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:\r\n\r\nArtisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie\r\nRecipes for fresh, well-crafted cocktails based on seasonal ingredients, and full color photographs that\u00a0show the beauty of an expertly made drink. However, the casual entertainer may find some techniques too involved and time-consuming.\r\nSample libation: Meyer Beautiful (a.k.a. My, You're Beautiful) is a tangy and complex m\u00e9lange of vodka, fragrant elderflower and Meyer lemon, rimmed in sugar, black salt and lemon zest.\r\n\r\nThe Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff\r\nBoth\u00a0classic 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.\r\nSample libation: The Margarita-esque Big Spender, made with A\u00f1ejo Tequila, Liqueur Cr\u00e9ole, blood orange juice and Champagne, is complex and perfectly balanced.\r\n\r\nLuscious Liqueurs by A.J. Rathbun\r\nRathbun provides easy-to-follow recipes\u00a0for replicating\u00a0both 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!\r\nSample 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).\r\n\r\nIt's 5 O'Clock Somewhere by Colleen Mullaney\r\nAn 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.\r\nSample libation: London's contribution of the Green Velvet Martini uses gin, apricot brandy, Noilly Prat vermouth and green cr\u00e8me de menthe, which you are encouraged to sip while listening to the Pet Shop Boys.\r\n\r\nPreggatinis by Natalie Bovis-Nelsen\r\nPregnant 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."\r\nSample Libation: The tasty Apricot Gingerini combines white grape juice, apricot nectar, ginger-infused simple syrup, and ground cloves\u2014and does double duty as a morning sickness helper.\r\n\r\nKelly 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.