Vintage Spirits, A Drunken Botanist, And A Legendary Writer

We own more than a couple books on cocktails. None of them are what I'd call modern books with cocktail recipes such as Sex On The Beach.  No, I'm more of a purist, and would much rather stick with the old standards and even discover some drinks that have been forgotten--drinks with names like The 20th Century or Satan's Whiskers Cocktail--those drinks create images in your mind, get your imagination flowing. I'm sure most people don't think of the famous beach scene in From Here To Eternity when they order the rather pedestrian Sex On The Beach.

Here is a quick roundup of some of the books we use here at The Book House--my wife adores David Lynch, and is quite a fan of Twin Peaks, and I'm quite taken with the series as well.

Perhaps one of these books will entice you into the world of interesting and complex cocktails--a world beyond the low-hanging fruit of pedestrian libations swill.

  • Hollywood Cocktails - Tobias Steed & Ben Reed

This book doesn't have a ton of recipes, but what I do enjoy are the bits of cocktail and movie trivia thrown in with each recipe. So, not only does this book serve as a wonderful resource of classic cocktails, but also movie recommendations--CLASSIC movie recommendations with the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. Oh, there's Bogart and Bacall, William Powell and Myrna Loy, along with Monroe, Gable, and Garbo. Frank Sinatra makes an appearance along with Rita Hayworth. There are a bunch of stars and a bunch of great movies the authors pair the cocktails with. I wish I'd thought of creating this book!


  • The Savoy Cocktail Book

I think I mentioned this book recently, but this is quite possibly the granddaddy of all cocktail books. The original edition was printed in 1930 and is a document of the Jazz Age and the Lost Generation. The drinks in this book were all served at the famous American Bar at The Savoy hotel in London. As in the Hollywood Cocktails book, you'll find recipes for Rickeys, Slings, Shrubs, Smashes, Fizzes, and so many other wonderful concoctions you've never heard of or perhaps only read about or seen one of the Golden Age stars sip, like the photo of David Niven above.

  • Vintage Spirits And Forgotten Cocktails - Ted Haigh

This is truly a book of a bygone era. There are cocktails in there that have been long forgotten! But what I love about this book is the history behind each and every recipe within. There are ingredients for some of these drinks that I've never heard of, and are either difficult to track down or impossible since they're no longer made. But there is good news and some bad news: the book explains how to make some of these long lost ingredients (like very specific types of bitters, for instance), but there are a few that really aren't able to be substituted with something else. The book valiantly offers some suggestions to get the cocktail in the vicinity of what it must have tasted like say back in the late 1800s or early 1900s. This is a book for someone who wants to really learn the history of and how to mix some truly unique cocktails.

  • To Have And Have Another - Philip Greene

This book is billed as--A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, and is a delight to read. The author is a Hemingway enthusiast and cocktail connoisseur. There are many recipes and most of them are the way Papa would have mixed them, or at least the way he preferred them.

You'll learn a lot about Hemingway in this book--especially his drinking habits, but you'll also learn quite a bit about the history of cocktails. If you enjoy a good cocktail, and enjoy reading anecdotes about Hemingway, then you'll love this book--I enjoyed every spirit-soaked anecdote and recipe.


All right, these last two books are for those of you who want to do a deep dive into the world of cocktails.

  • The Drunken Botanist - Amy Stewart

There are recipes in this book, but really, the strength of this title are the herbs, flowers, fruits, and fungi humans have bent to the creation of alcoholic substances. This book explains the chemistry and biology, and then goes on to provide recipes as well as growing tips if you want to do a little gardening and eventually use these plants for your homemade alcohol.

The author and her husband own an antiquarian bookstore in California called Eureka Books. I'd love to check it out someday!

  • Bitters - Brad Thomas Parsons

This is a recent edition to the collection, and is called--A Spirited History Of A Classic Cure-All.  Bitters are often what make a drink, but even I thought when I first picked this up that the topic would be so narrow in scope as to make a potentially boring read. But I was wrong. This book explains how important bitters were to classic cocktails and also how bitters nearly disappeared during the dark days of the cocktail (dark decades, really--from the mid-1960s all the way up to the year 2000). The only bitters you've probably ever seen are Angostura Bitters, but today, there are many, many options. This book sheds light on Bitters, and also where to get them and how to make your own!  Huzzah!

There you have it, six books--look them up online, or find them at your local bookseller.  Get outside your comfort zone and your standard go-to drink and give classic cocktails a chance!