Who doesn’t love a cocktail? Whether it’s a jug of Pimm’s at your summer barbecue, an after-dinner martini garnished with an all-important olive or a retro snowball at Christmas, there’s a drink for every occasion.
And the market is certainly booming, especially with the continued rise in popularity of gin, plus a renewed interest in spirits such as vermouth and Campari (negroni, we’re looking at you!).
Recent consumer shifts towards more health-conscious lifestyles have seen an increased demand for lower alcohol or alcohol-free beverages, and in turn it’s not uncommon to be offered shrubs (drinking vinegars), kombucha or alcohol-free spirits such as Seedlip in lieu of boozier counterparts in bars.
Cocktails needn’t remain the trusted secrets of bartenders, either; whether you like yours shaken, stirred, boozy or healthy, the following books have you covered. Bottoms up!
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'A Mixologist’s Guide to Making Cocktails' by Jordan Spence, published by Carlton Books: £26.11, Amazon
Part of the appeal of a cocktail, aside from its delicious taste, lies in its appearance – and this no-nonsense guide illustrates each recipe with a wonderfully-straightforward at-a-glance diagram which handily details precise components and proportions for each drink. What’s more, thanks to these articulate and colourful diagrams – which take up the majority of the page – recipes are so concisely written they’re often no longer than a sentence or two, making this an easy-to-follow guide, even if you’ve had a few...
Whether you’re a vodka, gin, brandy, rum, whisky, tequila, champagne or liqueur enthusiast, there are aperitifs for every taste, handily divided into chapters for each spirit. There’s also a section dedicated to shots at the back, covering everything from alabama slammers to slippery nipples, if short drinks are more your thing.
'Fever-Tree – The Art of Mixing' by Fever-Tree Limited, published by Mitchell Beazley: £12.80, Wordery
Utter the words “fever tree” and thoughts of a refreshing gin and tonic are bound to swiftly follow. The popular premium mixer is now stocked in bars and restaurants around the world, and this 224-page guide to long drinks and cocktails features more than 125 recipes from some of the world’s best bars and bartenders. Recipes are refreshingly straightforward and chapters are divided according to the type of mixer you intend to use: from quinine-heavy tonic water to ginger ale, floral and fruity cordials or botanical-inspired mixers. Look out for the rising sun fizz from London’s City Social – a riot of yuzu, lemon and whisky. The book is nicely compact, with fetching gold embossing on brown paper – one to keep out on the coffee table or liquor trolley.
'Fizz' by Olly Smith, published by Ebury Press: £12.99, Waterstones
Award-winning wine writer and broadcaster Olly Smith certainly knows his tipples – on top of being a regular wine expert on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, he also appears on BBC Radio 2, presents his own podcast, A Glass With, and has scooped up an impressive number of awards and accolades to boot. And his new book, Fizz, is positively buzzing with enthusiasm and energy for all things bubbly.
It features over 80 cocktail and mocktail recipes, and each one comes with a handy icon denoting the type of glass it should be served in. There are ample options for the non-drinkers too, all clearly marked booze-free; the bees crumble (featuring freshly-squeezed rhubarb and granny smith apple juice) and ginger kombucha are ones to savour in particular.
'Redemption Bar – Alcohol-Free Cocktails with Benefits' by Andrea Waters and Catherine Salway, published by Kyle Books: £10.42, Amazon
With chapters divided into classics, martinis, mojitos, long drinks and fizz, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a regular guide to cocktail making. However, this book – from the brains behind London’s popular Redemption Bar group – is a tasty tour de force of all things non-alcoholic, plus there’s recipes for canapés, too. Many of the most popular non-toxicants served at Redemption Bar have made it into the book, including the apple mockjito, the fro-co-rita and the flu fighters martini, alongside some new inventions. Recipes include detailed introductions explaining the inventive and experimental cocktails and their health benefits, and the accompanying photography is luscious and seductive enough to make anyone forgo the booze.
'Around the World in 80 Cocktails' by Chad Parkhill, published by Hardie Grant: £10.65, WHSmith
Cocktails are synonymous with holidays – so how about a book that combines the two? On top of detailing how to make 80 delicious brews, this colourfully-illustrated guide also describes the history of the respective concoctions, as well as fun facts about the countries where they originate. Around the World in 80 Cocktails features all of the classics you’d expect, from Ernest Hemingway’s much-loved daiquiri to New York’s manhattan and Lima’s pisco sours, as well as lesser-known gems such as a stone crush from Iceland.
'Tequila Mockingbird – Cocktails with a Literary Twist' by Tim Federle, published by Running Press: £7.72, Amazon
This one’s for the literature lovers out there. While Tequila Mockingbird is not a new release – it was first published in 2013 – it’s nonetheless one that deserves returning to time and time again, just like a favourite novel. Its “cocktails with a literary twist” are as much a celebration of some of history’s classic works of literature as the classic drinks themselves. It’s packed with puns – anyone for a one flew over the cosmo’s nest? – but there’s substance among the wit too, as demonstrated in the detailed introduction, glossary and recipes.
'Free the Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women' by Jennifer Croll, published by Prestel: £8.19, WHSmith
What do Frida Kahlo, Beyoncé, Margaret Atwood and Simone de Beauvoir all have in common? On top of being inspiring and influential women, they each have a cocktail dedicated to them in Free the Tipple. Bright, vibrant and fun, this entertaining book features some seriously impressive and colourful portraits of some of the world’s most iconic women, alongside the recipes for the beverages inspired by them. Each recipe also comes with a short biography of each featured muse, as well as a description of how the creation suits their respective personalities – which makes for a nice read when sipping on your chosen tipple.
'The Cocktail Guy – Infusions, Distillations and Innovative Combinations' by Rich Woods, published by Pavilion Books: £16.99, Amazon
This is just the book for anyone looking to take their mixology skills to the next level – and to learn a secret or two from award-winning bartender Rich Woods. On top of shaking and straining ingredients and cocktails, this informative book also covers techniques such as infusing, clarifying, dehydrating and sous vide – certainly things to impress the guests. For budding distillers, there’s a chapter at the back which covers infusions such as coriander gin, beetroot and chocolate liqueur, and bay and vanilla vodka – yum. Don’t be put off by the adventurous nature of this book – each recipe is clearly labelled with preparation and mixing time, plus a difficulty rating.
'The Modern Cocktail: Innovation + Flavour' by Matt Whiley, published by Jacqui Small: £25, Foyles
In this beautifully-photographed 224-page compendium, bartender Matt Whiley – AKA the Talented Mr Fox – provides an almost scientific approach, breaking things down to practically DNA-level, looking at everything from flavour profile to the provenance of ingredients. Recipes are fun and inventive, and there are some curious yet classy takes on classics, including a monster munch gibson, which comprises gin, spring onion and a homemade monster munch-infused vermouth!
'The Healthy Hedonist: 40 Naughty but Nourishing Cocktails' by Nicole Herft, published by Kyle Books: £6.45, Abe Books
Like the sound of a book that turns your alcohol consumption into an opportunity to imbibe some of your five-a-day? Look no further than The Healthy Hedonist, which does just what it says on the book jacket. In this creative book, author Nicole Herft provides alternative suggestions to the often-used sugary syrups, in turn replacing them with superfoods. With recipes such as peach and chia bellini, kombucha Pimm’s punch, kale and pineapple daiquiri and kefir mango lassi, Nicole shows that it is possible to enjoy a cocktail, guilt on the side.
The verdict: Cocktail recipe books
For an overall survey of the classics, A Mixologist’s Guide to Making Cocktails is a recommended go-to, especially thanks to its handy drawings which detail parts and measurements. Special mention needs to go to Free the Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women for its colourful illustrations and inventive libations, while Fever-Tree – The Art of Mixing is a must-have for any gin lover.
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