Cookbook review: Big flavors, with a little buzz

"Drink Lightly: A Lighter Take on Serious Cocktails, with 100+Recipes for Low- and No-Alcohol Drinks" by Natasha David (Potter, $26.99)

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"Drink Lightly: A Lighter Take on Serious Cocktails, with 100+Recipes for Low- and No-Alcohol Drinks" by Natasha David (Potter, $26.99)

‘Drink Lightly: A Lighter Take on Serious Cocktails, with 100+ Recipes for Low-and No-Alcohol Drinks’ by Natasha David (Potter, $26.99)

Natasha David’s idea of a great cocktail is “one that encourages interaction and thoughtful debate, that lifts the spirits, and comforts a broken heart.” She’s never had the desire to get drunk, and the few times she’s had one too many, she confesses, “I had zero fun.”

Helping people create glass-raising memories that don’t include head-splitting hangovers is the mission of her debut book, “Drink Lightly: A Lighter Take on Serious Cocktails, with 100+ Recipes for Low-and No-Alcohol Drinks” (Potter, $26.99). Its colorful pages and prose are as light-hearted and luminous as the disco ball that spun inside her much-lauded New York City cocktail bar, Nitecap, until COVID-19 forced it to close.

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David traveled the world’s concert halls and opera houses as a child with her parents, a Japanese-American concert pianist and an Israeli conductor, who entertained lavishly and often. She recalls how glamorous her mother looked holding a spritz of bubbly water and white wine as she prepped for her parties.

That image followed her into the Irish pub where she worked while studying theater at New York University, and through stints behind top-notch bars where she honed her cocktail-making skills. At the end of those shifts, she found herself craving her mom’s low-octane elixir of choice, while her cohorts downed shots of whiskey.

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Once in control of her own bar program, she turned her focus to designing more complex drinks in that vein with alcohol content so low, “you get a lovely little buzz but can remember everything the morning after.”

David offers helpful tutorials in techniques, tools and ingredients including her favorite low-ABV spirits for recipes with names such as Cat Eye, Wiggle Room and Landscape Painting. Many made for thirst-inducing reading, though not quite enough to inspire investing in the specialty spirits to make them.

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But I was intrigued enough to mix up a pitcher of Jam Session — fino sherry, ginger kombucha, watermelon juice and cucumber slices — for an alfresco potluck. It was a refreshing and memorable way to raise a toast to warm weather and good friends, with just the right buzz.

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

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