The Basics Bar Tools

8 Cocktail Books to Read in Spring 2019

From pro batching to edible flowers, these are the essential cocktail books to read this year.

Diagonal composite of various cocktail and spirits titles, including Batch Cocktails by Maggie Hoffman, Romantic Cocktails by Clair McLafferty, SakePedia by Jeff Cioletti, and others. Covers range from green to blue to red to black and are against a textured light gray background / Laura Sant

What will we be mixing, sipping and reading about this spring? Based on the latest crop of booze books, publishers are pushing cocktail literature that spotlights all things floral and romantic; crisp sips such as vodka, gin and sake; and big-batch cocktails for when backyard barbecue season arrives. The flood of bartender-driven books has largely subsided, but keep an eye out for an updated home bartender guide from a renowned London bar pro, plus a cocktail history primer from Washington, D.C.’s Derek Brown.

  • “Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion”

    Batch Cocktails cover featuring a tall glass pitcher and two rocks glasses filled with a pink-orange colored cocktail along with sliced citrus and and spices scattered around / Laura Sant

    Maggie Hoffman (Ten Speed Press, $20)

    The author of “The One-Bottle Cocktail” returns with a collection of approachable, on-trend “pitcher drinks,” mostly sourced from bartenders. Just as pros do for events, each recipe is intended for making well ahead of party time, to facilitate easier entertaining.

  • “The Complete Home Bartender’s Guide: Tools, Ingredients, Techniques & Recipes for the Perfect Drink”

    The Complete Home Bartender's Guide white and orange text and filigree around an ornate illustrated outline of a coupe glass / Laura Sant

    Salvatore Calabrese (Sterling Epicure, $20)

    This book was originally published in 2002, with a revised edition in 2012. It has been in print long enough for the publisher to claim it as the best-selling bartending book of all time, with more than 500,000 copies sold. The Italian-born maestro, now a consultant in London, gives the book another refresh, with updated bar techniques and new photos.

  • “Floral Libations: 41 Fragrant Drinks & Ingredients”

    Floral Libations cover featuring a red drink garnished with a yellow flower and a bouquet of mixed flowers behind it / Laura Sant

    Cassie Winslow (Chronicle Books, $17)

    A bouquet of beautiful cocktails that feature blooms—think Hibiscus Old Fashioneds and Pansy Margaritas, plus tips for growing or buying the perfect flowers for each drink. The lush photos are courtesy of Doan Ly, who is also a floral designer.

  • “Gin Austen: 50 Cocktails to Celebrate the Novels of Jane Austen”

    Gin Austen book cover with dark teal and gray damask, a silhouette of a woman sipping a drink toward the top and a man in a top hat sipping a drink near the bottom. Text is in a teal circle in the center of the cover in grayish-black and gold / Laura Sant 

    Colleen Mullaney (Sterling Epicure, $17)

    Another entrant into the canon of literary-inspired cocktails books (i.e. “Tequila Mockingbird” from Running Press), this book features drinks inspired by Jane Austen’s novels, such as the Middleton Muddle, a Mojito variation named for Lady Middleton of “Sense and Sensibility.” Look for floral-accented photos, quotations and other dainty design details.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • “Gin: The Essential Guide for Gin Aficionados” / “Vodka: The Essential Guide for Vodka Purists”

    Gin: The Essential Guide for Gin Aficionados and Vodka: The Essential Guide for Vodka Purists. Covers sit side by side with the blue vodka volume overlapping the green gin volume / Laura Sant

    Geraldine Coates / Dave Broom (Carlton Books, $15 each)

    A duo of books on clean, crisp spirits for spring sipping. Each volume includes intel on the history behind the spirit, production details, brand guides and plenty of cocktails spotlighting gin and vodka.

  • “Romantic Cocktails: Craft Cocktail Recipes for Couples, Crushes and Star-Crossed Lovers”

    Romantic cocktails cover featuring a blood red background and fine white text / Laura Sant

    Clair McLafferty (Whalen Books / Simon & Schuster, $20)

    A collection of more than 75 cocktails, primarily classic drinks, intended to inspire lovers, celebrate weddings or other romantic occasions, or soothe after love lost. Icons are included to help match drinks to situations (“New love and crushes,” “Jealousy, sour grapes,” etc.), because as the author posits, “Seriously, some breakups call for Champagne.”

  • “SakePedia: A Non-Traditional Guide to Japan’s Traditional Beverage”

    SakePedia book cover, greenscale with lime-colored background and dark green text around a dark green illustration of a sake glass and tokkuri / Laura Sant

    Jeff Cioletti (Turner Publishing, $17)

    Cioletti is also the author of “The Drinkable Globe” and a certified international kikisake-shi—a fancy term for “sake sommelier.” This is a comprehensive guide to sake that both celebrates and demystifies the traditional Japanese drink.

  • “Spirits Sugar Water Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World”

    Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters cover featuring a flat blue background, red left-aligned text, and an outline of a drink in a Nick and Nora glass / Laura Sant

    Derek Brown with Robert Yule (Rizzoli, $40)

    A boozy history lesson given by Derek Brown, who owns and operates several Washington, D.C. bars, including the lauded Columbia Room, and has served as chief spirits advisor for the National Archives. He wears both hats in this book, acting as amiable tour guide through the cocktail’s rise, fall and eventual resurrection in America. While much of the historical detail is annotated from other sources—notably Robert Simonson’s “A Proper Drink”—where this book shines is the deep-dive details on how D.C.’s cocktail scene unfolded, as told by Brown, who was right there on the scene.