The Basics Tips & Tricks

5 Essential Bartending Books by Black Authors

From pre-Prohibition manuals to modern masterpieces, these books need a place on your shelf.

Covers of five books from Black bartenders, featured on maroon background
Image: / Laura Sant

Traditionally, cocktail books haven’t reflected the diversity of the bar world at-large. In fact, when Rizzoli published Shannon Mustipher’s Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails in 2019, the title was the first recipe book written by a working African-American bartender and released by a major publishing house in more than a century.

However, the publishing landscape is slowly changing. Since the release of Tiki, more cocktail books penned by Black authors have hit shelves, including a comprehensive guide to infusions and a celebration of the Black bartenders who have shaped American cocktail history and modern drinking culture. Here are five excellent drinks books that you’ll turn to year-round.

  • Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology

    Cover of Black Mixcellence by Tamika Hall and Colin Asare—Appiah / Laura Sant

    Tamika Hall, with Colin Asare-Appiah (Kingston Imperial, $30)

    As bar veteran and Bacardi trade director of culture and lifestyle Colin Asare-Appiah writes in the foreword for this 2022 release, a celebration of Black mixology is long overdue. Written by Tamika Hall, Black Mixcellence tells the stories of Black mixologists and industry figures who have shaped American cocktail history, from distiller Nathan “Nearest” Green, who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey, to Bertie “Birdie” Brown, who created a thriving business at the height of Prohibition.

    The book doesn’t only draw from the past. It includes 70 recipes from modern-day Black mixologists, including Asare-Appiah, Tiffanie Barriere, Alexis Brown, Ian Burrell, Franky Marshall, and Nigal Vann.

    Preview: A fascinating page on the Mint Julep tells the story of three Black bartenders—John Dabney, Jasper Crouch, and Jim Crook—who “gave the mint julep its swag” and helped popularize the drink throughout the South in the 19th century. The book also includes Asare-Appiah’s favored Julep variation, the High Tide, which combines rum, Kleos Mastiha liqueur, honeydew melon, and mint.

  • Drink: The Ultimate Cocktail Book

    Cover of Drink: The Ultimate Cocktail Book by Kurt Maitland, on maroon background / Laura Sant

    Kurt Maitland (Cider Mill Press, $35)

    This weighty door stopper contains more than 1,100 cocktail recipes, plus trivia and drink-making techniques. The wide-ranging compilation offers inspiration for pros seeking to build drink menus. Highlights include a solid whiskey chapter—as would be expected from Maitland, a whiskey expert and the deputy editor of The Whiskey Reviewer—and on-trend, creative zero-proof “infusions,” such as Apple & Fennel Water in the lengthy non-alcoholic drinks section.

    Preview: “A simple rule of thumb is that if the other ingredients are sweet, you may want a scotch with a bit of smoke to cut the sweetness. Otherwise, you are pouring maple syrup on top of honey. Likewise, if the other ingredients are bitter or sour, a non-smoky scotch may be your best option.”

  • The Infused Cocktail Book

    Cover of The Infused Cocktails Handbook by Kurt Maitland, on maroon background / Laura Sant

    Kurt Maitland (Cider Mill Press, $20)

    Both an educational resource and a recipe book, this 2021 guide to working with infusions includes Q&As with top bartenders around from around the globe, plus more than 100 recipes.

    Recipes are mostly bartender-sourced and range from simple concoctions like a Mint-Infused Bourbon to more unexpected creations like a Grilled Artichoke Gin, which finds its way into a Cynar-centric Martini. You’ll find plenty of other cocktail ideas, such as a lavender-forward French 75 and a spicy Mezcal Negroni riff that utilizes chile puya mezcal and cinnamon-infused Campari.

    Preview: A bartender Q&A section showcases innovative experiments from a wealth of expert sources. For instance, Ektoras Binikos, the co-founder of Sugar Monk in Harlem, New York City, suggests experimenting with aquavit when making infusions. “It is this earthy spirit that almost shocks all flavors and mutates them through its spices in wonderful ways,” he says. “One of my favorite infusions with aquavit is with baharat, which is a mixture of various Moroccan spices.”

  • The Ideal Bartender

    Cover of The Ideal Bartender by Tom Bullock, on maroon background / Laura Sant

    Tom Bullock (reprinted by Cocktail Kingdom, $25; first published in 1917; reprinted in 2017 with introduction by Ian Burrell)

    Bullock was the first Black author to publish a cocktail book. The Ideal Bartender, released in 1917, was one of the last drink collections published before Prohibition. Cocktail Kingdom’s imprint republished it a century after its initial debut, with an introduction by Ian Burrell. He writes, “In a time that offered precious few career options for an ambitious Black person, Bullock’s talents behind the bar were highly regarded, first in his position as bartender for The Pendennis Club in Louisville, then on a railroad club car and finally at the elite St. Louis Country Club, 240 miles west of his home town.”

    Though Bullock’s career was cut short by the Volstead Act of 1919, his book still provides a fascinating look at pre-Prohibition American drinking culture and trends.

    Preview: Drinks include the Gillette Cocktail “Chicago Style” (Old Tom gin, lime and bar sugar), believed to be an early take on the classic Gimlet. Oddities like the Celery Sour (equal parts lemon juice, pineapple syrup, and celery bitters) and the Diarrhea Draught (blackberry and peach brandies, 2 dashes of Jamaica ginger, and grated nutmeg) show innovation and a sense of humor that modern-day barkeeps will appreciate.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails

    Cover of Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails by Shannon Mustipher, on maroon background / Laura Sant

    Shannon Mustipher (Rizzoli, $30)

    The former beverage director of now-closed Brooklyn rum bar Glady’s, Mustipher focuses on de-mystifying Tiki by focusing on ingredients and flavors. Basic “foundational cocktails” lead into Tiki classics and more complex tropical drinks, such as those that involve fat-washing or unusual additions like avocado.

    As Mustipher explained in this Q&A: “It’s not canonical Tiki; it’s a culinary approach to how you create a cocktail.” Indeed, she shines at explaining how various spirits and other ingredients work together and help build layers in notoriously complex Tiki cocktails. These notations, woven into the instructions for most recipes, provide helpful knowledge for building a spirits collection and using those bottles in drink riffs.

    Preview: “Pineapple syrup is one of my personal favorites, which I frequently use in place of simple syrup to give any cocktail an extra tropical gloss.” She combines a double batch of simple syrup (2 cups each of sugar and water) with about 2 cups of chopped pineapple in an airtight container, which steeps, refrigerated, for 48 hours. After straining out the solids, the pineapple syrup is ready for drinks like a pineapple-accented Daiquiri.