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Cocktail Books: The Topic

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"* David Wondrich's Killer Cocktails - aside from Dr. Cocktail's book, the best drink-related thing to come out of 2004."

I have a near infinite amount of respect for Mr. Wondrich, and I totally agree that the content of "Killer Cocktails" is excellent. I would only urge him to re-consider the format.

Marty


Edited by marty mccabe (log)

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I have a near infinite amount of respect for Mr. Wondrich, and I totally agree that the content of "Killer Cocktails" is excellent.  I would only urge him to re-consider the format.

I agree completely--sometimes when mixing a drink from Killer Cocktails, I wind up in a wrestling match with the flip-top format.

Though to be fair, I'm pretty sure the frustrating format is more the fault of the publishers than of Mr. Wondrich himself. He supplies the text we've grown to know and love, and they package it up--sometimes in ways less than satisfying to both the reader and the writer.

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Gary Regan's is my all time favorite. I have a bunch of differnt Mr. Boston books from my old bartending days that i like. Different versions have different things in them. I also have something called Raising the Bar that my wife got me from a book club that I like. I can't remember the guy who wrote it name right now I think Nick somebody?


Edited by lancastermike (log)

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First off, thanks for all the kind words--if I did the smilies thing I'd put the blushy one in here (is there a lushy blushy one?)

Second off, how the sausage gets made:

He supplies the text...and they package it up

In other words, a friend of a friend calls up; her company is under contract to assemble a series of simple, colorful how-to books with a flip-open format. One of them is supposed to be on cocktails, and they just realized that it's due in a month and they don't have any real plan for it or even a writer. Wanna take a crack at it?

This explains why there's no Whiskey Sour in the book. I forgot.

The one advantage to the flip-top format is if you're making the drink you can stand the recipe up in front of you without looking around for stuff--kitchen timer, pint glasse, cell phone, falafel, the cat--to prop open the book. That's how it's designed to be used, anyway--you're not supposed to actually read the damn thing.

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As a result of reading this thread, I just went on a book buying binge on Amazon.

It's all of your fault. :angry::biggrin:

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I enjoyed the Gary Regan book and think it's a good overview of mixing cocktails. It was my first real cocktail book (in college I had a simple recipe book, like everybody else) and I also enjoy the straightforward approach where he emphasizes the balance between ingredients and the similarities between different cocktails.

But I also think it has some serious problems - too many archaic or obscure drinks that should stay archaic or obscure. Classes of drinks that should not exist (I guess I'm mostly thinking of those "squirrel drinks"). The concept of a proper Manhattan being Bourbon Whiskey with lots of vermouth and a Maraschino cherry (ugh). Lots of other drinks where I just thought the ratios weren't very well chosen. Most of all the book is just dry, it felt like something to be studied. Granted I did more-or-less study the book, but it clashes with the cocktail culture, and it also means it's not really something you loan to a friend.

I strongly prefer the Splificator books, the drinks are a lot better and the books are a lot more fun.

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...but it clashes with the cocktail culture, and it also means it's not really something you loan to a friend.

I strongly prefer the Splificator books, the drinks are a lot better and the books are a lot more fun.

I nearly lost a friend over Gary's book.

A fellow bartender borrowed my copy of Gary's book and then went through a messy divorce. While he languished/mellowed in a hotel, my book rested in his wife's house and she wasn't letting anything out untill she got satisfaction.

It was almost 8 months before I had the book back in my hands, after a stressful time of wondering if she would make good on her threats to throw everything into the fireplace or the bay or the ocean or simply set fire to the whole mess in order to save the decision making.

In that sense, I suppose you're right, JOM shouldn't be leant to friends.

How JoM clashes with "Cocktail Culture" is beyond me.

Insofar as we're talking about real cocktail culture versus the oxymoronic version, (neither 'cocktails' nor 'culture'-- like that which is practiced in "Clubs") I think Regan picks up where Grimes leaves off, and does a real handy job of distilling the weird and rich tradition of American Drinking into something of a jouneyman's handbook, a primer, if you will, for those who want to 'Get' the drinks that they serve.

If stew is too rich, perhaps you like soup.

Wondrich is great also. His works have a smart-alecky, cynical and snarky voice, tinged with a heavy-metallist's frustration at having spent the last 18 hrs in the New York Public Library.

myers

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Joy of Mixology, is amazing. I like to get compare the recipe's with the ones in Bartenders best friend (pardon the spelling it's early on sat. morn). One gets a well rounded, venus/mars, view of a drink. And sometime you must wonder if the marriage was on the line over a quarter ounce of Benidictine.

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I like Joy of Mixology very much. It's one of the several books to which I find myself returning again and again. I think it's especially useful the way that he highlights the various "families" of cocktails. There is no other book of which I am aware that points out the familial relationship between a Sidecar, a Margarita and a Cosmopolitan. This makes it easy to create your own drinks and also helps you to identify other drinks that will suit your palate.

That said, every cocktail book will reflect the biases and tastes of the author, unless it is a strictly historical book. Even there, the author has some editorial choices to make (viz. Ted Haig's Pegu Club formula in "Forgotten Cocktails"). This is no more true of Gary's book than it is of Dave Wondrich's books or Dale DeGroff's book, etc. Whether your tastes accord with Gary's will, to a certain extent, determine how much you like the recipes in the book. I find some of Gary's and Dale's recipes to be a touch on the sweet side for me, just as I find some of Dave's recipes to be a touch on the sour side -- so I adjust accordingly. Untimately, this is what mixing cocktails is all about: using your palate and mixing the drinks according to your individial taste. One thing I think Gary's book does well is provide a background understanding of how each cocktail is structured so that you have a basis for tailoring the drink to your own preferences.

In terms of the recipes, Joy of Mixology strikes me as being very much in the same tradition as books such as Dale's Craft of the Cocktail. . . some classic cocktails given with the author's customized formulae and an equal or greater number of the author's own personal creations. If you just want a library of classic cocktails in their most historical formulae, you should throw away your books and avail yourself of the excellent CocktailDB Internet Cocktail Database.

I do agree that he might have been a little carried away adding the "squirrel sour" family, which is more or less an invention of his own and I'm not sure belongs alongside things like the "New Orleans sour" family. But they're interesting drinks nonetheless.

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His works have a smart-alecky, cynical and snarky voice, tinged with a heavy-metallist's frustration at having spent the last 18 hrs in the New York Public Library. 

Well, actually, it's a bookworm's frustration at having spent the last 18 hours riffing repetitively in E minor with all the pots pegged to eleven.

\m/

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I do agree that he might have been a little carried away adding the "squirrel sour" family, which is more or less an invention of his own and I'm not sure belongs alongside things like the "New Orleans sour" family.  But they're interesting drinks nonetheless.

I've tried a few of the squirrels, and the only one that's a keeper (in my mind) is the New Jersey Squirrel: applejack, creme de noyau, and lemon juice. (I think it should be renamed the "Jersey Girl," but that's just me.) I can't help but wonder if they would be improved if any noyau save the painfully artificial types were available in the states.

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Those are all fine, serious books.

How about the other side of cocktail culture.

Maybe a tiki book or two?  Something by Jeff Berry?

-Erik

Grog Log and Intoxica are both loads of fun, although I don't think you really need to buy the 30 or so specific types of rum specified. Maybe somebody could have a crack at categorizing the rum styles into a more manageable number?

My favorite: Beachbum's Own

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Admin: Threads merged.

I am looking for my first book on the subject of cocktails. I would like it to include classic recipes, history, and sage advice. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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Three books immediately come to mind, especially if you're starting out and want some history and perspective to go along with your drinks. What's more, all three are pretty easy to find.

* David Wondrich's Esquire Drinks is one of the first books I try to foist on anyone showing an interest in cocktails. Wondrich (Splificator as he's known in these parts) has a taste for the classics, he has the history down solid and he has an experienced palate so the recipes have all been well-researched.

* Dale DeGroff's Craft of the Cocktail has a good historical overview, plus a ton of recipes for both classics as well as stuff more recent.

* Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology also has a very readable historical overview, plus Gary breaks out cocktails into different families, which makes it easy to get your head around a lot of classic drinks.

There are a lot of decent books out there, and even more that aren't, but any of these three can be a great first step.

Paul

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I am looking for my first book on the subject of cocktails.  I would like it to include classic recipes, history, and sage advice.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

IMO the hands-down best starter book on cocktails is Dave Wondrich's Killer Cocktails : An Intoxicating Guide to Sophisticated Drinking. For more information, see this thread on the book

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Thanks, gents, for the very kind words. I'd like to add that, once you've secured your starter book (Gary's and Dale's are both magnificent), it's not a bad idea to go right to the source and pick up a reprint of either Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide, if you're mostly interested in saloon-era drinks, or the magnificent Savoy Cocktail Book; not everything in them will be clear, but either one (or both) will give you plenty to play around with and will let you uncover your own forgotten classics.

Happy mixing!

--DW

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I was just takling to the keeper of cocktail books for the New York Public Library. She was waxing poetic about watching the taste of America go from dry to sweet, to sweeter, 'til the ugly '70's hit and White zin and goopy drinks reigned supreme. She assured me that we are back on the right path. The cocktails are getting drier, and with the acess to interesting products the golden age of cocktail is in full swing. "Let them drink cosmos" is the cry from the establishment. We are imbibing beter than ever.

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Admin: threads merged

While browsing at Powell's Books for a decent Bartender's guide, I became overwhelmed. Since I have virtually no experience with the subject, I hoped some of you Spirits Gods could steer me in the right direction. I'd like a book that incorporates the old standards but also includes the newer spirits and mixes.

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If you're going to buy one book that'll suit your needs for recipes, but satisfy your yen for why and how, pick up Gary Regan's "Joy of Mixology" or Dale DeGroff's "Craft of the Cocktail".

Better yet, get 'em both.

myers

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Must agree with those two. Like cook books one is just not going to do. I would also get American Bar, the Savoy, and then Charles H. Bakers Jigger Beaker and Glass because it's such an amazing read. It's important to remember that a recipe is ONLY A GUIDELINE, that your palate may be slightly different. Don't be afraid to jiggle the measurements, or riff a little and add a flavor. It is always best to make a cocktail for yourself first, not 20 minutes before a party for your boss, in case it is hideous. And by that I mean not to your palate.

Another good thing to know is if you need to know is if you need to make a bunch of cocktails just use cups instead of ounces. It may need a little tweaking at the end but it gets you on in the ballpark quickly.

Remember to use dry, cold ice, and lots of it. Shake you cocktails like a jackhammer, stir them to the texture of velvet. and use garnish.

Making cocktails is so much fun. It is one of the few organileptic art forms. A wonderful cocktail should whisper sweet everything’s in your ear, be beautiful to behold, magic to touch, smell as enchanting as a maharaja's feast, and taste...well it should remind you of your grandma's ice tea, or it should transport you, taste like endless possibilities, like nothing you've ever had. A well made cocktail should dance on your tongue and be mind blowing, a religious experience

.

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I agree that no one book will suffice. In addition to the above suggestions, I also have liked "Raising the Bar" by Nick Mautone.

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I was a cocktail fanatic for years and started at a young age. I found The Gentlemen's Companion and The South American Gentlemen's Companion in a used bookstore and these were my bibles for both and food and drink. They hold up remarkably well. I even had a small career as a bartender and then a B-list media personality right before the whole lounge thing happened. At one pont I read David Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks and I came to the conclusion that there were lots of fun and silly drinks but there were really only five or so classics. I stuck with these for years but when the era of chocolate martinis and apple martinis and shaken martinis descended upon us, I sort of gave up and switched to tequila, beer or wine. I almost never drink cocktails anymore and I'm not sure why. Actually, I don't drink much at all. But I'll never say never and maybe there's another cocktail revival within me yet.

This is my very long-winded way of saying that Embury's book was seminal for me and I don't know if it's still in print but my memory is that it's worth having.

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I'm not searching for the contrived and overly sweet concoctions. I am, however, very interested in the South American, Asian inspired and new takes on the old favorites. A couple of you have waxed poetic on the subject and I appreciate the information, but most of all, I really like your passionate prose. Thanks.

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slkinsey,

Relative beginner is an overstatement when it comes to my experience with mixed drinks. Being originally from Brasil, I can make a mean caipirinha and various batidas. Other than that, it's the Campari, Lillet and Pimm's Cup route during the dog days of summer. I've been drinking wine for so long that I've seriously neglected other alcoholic beverages. After helping some friends pour wine on Memorial Day weekend, we went out for dinner and various cocktails were ordered. I can honestly say that I experienced an epiphany while sampling some of them. Now I want to learn this new artform and be as proficient at it as I can be.

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      B. Power Mode – Pan Material Comparisons
       
      Given the differences in power setting granularity and maximum power between the two frequencies, it is difficult to assess what X watts into the pot means in, say, a copper-versus-clad or –disk showdown. What is clear, however, is that Setting X under disk and clad seems “hotter” than the same setting under copper and aluminum.

      I will need to precisely calibrate the Panasonic for wattage anyway for the hyperconductivity project, so I will obtain a higher-powered watt meter to determine the wattage of every power setting for both frequencies. Until then, however, the only way I can fairly handicap a race is to apply a reduction figure to the ferromagnetic setting (2400W being 69% of 3500W). Given that we know the wattage at the maximum settings, we can infer that Setting 14 (actually 13.8) on the 20-step ferromagnetic range iis approximately the same heat output as the maximum setting (18) for copper/aluminum.

      The boil times for 4 liters of 50F water in 10” diameter pots shocked me. The 10” x 3mm tinned copper pot’s water reached 211F in 36:41. Not an especially fast time at 2400 watts. The 10” disk-based pressure cooker bottom? Well, it didn’t make it—it took an hour to get to 208F and then hung there. So that left me wondering if the Panasonic engineers simply decided that 2400 watts was enough for copper and aluminum. I have a theory why the copper pot boiled and the SS one didn’t under the same power, but getting into that’s for another time.

      C. Evenness Comparisons
       
      The wires which generate the induction field are wound in a circular pattern; when energized, they create a torus-shaped magnetic field. The wound coil is constructed with an empty hole at its center. As matters of physics, the magnetic field’s intensity drops off extremely fast as a function of the distance from the coil; a few millimeters above the Ceran, the field is so weak no meaningful heat will be generated. This means that most induction cooktops heat *only* the very bottom of pans, and in a distinct 2-dimensional “doughnut” shape.

      All of the above can result in a pan having a cooler central spot, a hotter ring directly over the coil, and a cooler periphery outside the coil. It is left to the cookware to try to even out these thermal discontinuities when cooking. Some materials and pan constructions are better at this than others: the successful constructions utilize more highly-conductive metals such as aluminum and copper, but unless the material is very thick, there can be a ring-shaped hotspot that can scorch food.
      Until the Panasonic arrived to market, hotspot comparisons between ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper pans depended largely on comparing induction’s flat, more discrete heat ring with gas’s more diffuse, 3-dimensional one. Dodgeball-style debate ensued, with few clear conclusions. But now, for the first time, equally-powered flat heat rings in two different frequencies allow us to directly compare evenness in ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper cookware.

      The simplest and easiest way to assess cookware evenness is the “scorchprint”, which does not require infrared or other advanced thermal imaging equipment. I’ve posted on how to conduct scorchprinting elsewhere, but basically a pan is evenly dusted with flour; heat is applied to the pan bottom. As the flour is toasted, any hotspots visually emerge, giving the viewer a useful general idea of evenness.
       
      I will later post the photos of scorchprints I made of 4 different pans run using the Panasonic KY-MK3500: (1) a Demeyere 28cm Proline 5* clad frypan; (2) a Fissler Original Profi disk-base 28cm frypan; a 6mm aluminum omelet pan; and (4) a 32cm x 3.2mm Dehillerin sauté. To make it a fair race, I heated all the pans at 2400W until they reached 450F, and then backed off the power setting to maintain 450F. I did this in order not to compromise my saute’s tin lining. As you will see, both the clad Demeyere and the disk-based Fissler did print the typical brown doughnut, with a cooler center and periphery. By far the most even was the thick, all-aluminum pan, which actually was even over its entirety—even including the walls. The copper sauté was also quite even, although its larger size and mass really dissipated heat; once 450F was dialed in, no more browning happened, even after 30 minutes.
       
      I conclude that the straightgauge pans were far more effective at shunting heat to their peripheries and walls (and also to some extent into the air) than the clad and disk-based pans. The latter accumulated their heat with most of it staying in the center of the pans. Eventually, even the “doughnut hole” blended into the scorch ring because the walls were not bleeding sufficient heat away from the floor. This was especially pronounced in the Fissler, the high wall and rim areas of which never exceeded 125F. The aluminum pan, in contrast varied less than 30F everywhere on the pan.

      D. Other Considerations

      The Panasonic’s fan noise at the cook’s position was noticeable at 63 dBA, higher than with the VMP’s 57 dBA. These levels are characterized as “normal conversation” and “quiet street”, respectively. Interestingly, I found two other, potentially more important differences. First, the Panasonic’s fan stays on, even after the unit is powered off, whereas the VMP’s fan shuts off immediately when the hob is turned off. Second, the Panasonic’s fan steps down from the louder speed to a much quieter (47 dBA, characterized as “quiet home”) level until the Ceran is cool to sustained touch, at which point it shuts off completely. I think the Panasonic’s ability to continue to vent and cool itself is a great feature, especially since a cook could leave a large, full, hot pan on the glass.

      The glowing circle is useless for gauging heat setting or intensity. And while it works to indicate a hot surface, it remains lit long after you can hold your hand in place dead center.
       
      VI. Summary and Lessons
       
      The Panasonic KY-MK3500 is a solid unit, well-conceived and rugged. It is extremely easy to use. It works well with both the common 24kHz frequency used with ferromagnetic cookware, and the 90kHz frequency chosen here for copper and aluminum. It effectively and automatically switches between the two.

      In my opinion, it points the way to expanding the worldwide induction appliance market to include dual frequencies. It also obviates the need to: (a) junk otherwise excellent cookware merely to have induction; and (b) retrofit designs to bond on ferromagnetic outer layers. In fact, in my opinion, my tests indicate that, in a dual-frequency world, adding ferromagnetic bottoms may well be a drag on pans’ performance.
       
      I also consider the Panasonic Met-All to be ground-breaking in what it can tell us about *pans*, because all metallic pans are now commensurable on induction. Clearly (to me anyway), watt-for-watt, the copper and aluminum pans performed better than did the clad and disk-based pans on this unit. Boil times were faster, there was less propensity to scorch, and the conductive-sidewall pans definitely added more heat to the pans’ contents. We may ultimately find that 90kHz fields save energy compared to 24kHz fields, much as copper and aluminum require less heat on gas and electric coil.
      In terms of heat transfer, the copper and aluminum pans came close to emulating the same pans on gas. And at 2400W/3500W it has the power of a full size appliance in a relatively small tabletop package.
       
      The Panasonic is far from perfect, however. It can’t really be considered portable. There are far too few temperature settings, and what few it has are not accurate or consistent in terms of judging pan contents and attaining the same temperature in different pans (and even the same pan unless clean). The luminous ring could easily have been made a useful indicator of intensity, but wasn’t. And it lacks things that should be obvious, including a through-the-glass “button” contact thermocouple, more power granularity, an analog-style control knob, and capacity to accept an external thermocouple probe for PID control.
       
      Most importantly for me, the Panasonic KY-MK3500 portends more good things to come. Retail price remains $1,700-$2,400, but I jumped on it at $611, and I’ve seen it elsewhere for as low as $1,200.
       
      The manual can be found here: ftp://ftp.panasonic.com/commercialfoo...
       
      Photo Credit:  Panasonic Corporation

    • By umami5
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