When you need to know how much gin goes in a gimlet, or the ratio of rye to vermouth in a Manhattan, reaching for a handy guide quickly solves most cocktail conundrums. Part inspiration for expanding your bar repertoire, part lifesaver for entertaining guests with sophisticated palates, the right cocktail read is as essential to making consistently excellent drinks as a shot glass or ice cubes. Check out our list of recommended newcomer bar guides, and see which measures up to your libation expectations:
Artisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie
Recipes for fresh, well-crafted cocktails based on seasonal ingredients, and full color photographs that show the beauty of an expertly made drink. However, the casual entertainer may find some techniques too involved and time-consuming.
Sample libation: Meyer Beautiful (a.k.a. My, You’re Beautiful) is a tangy and complex mélange of vodka, fragrant elderflower and Meyer lemon, rimmed in sugar, black salt and lemon zest.
The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff
Both classic and modern recipes from Master Mixologist Degroff makes this an indispensable go-to bar guide. Fascinating anecdotes and history behind drinks and drink makers provides some cocktail party conversation fodder.
Sample libation: The Margarita-esque Big Spender, made with Añejo Tequila, Liqueur Créole, blood orange juice and Champagne, is complex and perfectly balanced.
Luscious Liqueurs by A.J. Rathbun
Rathbun provides easy-to-follow recipes for replicating both your favorite liqueurs (like Limoncello and Irish Cream), as well as more unusual sippers. Since most of the recipes take several weeks to infuse and steep (including the occasional shaking or stirring), these concoctions aren’t for the impatient!
Sample libation: Lebaoku, made with fragrant lemongrass and Thai basil-infused vodka, gives a taste of the exotic (and makes for a cool host gift, too).
It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere by Colleen Mullaney
An eclectic collection of drink ideas from around the globe, and matching music suggestions get guests grooving at your cocktail parties. While some of the creations seem a bit contrived, all in all it’s a fun ride.
Sample libation: London’s contribution of the Green Velvet Martini uses gin, apricot brandy, Noilly Prat vermouth and green crème de menthe, which you are encouraged to sip while listening to the Pet Shop Boys.
Preggatinis by Natalie Bovis-Nelsen
Pregnant women everywhere will rejoice at the well flavored and creative sips that are anything but phoned in (as non-alcoholic sips so often tend to be). The author includes both a dose of humor and sweet anticipation of the big event, and thoughtful “devirginizing” tips explain how to add back booze when “mocktail” can once again become “cocktail.”
Sample Libation: The tasty Apricot Gingerini combines white grape juice, apricot nectar, ginger-infused simple syrup, and ground cloves—and does double duty as a morning sickness helper.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.trywine.net.