From the jungles of the Amazon basin to happy-hour tipples, Chicago bartender Kokonas (Longman & Eagle, Green River) weaves the story of “the most iconic mixer in the world” into a historical book filled with smuggling, Jesuits, the alchemy of science and religion, and strong feelings about lime wheels. History owes a lot to the bark of the cinchona, the tree that saved the world, powered the British Empire and kept malaria at bay since the turn of the 17th century. The effervescent water is the base for 60 original cocktail recipes. Pages about the medical mixer are interspersed with illustrations, botanical prints and letters of patent. The book will make you want to help preserve Andean biodiversity while drinking a gin and tonic.
“The Encyclopedia of Cocktails” by the Coastal Kitchen ($35, Cider Mill Press)
This hefty compendium reads like an in-depth cocktail class — featuring 1,000 drinks. Its straightforward and uncomplicated design is built on chapters categorized by spirit, with the addition of flask drinks, punches and nonalcoholic cocktails. Each recipe is paired with appropriate glassware, and the book has an extensive index. You will learn the effects of shaking versus stirring, and the strength and weakness of certain spirits, while reading how to turn out reliable versions of classics. The attached ribbon bookmark in my copy holds the place of the pleasing Joy Division, with gin, Dolin blanc, Cointreau, dashes of absinthe and a twist.
ExploreSpringtime sipping: 5 new drinks books to discover
Casie Vogel’s “The Hard Seltzer Cocktail Book” shows the reader how to transform cans of hard seltzer into even boozier cocktails. Courtesy of Ulysses Press
“The Hard Seltzer Cocktail Book” by Casie Vogel ($19.95, Ulysses Press)
Vogel loves a can of hard seltzer. That is obvious in this love letter to the 12-ounce cans, which she can transform into even boozier, effervescent cocktails. She organizes chapters based on potential party or day-drinking situation, from boozy brunch to something aspirational and classy. There is a pretty photo to go along with the simple instructions for each recipe. A sparkling sazerac, using lemon seltzer, is inventive, and quite good. It’s a fun little book that would make a good gift for your bestie who loves a White Claw.
Matteo Zed meticulously examines the bitter digestif amaro in his encyclopedic “The Big Book of Amaro.” Angela Hansberger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: Angela Hansberger
Credit: Angela Hansberger
“The Big Book of Amaro” by Matteo Zed ($28, Countryman Press)
Amaro isn’t for everyone, but there are many of us who are hooked on the charms of the bracing digestif. Aficionados of spirits that skew bitter, and are made from roots, barks, leaves, berries and flowers, will love this book. Italian bartender Zed begins with a primer of what amaro is, where it comes from, and how to taste it, giving keen attention to specific botanicals, with extraction notes, botanical prints and photos for detail. He includes classic drink recipes, as well as a few food pairings. Most of the book is devoted to specific labels — listed by region — with every facet of the origin story, tasting profile and botanical bouquet meticulously examined.
“Spirits of the Otherworld” by Allison Crawbuck and Rhys Everett ($19.95, Prestel)
Historian Crawbuck and London mixologist Everett conjured cocktails of the dark arts, witchcraft, Renaissance magic and the occult, and wrapped them in a black-bound book of fun. There are 50 original recipes, each with an homage to a specific person or culture of the otherworld. The bitter, effervescent Major Arcana is a liquid tribute to the early Italian roots of tarot cards. This enchanting book would make a great gift for the inquisitive imbiber.
“Mezcal & Tequila Cocktails: Mixed Drinks for the Golden Age of Agave” by Robert Simonson ($18.99, Ten Speed Press)
Agave spirits like to mingle, and cocktail writer Simonson lays out their versatility. He credits bartenders for the upswell in popularity of mezcal and tequila, and he features their drinks, as well as his own, in the more than 60 recipes. Instructions are concise and easy to follow, and the writing is engaging and straightforward. There is a primer on agave, and its spirits, with facts and history in a breezy, conversational tone, and a handy guide of suggested drinks based on classics. Like an Old-Fashioned? Try a Spaghetti Western from the book.
“The Infused Cocktail Handbook” by Kurt Maitland ($17.75, Cider Mill Press)
Add a little nuance and layering to your cocktail game by using this handbook on integrating flavors into spirits, syrups and shrubs. Maitland proves that anything, from simple ingredients that start a day, like honey nut cereal and coffee, to the more unexpected sunflower seeds and cedar shavings, can be wonderful flavoring agents. The design is simple, clean and fun to follow, with clever photography of each ingredient listed, along with streamlined instructions. What better way to make a house cocktail than with something tasty and uniquely yours?
Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.