The Basics Tips & Tricks

5 Cocktail Books to Give You a Taste of Your Favorite Bar

They’ll help make your home happy hour even more fun.

Cocktail books
Image: / Laura Sant

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with most bars and restaurants closed, many bartenders have had to pivot their careers in ways few could have foreseen. Making and delivering cocktails to-go and hosting virtual cocktail classes and online wine tastings are a few of the ways bars and bartenders have stayed afloat during the pandemic. 

Others have assembled cocktail books, available digitally or in print and mostly self-published, to boost their spirits, their professional profiles and, in many cases, those of their industry peers. These guides provide recipes, techniques and tips, sometimes allowing their former bar regulars and loyal fans to replicate at home what they’d previously only tasted while perched on a bar stool. 

These are five to download or order.

  • “Community Cocktails”

    Community Cocktails / Laura Sant

    Casey Robison (free in PDF format)

    As the pandemic ravaged the Seattle hospitality community and his friend set up a GoFundMe to help prop up the industry, longtime bartender and brand worker Casey Robison set out to help however he could too. He reached out to his bar network across Washington state for recipes, putting no restrictions on submissions, no matter how esoteric, to give cocktail enthusiasts stuck at home a chance to find a recipe from their favorite bartender and attempt to recreate it in quarantine. 

    “I wanted to give bartenders a chance to showcase recipes they were proud of, the ones they felt represented their best quality work, simple or complicated,” says Robison. “A lot of folks submitted drinks that would be tricky to put together at home, but for me that just illustrates part of what makes bars and bartenders so special and necessary.” The project also gives bartenders who may not otherwise see their recipes published their moment to shine, says Robison. 

    Anyone who contributed $20 or more to the GoFundMe received a digital copy of the book. The fundraiser raised a little more than $250,000, with around $50,000 of that coming from the book. Now, the PDF of the book is available to view and download for free. Robison says he wouldn’t dream of selling it for profit.

  • “Happy Hour Handbook”

    Happy Hour Handbook / Laura Sant

    Fiona Arnold ($40 for paperback edition, $50 for hardcover)

    After Fiona Arnold purchased a few books from a crowdfunded publishing campaign in Australia, supporting restaurants that had been forced to shutter during the pandemic, she thought a similar idea could work in her market of Denver. So Arnold, the president of real estate development company Mainspring and the owner of Backyard on Blake and Blue Sparrow Coffee, reached out to some of the Mile High City’s most beloved concepts, including The Cooper Lounge, Death & Co, The Family Jones, Green Russell, Room for Milly and Williams & Graham.

    The resulting book, which Arnold describes as a “love letter to Denver’s craft cocktail industry,” includes recipes for drinks and appetizers along with sections on glassware, ice, techniques and tools, with proceeds distributed to the establishments that contributed. Arnold’s initial goal was to sell 1,000 books; as of March 2021, nearly twice that had been sold. She’s now contemplating a series of similar books covering other cities.

  • “Homemakers Bar Guide to Entertaining”

    Homemakers Bar Guide to Entertaining / Laura Sant

    Homemakers Bar ($9 for digital version, $19 for printed copy)

    The retro-meets-modern vibe of Cincinnati craft-cocktail bar Homemakers extends to its staff’s obsession with cocktail and entertaining books that were released by spirits brands in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Calvert Guide to Entertaining. “These guides really helped propel cocktail party culture and encouraged people to entertain at home with tips, recipes for cocktails and food and how to be the perfect host,” says Julia Petiprin, the bar’s owner. 

    For their own title, the team pulled inspiration from past menus, created new drinks, reached out to favorite spirits brands and even held a neighborhood dip contest. “This guide was a great way to push ourselves to stay creative, to continue to collaborate with other makers like artists, photographers and spirit brands and to stay engaged with our guests,” says Petiprin. A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to Project Connect, which serves homeless children and youth in the Cincinnati area. 

    This initial edition focuses on holiday entertaining, including batched and bottled cocktails, punches, appetizers, party games and themes, with whimsical illustrations and plenty of drink recipes. The team plans to release two guides each year; they expect the next one to cover summer entertaining. “The more we push ourselves to share our process and give tricks of the trade, the more likely our guests will be empowered to be creative in their home bar,” says Petiprin. “This makes for better bars in the long run.”

  • “Mastering the Pour”

    Mastering the Pour / Laura Sant

    Kim Hunter ($7 for digital edition)

    Dallas bartender Kim Hunter, the founder of cocktail consultancy Potent Pours, was already working on a print cocktail book when the pandemic began. As a temporary measure, she adapted her concept in order to eliminate contact with photographers, repurposing photographs of drinks she had made for clients at previous events and compiled everything using Canva, a digital-book-creation platform. 

    Hunter’s ebook includes a handful of drinks, plus ideas for syrups, purees, salt rims and garnishes, and is meant to inspire people to create better, more flavorful, elevated drinks at home. “I wanted to be able to bring these beautifully potent cocktails to the masses but in the comfort of their environment,” she says. “So people know that craft cocktails are not only consumed at the bar.” Hunter is still planning to issue a printed book. In the meantime, look for another digital book in spring 2021 with fresh photos, new cocktails, a section about glassware and more.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • “Retrolicious”

    Retrolicious / Laura Sant

    Linda Panofsky (price not yet available for print edition)

    When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Linda Panofsky witnessed a lot of her bartending friends become unemployed by that March. The author, bartender and spirits educator, who also has a doctor of pharmacy degree, decided to create a charitable avenue to help. “I saw two needs: a way for the loyal patrons of these bars to bring a sense of escape home that they could no longer get at their local bar, and a way for bartenders to earn some money and stay positive-minded,” says Panofsky, known in the industry as Tiki Lindy. 

    Panofsky launched a competition for any full-time bartender in the U.S. to submit a recipe each for a cocktail and zero-proof drink made with ingredients that any home bar enthusiast could find. The result was “Retrolicious,” a compilation of 42 recipes highlighting cocktails from the 1930s to the 1950s, with proceeds split evenly among the 20 bartenders whose recipes were included. “It was a great way to give these talented folks a way to get their name out there, support them with some side income and also have fun,” she says.

    Although online sales ended at the end of 2020, a print version of the book is planned for summer 2021, with proceeds benefiting the USBG National Charity Foundation. You can sign up to be notified on her website.