Do you remember your first alcoholic drink? Not only what you drank, but where you were and who you were with? Do specific places and activities have drinks that you associate just with them? Are there certain situations that scream for one particular beverage?
Whenever I hear “Long Island Iced Tea”, I am immediately transported back in time to my senior year of college, specifically to Otter’s Pub in Meadville, PA. This was my drink of choice when hanging out with my friends at that location. I can honestly say that I have never had a Long Island Iced Tea any place else. I know that it just wouldn’t taste as good. That drink is, for me, tied to that spot and that experience.
There are certainly times when a specific place and time call for a precise drink. I was reminded of this recently when reading How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice, The Right Drink for Every Situation by Jordan Kaye and Marshall Altier. This humorous book identifies a specific cocktail for each and every circumstance you could possibly encounter. Need to know what to drink on a first date, second date, or when trying to organize a threesome? How about the right cocktail for a sporting event, barbeque, or when at the park? What about when you’re obsessing over why he’s not answering the phone or when you’re with people you despise? This book not only has a suggested choice for imbibing under all of these circumstances (and more!), but they’ll tell you why it’s the perfect drink for the occasion. Then you get the recipe for the drink, and explanation of the chosen spirit, mixer, and/or garnish so you know what you are drinking and why it is a necessary component of the concoction. This book goes beyond the usual cosmopolitan (although that is included as the perfect drink for a bachelorette party, natch) and brings back some of the classic cocktails and ingredients that may no longer be a part of popular bar nomenclature. I personally learned things I didn’t know about absinthe and bitters.
So, if you are entering a situation and would like to know the perfect drink to accompany it or if you want to build up your cocktail repertoire, check out some of the following…
How’s Your Drink: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well by Eric Felten – This James Beard Foundation Award winning author writes, “If you have a creeping suspicion that others are defining you – and judging you, too – by the drink in your hand, you’re not far wrong.” He then proceeds to give the history of great cocktails, the famous, the infamous, and the largely unknown. Each story is provided along with its recipe. This book is as fun to read as the cocktails are to drink.
Cocktail Aficionado by Allan Gage – This is a recipe book, pure and simple. The chapters are organized by the main spirit in the drinks. Here you’ll find the classics as well as some newer tasty choices, such as the Toblerone, Purple Turtle, and Butterflirt. This would make a good bar reference book as well as fodder for an evening’s entertainment. Flip the pages and point to a drink at random. Viola! That’s what we’re drinking next! Plus, I love a book with a built in bookmark. This one actually holds the page down so you can refer to the book while concocting the beverage.
Mr. Boston: 1,500 Recipes, Tools, and Techniques for the Master Mixologist – If you want one book that will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about mixing a drink, this would be it. How to set up your bar and what equipment it should house, necessary glassware and what type of drink each should hold, mixers and garnishes to have on hand, as well as how to create those fruit and vegetable garnishes, how many drinks to have on hand for whatever kind of meal or party you are throwing, and a list of resources where you can locate that hard to find ingredient. This book has it all!
The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics by John Hollinger and Rob Schwartz – If you every wanted to see a lovely coffee table book about cocktails, then this is your book. Each creation is beautifully photographed and explained in great detail. Through the stories, instructions, and explanations, you’ll come to understand the artistic, as well as the practical, side of mixing great beverages that everyone wants to drink.
Good Spirits: Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments, and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist by A.J. Rathbun – This book has stunning photographs, recipes, explanations, ideas for when the cocktail should be served, factoids, and quotes about the joys of alcoholic beverages. The four drinks to induce dancing? The Don’t Just Stand There, The Eye-Opener, The Tidal Wave, and The Brass Monkey. With 38 kinds of martinis, you can’t go wrong. Bacontini, anyone?
Behind Bars: The Straight-Up Tales of a Big-City Bartender by Ty Wenzel – This is Kitchen Confidential for the bar set. Studded with the occasional drink recipe, this is a what-goes-on-behind-the-scenes tell-all book. You’ll get to hear about those who made fools of themselves when bellied up to the bar and those who didn’t even make it that far. Also included are those dirty little secrets the bartenders and the bar owners don’t want you to know about. This book is just plain good fun!
Suddenly, I feel it’s time for a drink…