The New Year always brings (often-inebriated) pledges to lose weight, to get those 8 hours of sleep a night and to finally repaint that spare bedroom. These things sound, well, less than fun. Instead, this year, you should pledge to drink better in 2017.
To get you started, here are a few of the best boozy books published in the last year. They’re full of recipes, history and tips that’ll improve your home mixology skills and maybe widen your horizons a bit when it comes to drinking. And so you can try before you buy, we even secured some sample recipes.
By Kara Newman
Great cocktails don’t have to have complicated recipes. In fact, many of the tastiest are simple mixes of ingredients in equal parts. Take the Negroni, a 1:1:1 combo of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, or the Bamboo, which pairs sherry and dry vermouth. That’s the thesis of this book, with 50 recipes that all use equal proportions of ingredients (a few are gussied up with drops of bitters, or a splash of club soda). The spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast and a longtime contributor to outlets like The New York Times and Imbibe, Newman sourced delicious drinks from some of the country’s top talents, including the elegant Toffee Negroni, from famed Manhattan bartender Lynnette Marrero.
• 1 oz. Aged rum
• 1 oz. Amontillado sherry
• 1 oz. Aperol
• Glass: Rocks
• Garnish: Grapefruit twist
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a rocks glass filled with a large ice cube or sphere. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
BOURBON: THE RISE, FALL, AND REBIRTH OF AN AMERICAN WHISKEY
By Fred Minnick
Kentuckian Fred Minnick is a little bit obsessed with whiskey — this makes his third book on the topic. It’s a comprehensive history of America’s homegrown spirit, beginning with a list of the 18th-century distillers who might have invented bourbon and continuing through the spirit’s commercial success in the 1800s, the horror of Prohibition and efforts to rebuild the category afterward, and finally today’s bourbon renaissance. It’s an entertaining and fast-moving read, full of vintage photos and archival ads that make the story come to life.
THE NEW COCKTAIL HOUR
By Andre and Tenaya Darlington
The title sounds like a simple guide for cocktail parties, but this book is much more ambitious than that, beginning with a chronological tour of “heritage cocktails” from the Golden Age of the 1860s to the modern rebirth of mixology, and continuing with sets of drinks appropriate for occasions from tropical tiki party to New Year’s Eve Champagne bash. It was actually written by a brother-sister team, he a cocktail writer in Wisconsin and she a food writer and college professor in Philadelphia.
Gin Basil Smash
• 1 small bunch Basil (about 10 leaves)
• 1 oz. Fresh lemon juice
•.67 oz. Simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)
• 2 oz. Gin, such as Beefeater
• Glass: Rocks
• Garnish: Basil sprig
In a shaker, muddle the basil, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add the gin and fill with ice. Shake, and double-strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh spring of basil.
THE MANHATTAN: A STORY OF THE FIRST MODERN COCKTAIL
By Philip Greene
With apologies to the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan might be the single most influential cocktail in the contemporary mixological arsenal. It’s ironic, then, that we know so very little about its origins. This book takes a compelling spin through the many competing stories about the invention of the cocktail, and then traces its evolution down through the decades, including along the way a total of 65 recipes for the Manhattan, its predecessors and its variants. The recipe below, a contemporary twist that replaces sweet vermouth with amaro, was invented at San Francisco craft-cocktail pioneer Bourbon & Branch way back in 2005.
• 2 oz. Rye whiskey
• 1 oz. Averna Amaro
• 1 dash Angostura Bitters
• 1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6
• Glass: Cocktail
• Garnish: Cherry
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.
THE YEAR OF DRINKING ADVENTUROUSLY
By Jeff Cioletti
This one’s perfect if your New Year’s resolution really was to drink better. It’s a series of 52 essays that go on a tour of basically all parts of the beverage-alcohol world, from a Scotch guide in week 1 to an introduction to Cremant d’Alsace sparkling wine in week 52. It covers topics ranging from chile pepper-spiked beers to baijiu, China’s favorite distilled spirit. The book concludes with a “Cocktailing Adventurously” section featuring recipes from bars around the world, including this one, a baijiu concoction from Bo Drake in London.
• 1.5 oz. Shui Jing Fang Baijiu
• .67 oz. (20 mL) Agave nectar
• .67 oz. (20 mL) Elderflower liqueur
• 3 dashes Hopped grapefruit bitters, such as Bittermens
• Glass: Rocks
• Garnish: Lime peel, grapefruit slice and hibiscus flower
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with grated lime peel, a slice of grapefruit and a hibiscus flower.
By Dan Dunn No, this book doesn’t cover spirits or cocktails. But Dan Dunn is an entertaining enough writer that I’ll forgive him this foray into wine. It’s the product of Dunn’s 15,000-mile roadtrip to visit wineries in nearly every state in the Union, an effort by the longtime spirits and beer writer (and former Playboy drinks columnist) both to understand both the complex world of wine and to find himself. The result is a filthy and hilarious memoir that’ll also take you from merlot-swilling moron to connoisseur.