The Basics Tips & Tricks

10 Cocktail Books to Read in Fall 2020

These books are great for yourself or as gifts.

Cocktail books
Image: / Laura Sant

This fall welcomes a batch of booze books that spans nearly every corner of cocktail culture. There’s an updated title from one of the biggest bartender names of all time and a weighty (and pricey) tome of dream whiskeys, as well as spirit-specific guides, holiday-themed roundups and much more. Mix up a drink and start reading.

  • “Behind Bars: High-Class Cocktails Inspired by Lowlife Gangsters”

    Behind Bars / Laura Sant

    Vincent Pollard and Shawn McManus (Prestel, $15)

    Can’t quit binge-watching “The Sopranos” reruns? This book is for you. It’s a fun pop culture look at cocktails, pairing drink recipes with tales about mobsters and gangsters sourced from the headlines, as well as from film and television. Illustrations of each character and drink by comic book artist Shawn McManus are a particular delight.

  • “Classy as F*ck Cocktails”

    Classy as F*ck Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Calligraphuck (Chronicle Books, $16) 

    This naughty little volume is sprinkled with profanity but also contains solid advice for making and mixing cocktails. Reserve it for those who enjoy a little attitude with their drinks; this book is not for the easily offended.

  • “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking For Whatever Reason”

    Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes / Laura Sant

    Julia Bainbridge (Ten Speed Press, $22)

    Taking a sophisticated bartender-centric approach to the dreaded “mocktail” category, this collection of nonalcoholic drinks offers recipes such as the Verjus Spritz, Salted Rosemary Paloma and Tarragon Cider for those seeking zero-proof refreshers. Includes an extensive pantry section and tips for sourcing ingredients.

  • “The Impossible Collection of Whiskey: The 100 Most Exceptional and Collectible Bottles”

    The Impossible Collection of Whiskey / Laura Sant

    Clay Risen (Assouline, $995)

    For those who love fine and rare whiskeys, this richly illustrated volume, packaged in a wrought-iron trimmed wood box modeled after an authentic whiskey barrel, lists a veritable dream list of 100 prized bottles to hunt down. And no, that price isn’t a typo.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • “The Japanese Sake Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Great Sake—With Tasting Notes and Scores for 100 Top Brands”

    The Japanese Sake Bible / Laura Sant

    Brian Ashcraft, Takashi Eguchi, Richie Hawtin (Tuttle, $18)

    Ashcraft, also the author of the Japanese Whisky guide, has put together lively commentaries based on dozens of interviews with master brewers and sake experts across Japan. Another key feature: reviews and tasting notes for more than 100 leading sake brands by respected Japanese sake expert Takashi Eguchi. The book is rounded out by more than 300 full-color illustrations, photos and maps.

  • “The New Craft of the Cocktail”

    The New Craft of the Cocktail / Laura Sant

    Dale DeGroff (Clarkson Potter, $35)

    The 2002 classic has been revised for 2020 readers. It has been updated and freshened yet retains DeGroff’s authority and welcoming charm. Expect plenty of anecdotes and reminiscences, which have the effect of making the reader feel like DeGroff is guiding and entertaining from behind the bar with his signature twinkling smile.

  • “Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland’s Whiskies”

    Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland’s Whiskies / Laura Sant

    Margarett Waterbury (Sterling, $25) 

    Veteran spirits scribe Waterbury offers a knowledgeable illustrated guide to one of the world’s most revered spirits. Highlights include plenty of tasting notes and “playlists,” aka bottle lists grouped by occasions, tastes or moods (i.e. “Great with Chocolate,” or “Gift Whiskies”).

  • “Very Merry Cocktails: 50+ Festive Drinks for the Holiday Season”

    Very Merry Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Jessica Strand (Chronicle Books, $20) 

    From a creamy White Christmas cocktail to schnapps-spiked cocoas adorned with peppermint sticks, this is a holiday crowd-pleaser. With plenty of colorful photos and drink-making ideas, this is sure to be welcomed as a hostess gift or stocking stuffer.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • “Wisconsin Cocktails”

    Wisconsin Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Jeanette Hurt (University of Wisconsin Press, $30) 

    A hybrid of history book and bartending guide with recipes, Hurt spent more than a year researching the history of Wisconsin’s unique cocktail drinking habits, from brandy in Old Fashioneds to dousing Bloody Marys with beer.

  • “WitchCraft Cocktails: 70 Seasonal Drinks Infused with Magic & Ritual”

    WitchCraft Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Julia Halina Hadas (Simon & Schuster, $17) 

    Written by a practicing witch, this book focuses on the alchemy and ritual of spellbinding spirits and cocktails. Think love spells, healing tinctures and more, dropping just in time for Halloween.