Inspiration comes from all over, and that includes books written by fellow bar pros. For the final installation of this Bar Books series, we took a round-robin approach, asking a well-known bartender for a bar book, published in the past or recently, that has provided inspiration, then approaching the author of that book to ask the same question, and so on down the line. Look closely, and you’ll spot threads connecting key moments in recent cocktail history.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Chronicle Books, 2014)
In the course of researching this Bar Books column, which debuted in December 2019, Portland, Oregon, bartender Morgenthaler’s debut book was cited multiple times by bar pros as a helpful, comprehensive resource that demystifies drink-making.
Excerpt: “When I train bartenders, I begin by teaching them one basic rule, and here it is: There are three things, of equal importance, that make a great cocktail. And unless all three are given their due respect, the drink you make isn’t going to reach its full potential. The first of these is the recipe that you choose. … The second thing that’s going to make or break our Whiskey Sour is the ingredients we choose. … But the third thing, the one that’s so often overlooked by bartenders and home mixers…is technique. … This book aims to be among the first in what will hopefully become an ongoing conversation about technique.”
Lucy Brennan (Chronicle Books, 2007)
Hip Sips “was the first breakthrough book that captured the very beginning of the kitchen-meets-bar era of the early 2000s,” an overlooked but important era for cocktails, says Morgenthaler. “That book, and Lucy's work in general, was super-influential to me in the early(ish) days of my bartending career, when I started taking cocktails seriously. She has a way of balancing approachable cocktails with previously unthinkable ingredients, and if there's one drink I want everyone to try, it's her famous Avocado Daiquiri.”
Excerpt: “Hip Sips is a collection of food-forward cocktails that were introduced to the public at my first restaurant, Mint, in Portland. … In many restaurants, the bar and the kitchen are separate units that come together only long enough for the quick hand-off of lemon wedges. When I opened Mint, I made sure to remove that invisible barrier and make room for the next generation of cocktails. … What makes these sips hip is the use of such food-forward ingredients as fresh fruit juices and pureés, homemade vegetable- or fruit-infused vodkas, and fresh herbs. These components are easily prepared and make all the difference in the flavor of the drinks.”
Sasha Petraske and Georgette Moger-Petraske (Phaidon, 2016)
“Back in the mid-’90s—before the internet!—I used to go to Powell’s Books here in Portland, Oregon, every Sunday and sit for hours and read old vintage cocktail books,” says Brennan. Though she doesn’t remember the titles of those books, she found similar inspiration in Regarding Cocktails, written by Georgette Moger-Petraske, collecting recipes and wisdom from Sasha Petraske, the late proprietor of the influential Milk & Honey bar. “I absolutely loved Sasha’s book,” she says. “This is a must-read for any bartender.”
Excerpt: “A perfect Daiquiri is a window into the technique and talent needed to make any shaken drink. For this reason, it is the best drink for anyone to see what a bar or bartender is often about. Sasha often made his Daiquiris with 7/8 ounce (26 mL) of lime juice because, depending on the lime, a full ounce of juice could make a drink a little too tart. That moment really drove home the importance of tasting every drink—especially the first drinks of the night—because even if you make the drink ‘right,’ the ingredients, even in the simplest of drinks, will not always guarantee the same results.” —Abraham Hawkins