We’ve stacked up nine of the latest cocktail and wine books. Whether you want to learn a new concoction, or give a gift to a wine or cocktail lover, there are beautiful options this year. Mix up a drink and start reading.
“Last Call: Bartenders on Their Final Drink and the Wisdom and Ritual of Closing Time” by Brad Thomas Parsons (Ten Speed Press, $35)
What’s your last drink? That is the question James Beard Award winner Parsons posed to some of the best bartenders in 23 cities across the U.S. He captures the people and places through stunning photographs and prose. Like a perfectly balanced cocktail, it is equal parts cocktail recipes, travelogue and mixtape. Two of Atlanta’s best, Greg Best and Miles Macquarrie, are featured, along with songs Parsons chose to accompany the ritual of closing time at Ticonderoga Club and Kimball House.
“Wine for Normal People” by Elizabeth Schneider (Chronicle Books, $24.95)
Certified sommelier and self-described “normal person” Schneider hosts a popular podcast with the same name, where she approaches wine with good fun. She rolls all her expertise into a no-nonsense approach to wine, removing all sense of snobbery for an unintimidating romp through the basics of tasting and wine regions, with historical context. The secret, she says, is a game of geography and vocabulary. Get a handle on those two things, and wine is easy. She makes learning fun, without dumbing things down.
“The World Atlas of Gin” by Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley (Octopus Publishing, $34.99)
This could be a textbook for a university class entitled Gin 101, only it’s a keeper that you wouldn’t sell back to the bookstore at the end of the semester. Spirits writers Harrison and Ridley dive deep into the 500-year-old juniper-led spirit. Then, they take the reader on a country-by-country exploration of spirits worth trying. You’ll learn a lot about tasting in the botanicals section, with a flavor map and illustrated guide to botanicals commonly used to make gin.
“Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide From a World-Class Sommelier” by Aldo Sohm and Christine Muhlke (Clarkson Potter, $32.50)
This illustrated guide is chock-full of fun illustrations and infographics explaining what wine is, how to drink it, how to pair it with food, and how to evolve your palate. Sohm, a James Beard Award winner and wine director at New York’s Le Bernadin, and Bon Appetit editor Muhlke wittily take you from the fundamentals of wine to how to saber a Champagne bottle. Their thesis: Buy what you like. If you don’t quite know what that is, this book will help you figure it out.
“Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails: Celebrated Libations and Other Fancy Drinks” by Joe and Daniel Schofield (Kyle Books, $19.99)
The Schofield brothers, world-class bartenders, serve us a straight-up cocktail book, succinct but comprehensive. They fit 100 classic recipes and a few contemporary riffs into a classy tome, arranged alphabetically, with history of the drink and maker. Lush photography captures the essence of each tipple. Do you shake this one, or stir it? The Schofields explain their preferred method, why, and how slight variations can create a brand new cocktail.
“Sip: 100 Gin Cocktails With Only 3 Ingredients” by Sipsmith (Hachette, $19.99)
Sipsmith, the London pioneer of small-batch gin distillation since 1829, proves that cocktails need not be fussy to be delicious. This pretty tome, with gilt-edged pages, holds 100 recipes, each using Sipsmith London Dry Gin
as its base, plus two other easy-to-source ingredients. From the Fairfax, with London Dry over ice, to Great British Trifle, made with Dubonnet and Pedro Ximenez sherry, the recipes present the power of simplicity.
“The Art of the Cocktail” from the editors at Ilex (Hachette, $12.99)
Sommelier and drinks writer Anderson and illustrator Charlotte Trounce shake together colorful stories of famous artists and classic cocktails. The pages bring to life 50 themed drinks and twists on classics with vibrant artwork. A martini is presented Piet Mondrian-style, as Perfect Composition, likened to the master of restraint. Gin takes on Leonardo da Vinci’s style in a quiet, classic Negrona Lisa. Keep this one on the bar, or on a coffee table with art books. It fits either way.
“The Martini Cocktail: A Meditation on the World’s Greatest Drink, With Recipes” by Robert Simonson (10 Speed Press, $18.99)
The martini is gin, vermouth, an olive or a lemon twist, and lots of options and opinions. Journalist and historian Simonson uncovers the iconic drink’s fascinating history, and dispels many myths. From the first martini recipe, published in 1887, to modern versions, he writes of the bewitching power of the simple drink. There are 50 recipes, from Jerry Thomas’ Martinez, to variations like the Vesper and the Gibson. And, you can bet on commentary about shaken versus stirred.
“Natural Wine for the People: What it is, Where to Find it, How to Love it” by Alice Feiring (10 Speed Press, $18.99)
It may be compact, but inside the pages of her new book, James Beard Award winner Feiring concisely sums up what natural wine is, and why you should drink it. From explaining carbonic maceration to dispelling common myths — like, all natural wine is cloudy (not true) — the book is compelling in its directness, and essential in its listing of notable producers to seek out. You’ll be using terms like “biodynamic,” “sustainable” and “organic” like a pro after reading it.
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