“Strong, Sweet and Bitter: Your Guide to All Things Cocktails, Bartending and Booze From Behind the Bar” by Cara Devine ($28.99, Hardie Grant). Much like the drinks she makes on her YouTube channel, Behind the Bar, Devine’s book is both simple and complex. She focuses on the taste triangle — the strong, sweet and bitter (or sour) notes that are the foundation of every cocktail. Using this base, Devine leads the way to crafting drinks from what you have on hand in your home bar.
The book is organized by cocktails to match a mood, rather divided by spirits, with chapters such as “Short & Boozy” and “Wildcard & Weirdos.” Once the fundamental structure of a beverage is in place, Devine suggests you get creative; the book demystifies cocktail creation and provides tips on how to tweak a drink when the balance is off.
This book is for all skill levels, but a seasoned barkeep likely will nerd out on the layers of complexity in each recipe.
“Champagne Magnum Opus” by Richard Juhlin ($85, Rizzoli). Champagne expert Juhlin’s 10th book is a compendium as luxurious as the subject matter. From the history and villages of the Champagne region to vintages and producers, Juhlin considers it all, alongside stunning photography by Pål Allan.
He includes 100 bottles you should taste before you die, as well as 10 recipes from Swedish chef Tommy Myllymäki that pair perfectly with Champagne. He also rates 13,900 Champagnes, with tasting notes as well as lists of the best bottles during particular years.
Overall, this is a reference, a tour book, a keepsake and an absolute ode from Champagne’s biggest fan.
“Seasons of Cognac” by Laurence Benaïm ($22.50, Flammarion). Maurice Richard Hennessy, the seventh generation of the dynasty that founded one of the greatest cognac houses, once said that “cognac is a taste of water and fire.” Author Benaïm, a connoisseur of French brandy, pays tribute to the centuries-old tradition of the amber elixir, as well as the Charente region of France, where it is created.
The book looks and reads like a tome of poetry, with a ribbon page marker and frame-worthy illustrations by Aurore De La Morinerie. It’s as if you’re traversing the woodlands and hillsides of Charente as you turn the pages.
After reading about the transformation that takes place in the cellars where it is made, you likely never will look at (or taste) cognac the same way again. Eu de vie, for example, requires 10 liters of wine to create one liter that will become cognac. The work happens slowly, like the seasons.
This volume is not just for the cognac lover, but also for Francophiles and anyone who loves to get lost in a pretty book of prose.
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