The Basics Tips & Tricks

12 Cocktail and Spirits Books to Read in Spring 2021

From world tours to spirit-specific guides.

Cocktail books / Laura Sant

The latest crop of booze books cater to those planning poolside drinks and dreaming of summer road trips. However, it’s worth noting that the pandemic has led a number of publishers to move drink-related titles to fall 2021 or beyond. 

“A lot of drink books are specialty-store-driven, and those took the hardest hit with the closures,” says Joyce Lin, the senior food and lifestyle publicist at Chronicle Books. (Disclosure: Chronicle has published several of my cocktail books.) As a result, Chronicle doesn’t have a single cocktail book listed in its spring 2021 catalog. Another prolific cocktail book publisher, Ten Speed Press, has exactly one—a collection of mezcal and tequila cocktails. 

This doesn’t mean empty bookshelves, of course. Two new books on American whiskey are coming, as are primers on cider and vermouth. A first book on Japanese cocktails from Katana Kitten’s Masahiro Urushido should generate some excitement, as will more conceptual titles pairing drinks with punk-rock albums or cocktails inspired by “the world of Batman.” Finally, the trendlet of independent and self-published titles, particularly from bartenders, helps fill the void left by traditional publishing houses.

Eventually, bookstores and specialty retailers will welcome back shoppers, and it’s likely there will be plenty of new titles for the fall and holiday season to fill shopping bags to the brim. Until then, these are a dozen new books to keep us all reading, scheming and mixing.

  • “American Cider: A Modern Guide to a Historic Beverage”

    American Cider / Laura Sant

    Dan Pucci and Craig Cavallo (Ballantine Books, $18)

    This book is a deeply researched region-by-region book about the history of apples and cider. It also explains how to taste cider, similar to wine or beer, and delves into the orchardists and cidermakers behind the beverage.

  • “Booze Cruise: A Tour of the World's Essential Mixed Drinks”

    Booze Cruise / Laura Sant

    Andre Darlington (Running Press, $24)

    Ideal for armchair travelers or those planning future journeys, this is a guide through more than 40 vibrant cocktail locales around the world. Each guide includes insider intel on the current scene and local history, as well as recipes and tasting notes.

  • “The Cocktail Seminars”

    The Cocktail Seminars / Laura Sant

    Brian D. Hoefling (Abbeville Press, $25)

    This is Hoefling’s third book, a faux-leather-bound collection of 30 recipes presented in five “seminars” academia-style. Each cocktail is illustrated by a color-coded wheel to illustrate its liquid building blocks.

  • “Gotham City Cocktails: Official Handcrafted Food & Drinks from the World of Batman”

    Gotham City Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Andre Darlington (Insight Editions, $25)

    The second book in this lineup from Darlington, this one is billed as “the first official cocktail book inspired by the residents of Gotham City.” What’s inside is a compendium of 70 Batman-themed drinks, plus recipes for bar bites and full-color photography.

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  • “The Infused Cocktail Handbook: The Essential Guide to Homemade Blends and Infusions”

    The Infused Cocktail Handbook / Laura Sant

    Kurt Maitland (Cider Mill Press, $20)

    Infusions take center stage in Maitland’s latest book. He illustrates how to use spices, fruits, nuts and other flavorings (think gummy bears, bacon, etc.) for DIY infused spirits, as well as nonboozy ingredients such as syrups and shrubs.

  • “The Japanese Art of the Cocktail”

    The Japanese Art of the Cocktail / Laura Sant

    Masahiro Urushido (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

    Urushido, a native of Japan and the proprietor of NYC cocktail bar Katana Kitten, delves into what exactly constitutes the Japanese approach to cocktails and demystifies the techniques that have been handed down over generations.

  • “The Low-Proof Happy Hour”

    The Low-Proof Happy Hour / Laura Sant

    Jules Aron (The Countryman Press, $20)

    For this book’s offerings, think low-alcohol libations, with gentler-proof liquids such as amari, sherry, herbal liqueurs and shochu balancing out higher-proof components. Aron also embraces garden-to-glass trends in this colorful guide.

  • “Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails: Mixed Drinks for the Golden Age of Agave”

    Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Robert Simonson (Ten Speed Press, $19)

    This is a straightforward and brightly photographed guide to mixing cocktails using agave spirits, geared toward tequila and mezcal enthusiasts looking for creative ideas, as well as those who just like to drink the stuff.

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  • “Punk Rock & Cocktails: 20 Influential Albums + 20 Inspired Cocktails”

    Punk Rock & Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Jesse Hubbard (Biblio Publishing, $25) 

    This coffee-table book pairs each of 20 influential punk-rock albums, by artists including Bouncing Souls, Dropkick Murphys, Henry Rollins and Lucero, with an original cocktail created by the author, Columbus bartender Jesse Hubbard.

  • “Texas Whiskey, A Rich History of Distilling Whiskey in the Lone Star State”

    Texas Whiskey / Laura Sant

    Nico Martini (Cider Mill Press, $35)

    Texas is home to more than 100 distilleries making various styles of whiskey. From the author of “Texas Cocktails,” this book tells the story of whiskey within the Lone Star State via distillery profiles, interviews with experts, and original photography.

  • “The Vermouth Ambassador’s Guide to Modern Drinking”

    The Vermouth Ambassador’s Guide to Modern Drinking / Laura Sant

    Samuel Boulton (independently published, $21)

    Written by the managing director and owner of Birmingham, England’s Pineapple Club Cocktail Bar, this book ranges across vermouth production, vermouth culture around the world, and how to select, store and drink it—the latter via 100 bartender-sourced recipes. Note that it’s available exclusively via the author’s website.

  • “Whiskey Rebels: The Dreamers, Visionaries & Badasses Who Are Revolutionizing American Whiskey”

    Whiskey Rebels / Laura Sant

    John McCarthy (duopress, $20)

    This is a recent history of the craft whiskey movement told through the lens of the people who made it and are currently making it happen. Author John McCarthy conducted hundreds of hours of interviews to gather the first-person accounts that fill out this book.