Cookbook review: Stir up fun in a glass

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘Cocktails in Color: A Spirited Guide to the Art and Joy of Drinkmaking’ by Sammi Katz and Olivia McGiff (Union Square & Co., $19.99)

Sammi Katz and Olivia McGiff both see cocktails as canvasses for creativity. Katz mixes them; McGiff paints them.

Their visions meld deliciously in “Cocktails in Color: a Spirited Guide to the Art and Joy of Drinkmaking” (Union Square and Co., $19.99), a compact collection of classic and original cocktails presented through the palate of a bartender as well as the palette of an artist.

Their approach is as unpretentious as it is refreshing.

Unlike many other books of this genre, this one doesn’t try to push you into loading up with more top-of-the-line bottles than your liquor cabinet has room for or your budget can afford. Nor will you need to scour the internet for ingredients you’ve never heard of to take your creations to the next level.

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“Cocktailing doesn’t have to be this serious, uptight thing where men wearing vests are the gatekeepers of liquor and knowledge,” declares Katz. “How boring.”

Katz and McGriff met in a college theater group, where they also discovered their mutual passion for food and drink. After graduation, they often got together to exercise their flair for drama in their small Brooklyn kitchens with skillets and cocktail shakers.

Eventually Katz started bartending in restaurants and writing about spirits for national publications and on her blog, A Girl’s Guide to Drinking Alone. McGriff, who was building her career as an illustrator and book cover designer, would often paint portraits of her friend’s original cocktails.

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“Her vibrant paintings matched the playful nature of the cocktails I liked to make,” Katz explained. “My experience behind the bar and her experience sitting at the bar allowed our two perspectives to come together.”

An illustrated lesson in spirit styles, with descriptions of the authors’ favorite bottles, helps you choose your cast of characters for old-school Manhattans and martinis, or new-wave productions such as Blonde Ambition (“Tom Collins’s hot cousin”), a silky-smooth, purple-hued Velour Tracksuit, or a Mad Hatter “kooky enough for Wonderland’s famous drinker.” Easy recipes for syrups and infusions encourage you to improvise.

Take your cues from these fun-loving connoisseurs, and your living room could become the hottest happy-hour ticket in the neighborhood.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at

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