January 10, 2007

The Art of the Bar Book Review

The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics
by Jeff Hollinger & Rob Schwartz
Typical Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)
The Art of the Barat Amazon

Art of the Bar BookThe Liquor Snob staff has a new goal for 2007, and it's a simple one. We want to get out to San Francisco and have a drink at the Absinthe Bar and Brasserie. Why, you ask? Because that's where the two gents who wrote Art of the Bar work, and if they know this much about booze it's worth a cross-country pilgrimage to drink from the source. We're sure the food is great too, but to be honest we probably won't eat - we'll probably just pull out our copy of the book, ask them to make the drinks on page one, and keep going until we run out of money or liver cells.

In case you're having trouble figuring it out - we liked this book. Read on for details.

The Look:
The book itself is a big hardcover, about 11" x 9", with a nice dustjacket on it that's covered with all sorts of photos of the crazy drinks you'll find inside. It's got a good heft, and they didn't skimp on physical attributes either - the pages and binding are high quality and this book would look just as good on your coffee table or at the end of you bar as it would on a bookshelf.

The Read:
This is where we get to the good stuff. This book is jam-packed with cocktail recipes, and if that was all that was in there we'd be happy. But beyond that, there's also tons of other information in there, from the histories of different drinks to bartending tips. Some of them are things you'd find in other books, and others are nuggets we didn't know, and it's all presented in a breezy and simple style that keeps you interested without coming off as haughty or know-it-all (though we get the impression the authors would be justified in either attitude).

The authors of this book have a deep love for mixology, and it comes out on every page. And the best part is they don't talk about cocktail mixing and creation as though it's some alchemical secret only known to a cabal of bartenders on the West Coast - they want you to have the same excitement they have for crafting a beautiful drink. Of course, they recommend the highest quality ingredients and some that we'd never even heard of - we half expected to find a recipe that called for unicorn horn or dragon's scales - so if you set out to make all these recipes you'd probably end up investing a pretty penny. But what's cost when you're on the trail of the perfect cocktail?

Inside the Art of the BarAnd speaking of the perfect cocktail, we found there's at least one cocktail recipe on nearly every page of this 140ish page book. We liked the fact that the authors offer their takes on old standbys (they offer a recipe for an Old Fashioned that feels like it was plucked from our brains), as well as creations we'd never have thought of (anyone interested in a Peaches & Herb?). Beyond that, do you know what's in a Martinez, the long-lost cousin of everybody's favorite martini? And true to the name of their home, they've even got a section about absinthe if you're looking to trip the light fantastic.

Beyond drink recipes they also offer something a lot of books don't focus on - presentation. Taste is a huge part of the cocktail experience, but how the libation arrives at your lips is something that's often overlooked. Add that to tips for stocking your own bar, from tools you'll need, to liquor basics, to the higher end tricks, and suddenly the most inexperienced drink mixer can feel like an old veteran in a short time. They even offer a table of equivalents if you're trying to figure out how many jiggers are in a quart to settle a bar bet, or want to know how many ounces are in your liter bottle.

The Verdict:
You might have figured this out already, but we liked this book. As might be expected, we have a lot of liquor-related books lying around, and pound for pound this is our new favorite. It's a bargain at $25 for the hardcover, and we're seeing much lower prices than that on Amazonat the time of this review. Pick it up for anyone who's even e little bit interested in mixology, but be warned - if we're any indication the knowledge contained in this book will make them want to talk about cocktails nonstop.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at January 10, 2007 7:50 AM
Recent Comments

Ehh, I've been there. It's overrated.

Posted by: (d) at January 10, 2007 1:39 PM
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