The beginning of the year is always the worst time for the booze business. With everybody swearing off drinking and pledging to exercise—at least until they give up on their resolutions—liquor sales drop off precipitously.
Setting aside the fact that going dry for the month of January is kinda silly (moderate alcohol consumption is good for you!), I’ve got a solution. If you won’t be drinking for the next few weeks, read about drinking! Lots of great new booze books have come out recently, and here are a few that’ll tide you over until you decide it’s safe to imbibe once again.
TO HAVE AND HAVE ANOTHER: A HEMINGWAY COCKTAIL COMPANION
By Phillip Greene
Plenty of literary giants have also been champion drinkers, but Ernest Hemingway stands apart. This well-researched and globe-trotting tome examines the cocktails Papa and his characters enjoyed, sharing tales from real life as well as novels and short stories, with excellent recipes to boot. The book was originally published in 2012, but this past November’s second edition adds six new chapters, plus 30 new Hemingway-inspired recipes from top talent like Dale DeGroff and Jim Meehan.
DRINKING THE DEVIL’S ACRE
By Duggan McDonnell
From Gold Rush-era Martinezes and Pisco Sours to today’s craft-cocktail revolution, the city of San Francisco has been a center of drinking culture for more than a century. In this book, bartender/writer Duggan McDonnell pens a love letter to the drinks of his home town, with stories of 25 drinks invented or perfected in the City by the Bay. It’s a combination of social history and memoir from a man who lived through the 21st-century rebirth of cocktail culture.
By Fred Minnick
In nearly a decade of writing about all things whiskey, Fred Minnick has learned a thing or two about bourbon. And in his latest book, he shares the details of tasting the spirit like a pro. His way of classifying whiskies by their dominant flavor—grain, nutmeg, caramel or cinnamon—is an innovative way to understand a category that can be intimidating for beginners. The book includes tasting notes on hundreds of bottles, but it’s not all dry commentary: The chapter on special-edition bourbons leads off with a recipe for Pappy Van Winkle Jell-o shots.
THE DEAD RABBIT DRINKS MANUAL
By Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry
New York’s The Dead Rabbit was declared the best cocktail bar in the world at the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. But the pair of Irishmen behind the establishment don’t just make great drinks; they’re also obsessed with cocktail history. This new book shares their secrets, with recipes for many of The Dead Rabbit’s greatest hits, plus background info about the old-school beverages that inspired them. You’ll also read the inspiring story of Muldoon and McGarry’s rise from obscurity to the pinnacle of the drinks world.
DIVIDED SPIRITS: TEQUILA, MEZCAL AND THE POLITICS OF PRODUCTION
By Sarah Bowen
As tequila and mezcal become more and more popular, people are paying more and more attention to how it’s made, and the lives of the people who harvest the agave that goes into it. Written by a sociology professor, Divided Spirits looks at a lot of the issues surrounding tequila and mezcal production, as well as the larger picture of how to protect traditional craftsmanship in the face of relentless capitalism. The book is a bit dry and academic, but it sheds light on information that should be important to all drinkers.
THE ANGELS’ PORTION
By Christopher I. Thoma
When you think of a Scotch connoisseur, the first thing that jumps to mind probably isn’t a Lutheran pastor from Michigan. However, the Reverend Christopher I. Thoma is exactly that, and this book collects dozens of his whisky reviews. But what really makes the tome unique is Thoma’s engaging style; the reviews are essentially short stories, featuring the likes of Santa Claus enjoying a glass of Caol Ila after making his yearly deliveries and Darth Vader sipping Lagavulin with Emperor Palpatine.
LIQUID INTELLIGENCE: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF THE PERFECT COCKTAIL
By Dave Arnold
Dave Arnold is the kind of renaissance man who’s a pretty rare find in the 21st century: He holds an MFA from Columbia and worked as a performance artist before becoming obsessed with food science, teaching classes at the French Culinary Institute, founding the Museum of Food and Drink and opening Booker & Dax, a research lab that doubles as a cocktail bar. In this book, he turns his laser focus on the science of cocktails, recording results of experiments on everything from freezing crystal-clear ice to how to keep muddled basil from turning brown—and somehow synthesizing useful advice for home mixologists out of them. It’s a must for geeks of all kinds.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM SOME BARTENDERS