More holiday gift shopping: Books for the cocktail lover in your life!

More holiday gift shopping: Books for the cocktail lover in your life!

Sitting right next to my liquor cabinet is a stack of cocktail books that I’ve collected over the last two years. As someone who really loves this subject, I can tell you that I truly value this little library that I’ve accumulated, because each book provides me with a different perspective on things. Some have beautiful photographs and amazing drink recipes, while others are more scientifically or historically based. I reach for them every day, either as a resource for the cocktails I make, or as background knowledge for the things I write about. Last week I told you about some local gifts for your cocktail enthusiast; this week I’m going to continue in that vein and talk about the specific books that I think would make great Christmas presents this year. I’ve also made a cocktail from each book and included the recipe exactly as it’s written. I’ve tried to keep the drinks on the simple side and the ingredients fairly accessible. There might be 1 or 2 that you have to hunt for, but if that wasn’t true then you’d think that someone else was writing this post! So let’s get started…


A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson tells the story about how the world of cocktails has changed over the last 20 years by interviewing many of the key players involved in the Cocktail Renaissance. He’s also included recipes for forty cocktails that appear at the end of each chapter. This is the book to buy for your drink lover who’s also fascinated with bars and bartenders, and who really wants to learn how the cocktail world evolved into what it is today. Pictured above is the Gin-Gin Mule from Audrey Saunders whose “quest was helping people get over their phobia about gin.”

The Gin-Gin Mule

¾ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
6 sprigs of mint, some leaves reserved for garnish
1 1/2 oz Tanqueray gin (I used Bluecoat)
1 oz ginger beer (I used Fever Tree)

Combine the lime juice, syrup, and mint in a shaker tin and muddle. Add the gin and ginger beer and ice and shake well. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with mint leaves.


Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails is comprehensive guide to almost everything there is to know about cocktails, from equipment, to spirits, to techniques, and recipes. There are great illustrations and photos throughout that really help to illuminate the text. One of my favorite things about this book are the interviews conducted with regulars at the Death & Co. bar in NYC. This is a great gift for both the experienced home bartender and the one who’s just getting started. The drink above is called Pete’s Word, a surprising combo of smoky Scotch and lime juice. It was created by bartender Phil Ward and is a variation of the classic drink called The Last Word.

Pete’s Word

¾ oz Laproaig 10-year Scotch
¾ oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
¾ oz Green Chartreuse
¾ oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe. No garnish.


Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle is an extremely fun read for the book lover in your life who also loves to make cocktails. It puts a literary spin on 65 different drink recipes and also includes some bar bites, drinking games, and fun illustrations. The cocktail above is Love in the Time of Kahlua, the cocktail interpretation of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Its spicy garnish and coffee flavor make it a great holiday drink too.

Love in the Time of Kahlua

1 oz light rum (I used Bacardi)
½ oz Kahlua
2 oz light cream
Ground cinnamon or nutmeg to taste (I used nutmeg)

Combine the rum and the Kahlua over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Pour the cream on top and sprinkle with a little spice.


Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske (with Georgette Moger-Petraske) is the only book written by the legendary bartender who opened Milk & Honey as a speakeasy in NYC in 2000. His influence was incredibly far-reaching, and many people believe that he may have single-handedly launched the Craft Cocktail Movement that brought great drinks back into fashion. Included in this book are 75 recipes, as well as techniques, home bar suggestions, and service standards, making it a great gift for the novice or the expert. The drink above is The Gold Rush, created by T.J. Siegal, Petraske’s friend from childhood, and a major investor in Milk & Honey. This drink went on to inspire The Penicillin, created by Sam Ross, also a Milk & Honey alum.

The Gold Rush

¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz honey syrup (1 cup honey to ½ cup hot water)
2 oz bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)

Combine the lemon juice, honey syrup, and bourbon in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake vigorously until the drink is sufficiently chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with a single large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon twist.


The Experimental Cocktail Club features recipes and stories from the four partners who owned and operated the cocktail bars of the same name in London, Paris, Ibiza, and New York. This book is filled with gorgeous photographs of truly innovative cocktails, and would be a great choice for the drink enthusiast who also loves to travel. In the picture above is the Madame Rêve, another great holiday cocktail.

Madame Rêve

1 large strawberry
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz spice-infused Aperol (I added 1 dash of aromatic bitters instead)
Champagne to top

Place the strawberry in a cocktail shaker, muddle, then add the lemon juice and the Aperol. Top with ice , then shake vigorously until frost appears on the outside of the shaker. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, top off with Champagne and serve.


That brings us finally to The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, the book that really inspired me to learn as much as possible about the ingredients that go into cocktails. I love that it’s told from a botanist’s point of view. For me it combined my love of gardening and plants with my growing infatuation with making cocktails and understanding what’s in them. The drink above is Dr. Struwe’s Suze and Soda named after Dr. Lena Struwe, a botanist from Rutgers University that made studying the gentian plant her life’s work.

Dr. Struwe’s Suze and Soda

2 oz Suze
2 to 4 oz club soda or tonic water (I used Q tonic water)
Lemon twist

Pour the Suze over ice, top with the soda water or tonic water to taste, and add a twist of lemon.

Join me tomorrow for my Friday Musings post. I’ll be featuring an amazing cocktail called Bad Moon Rising created for me by the equally amazing Mathias Bable from Charlie was a sinner in Philadelphia. I’m so excited to share it with you!


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