Fancy yourself as a bit of a mixologist but really can’t whip up more than a G&T? We’ve rounded up books from the good and the great of the booze world to help you create cocktails at home, whether you’ve got just a handful of bottles in your cupboard or a fully laden drinks trolley.
Each book packs easy-to-follow recipes (we didn't find a single dud while testing) with the usual introduction to equipment, glass types and terminology, plus interesting bits of background and variations. Some require more unusual ingredients than others (we've mentioned where below) and all require basic cocktail-making equipment - start with a jigger, a shaker and a strainer, most other pieces can be cobbled together from what's already in your kitchen.
1. Good Things to Drink with Mr Lyan and Friends by Ryan Chetiyawardana: £20, Frances Lincoln Publishers
This, from the man behind London's Dandelyan cocktail bar, jazzes up the classic intro to glass types and ingredients with fun illustrations, before getting stuck into the recipes. Ready for summer, our favourite chapter is Market Fresh, which covers the garden buck, a classic buck cocktail plus sugarsnap peas and asparagus, and the prohibition classic southside with cucumber, mint, lime and elderflower. A close second is the Friday Night chapter, for the glorious paloma (pink salt, lime, grapefruit juice and tequila) and classics such as old-fashioned and manhattans. Consult the 'magic’ panel on each page for variations.
2. Difford’s Guide to Cocktails 12th Edition: £29, Diffordsguide
If you’re looking for a cocktail bible, Difford's is it. 1,500 quality, approachable recipes crammed into a tome of 517 pages, listed alphabetically from the 1862 to the zuzu’s petals cocktail. The pictures are small and there's little white space, but this is a reference book for life (or at least until they release the 13th edition).
3. A Spot at the Bar: Welcome to the Everleigh by Michael Madrusan and Zara Young: £20, Hardie Grant Books
A proper coffee table book from the people behind Melbourne's The Everleigh (a sister bar to New York's Milk & Honey), A Spot at the Bar combines quirky illustration with gorgeous photographs. We enjoyed the often-overlooked ingredient of beer: try the dark and hoppy, a twist on a dark and stormy with rum, lime, ginger and IPA. In the savoury chapter, el guapo - tequila, lime, cucumber and hot sauce - is refreshing. And the clever Everleigh at Home chapter for entertaining combines bar-style nibbles such as crab toasts and welsh rarebit with classic cocktails - martini, negroni and so on, all with variations), plus recipes for that high school favourite, punch.
4. Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail by Dave Arnold: £27.99, WW Norton & Co
The clue's in the title with this one: what it lacks in design it makes up for in sheer volume of knowledge: calculating dilution, shaking technique, using egg whites, liquid nitrogen and even making the perfect ice are some of the scientific bits covered. Interspersed are 120 recipes - some are not for beginners wanting to try their hand at home, as they include niche ingredients such as champagne acid, but the simple classics are done with the precision that makes them hard to get wrong. Start with the frozen daiquiri.
5. Gin: Shake, Muddle, Stir by Dan Jones: £9.99, Hardie Grant Books
Gin is having a bit of a moment, and this fully illustrated book makes the most of it. It begins with intros to the best gins, equipment and types of glass, and then moves on to the more creative recipes for homemade gin, infusions, such as bay leaf, and syrups (including spiced brown sugar and pine tip). Recipes range from the classic gimlet and negroni to the more unusual green tea martini, all clearly explained with delicious results.
6. Cocktail Cookbook by Oskar Kinberg: £18, Frances Lincoln
The Cocktail Cookbook is a real pleasure to browse through thanks to its minimalist design and simple photographs. Recipes are arranged in chapters around fresh ingredients (such as condensed milk, rhubarb and nettle) and “larder” ingredients (such as sloe gin and syrups). The fun drinks names - wholesome puns may be questionable - add a welcome touch of humour: think Shiso Fine (tequila, celery, shiso leaves), Better Safe than Sorrel, and Sorrel Seems to be the Hardest Word. A favourite is the unassuming-looking short and clear Spinal Tap: gin, lime, pine, aloe vera and cucumber.
7. Distilled by Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley: £14.99, Octopus Publishing
Distilled is a real ode to spirits, with chapters on gin, vodka, tequila, absinthe, rum, whisky, french brandy (such as cognac and armagnac), world brandies (such as pisco and grappa) and more niche offerings. Each chapter includes interviews with distillers, notes on history and production and 10 bottles to try with tasting notes. When it comes to the mixing, classics done well is the order of the day - the mint julep and the caipirinha being particularly good.
8. The 12 Bottle Bar by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson: £11.99, Workman Publishing
This clever book from a husband and wife team who have a blog of the same name builds recipes around 12 staple bottles (with recipe chapters for each) - seven spirits, one liqueur, two vermouths, two bitters - rather than requiring you to source a huge range of expensive and exotic ingredients. There aren't any pictures, but the 200+ recipes are easy to follow and accompanied by insightful snippets of history on particular spirits and cocktails, and advice on which bottles to buy. Ideal for anyone starting a home bar from scratch for whom the idea of stocking it is daunting.
9. The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler: £18.99, Chronicle Books
From last year's American “bartender of the year” Jeffrey Morgenthaler, The Bar Book is arranged slightly differently from most, as chapters centre on technique rather than around ingredients. The first part deals with the building blocks - fruit juices, sodas, syrups, infusions, cream and eggs, and ice - then techniques - measuring, shaking, muddling, stirring and so on - and finally garnishing: how to present your drinks. Recipes are used to illustrate (for example, white lady for using egg whites, bellinis for fruit juices) throughout, so working your way through from start to finish feels like you're being taught by the best on the job.
The Verdict: Cocktail recipe books
If you're after a functional recipe book to beat them all, Difford's does that with sheer volume, but for maximum browsing experience plus creative yet achievable drinks, Good Things to Drink gets our vote.
All prices listed are RRP
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