and dynamics of how cocktails are put together. Gary created a system for categorizing drinks to help in remembering drink recipes and also how to build from these categories to create new recipes. For example many cocktails belong to a family of drinks. Once the family standard is recognized, many more cocktails are built from a single few cocktails within one family by adding ingredients or changing out the base liquor. Gary also covers bartending basics along with the 350 recipes provided within the book.
A favorite all purpose guide is The Bartender’s Best Friend by Mardee Haidin Regan. This guide is a favorite due to its ease of use. There are over 850 recipes all listed alphabetically in this book. The index also lists the drinks by liquor. For example, if you want to know what to make with Cachaca, there is a listing for it in the index with all the drinks in the book with that ingredient. Mardee also covers bartending basics and helpful hints for a home bar and cocktail party bar. This is a great book to keep handy for quick referral.
For an up to date glance in cocktail trends from the hottest bars across the United States take a look at the Food & Wine Cocktails 2007. The 150 cocktail recipes outlined in this small paperback are the newest cocktail sensations hitting the market in the finest restaurants and hippest night spots in the nation. These cocktails come from cutting edge bartenders who are out there night after night mixing up traditional favorites and innovative new ones. Each page highlights one cocktail recipe along with information on the bar or restaurant from which it came. Often there is a side note about the cocktail and how it was created or a little anecdote about the establishment itself. This is an excellent tool for any mixologist who loves to get a little creative behind the bar.
There are also online reference guides to make cocktail surfing much easier.
www.kingcocktail.com with Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff
www.ultimatebarchef.com the ultimate location for all of your bartending needs
www.talesofthecocktail.com the most spirited event of the summer
www.cocktaildb.com the internet cocktail database-an encyclopedia for scholars, writers, bartenders, and mixologists
www.ardentspirits.com Gary and Mardee Regan, cocktail connoisseurs