Back in February, we dedicated nearly a full month to reviews on books based around alcohol as the main subject. While this post could serve as compendium to that month, here are a few more ideas for last minute stocking stuffers. Read anything not on our list that we missed, or suggestions for alternatives? Drop us a line in the comments section! We’re always looking for more to read.
For the whiskey fans in your life (or yourself), a few books from the heart of Kentucky provide hours of entertaining facts, recipes and historical anecdotes. Derek Bell’s Alt Whiskeys looks into the adventurous experiments of his Corsair distillery. Mike Veach’s historical tome on the history of Kentucky bourbon is thoroughly detailed and rich with engaging content, but it might prove to be a bit much for those newly initiated into bourbon culture. Fred Minnick’s Whiskey Women gives a compelling account at the understated, underrated role women played in the making of bourbon and Scotch (our review is forthcoming). Dominic Roskrow’s encyclopedic tome, The World’s Best Whiskies, is a gorgeous, full color affair that is mildly outdated but is an excellent resource with 750 excellent suggestions and selections to consider. With an update to reflect recent expressions, this would no doubt be the book of the year for whiskey fans. Finally, New York Times scribe Clay Risen offers up a new book called American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye, which is a competent, accessible and affordable read.
Historical drinking books were even strong beyond the whiskey world. Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist breaks the origins of drinks down to a near-molecular level, explaining in wonderfully written prose the biology of our everyday drinks. Brad Thomas Parsons’ Bitters acts as a wonderful supplement to The Drunken Botanist, deeply documenting the history of one of the most essential ingredients of any cocktail.
We also saw an abundance of cocktail books hitting the market this year, and Katie Loeb’s Shake, Stir And Pour was among the best of its class, offering a perfect hybrid of quality recipes and affordability. Tim Federle’s gorgeously illustrated Tequila Mockingbird provides literary history lessons with tasty tequila recipes and some seriously wince-worthy puns (“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita”). Tristan Stephenson’s new release (again, review forthcoming) The Curious Bartender is a quick and simple read, giving modern twists to classic favorites but offering clear and simple directions that even the newest of mixologists can follow.
Judging by the credentials listed in his author blurb on the back sleeve, Dominc Roskrow could certainly lay claim to being an “expert” in his field of study. A veteran writer and author with over two decades of published works, he’s received the Scotch industry’s highest order – Keeper of the Quaich – and was made an honorary Kentucky Colonel in 2010. He had the honor of updating Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide To Scotch and his list of contributing editorships reads like a Who’s Who of Whiskey publications (he currently serves as editor of Whiskeria magazine).
Continue reading “Book Review: The World’s Best Whiskies: 750 Essential Drams From Tennessee To Tokyo” »
It’s the last great frontier for alcohol: Frozen dessert treats.
Booze is tricky in frozen desserts because it lowers the freezing temperature of whatever you add it to. A bottle of vodka in the freezer doesn’t freeze, even at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Add it to ice cream the wrong way and you get more of a slush than a dense cream.
Continue reading “Alcohol + Ice Cream = Book Reviews” »
The premise of The Big Book of Martinis for Moms is straightforward enough and to its credit, is never deviated from through 250 pages and 175-plus recipes. What one sees is exactly what one gets. Authors Rose Maura Lorre and Mavis Lamb (both professional bloggers and highly accomplished cocktail journalists) have painstakingly developed and curated recipes for every demonstrable occasion along the child-rearing process.
Continue reading “Book Review: The Big Book of Martinis for Moms” »
Few books could be more appropriate for the celebration leading up to St. Patrick’s Day than a resource guide to Irish whiskey, one of which conveniently just arrived in our inbox.
At a mere 40 pages in length, 27Press’ 40-Minute Irish Whiskey Guide is a brisk read, and could prove debatable as to whether or not it is an actual “book” in the strictest of definitions. But to its credit, the guide gives a surprisingly effective orientation to the world of Irish whiskey. It doesn’t go too in depth with history and long-winded anecdotes, but provides only the bare essentials and fundamentals. It starts with the malting and distillation process and gives a small lesson on Irish whiskey’s origins. The next chapters (described here as “lessons”) prepare the reader for how to properly taste Irish whiskey, a brief tour and overview of such working Irish distilleries as the New Midleton, Old Bushmills, Cooley, and Kilbeggan, and closes with a few time honored recipes for drinks such as an Irish Cream and Irish Coffee.
The effectiveness of the 40 Minute Irish Whiskey guide lies in two key elements: its simplicity and its price point. An informal, almost effortless delivery makes it an easy read, and at a price of $1, it’s hard to find a better value for the content provided. Those already well versed in the world of Irish whiskey, its brands, and distillation processes may find this a thoroughly unnecessary purchase, bereft of any new insights. However, those looking to branch out and find themselves in need of a reference map for their travels could do far worse, especially at such an agreeable price point.
B/ $1 / [BUY IT HERE]
(Note: From March 13th-17th 2013, this guide will be exclusively available on the Amazon Kindle platform free of charge.)
By happenstance, this past February became Booze Book Review month. We had a pretty generous amount of reading material on our desks, which resulted in roughly 1/4 of our book reviews for the entire 5+ years of the site’s history being published in 28 days. Here’s a quick catch up with links to each review:
Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage by Mike Veach
Beam: Straight Up by Fred Noe
Drinkology: Wine by James Waller
The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide To The Original Whiskey Cocktail by Albert Schmid
Destination: Cocktails by James Teitelbaum
Vodka Distilled by Tony Abou-Ganim
Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking by Henry G Crowgey
The Smart Guide To Single Malt Whisky by Elizabeth Riley Bell
Bordeaux by Oz Clarke
Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione
The Kentucky Mint Julep by Joe Nickell
Shake, Stir and Pour by Katie Loeb
Alt Whiskeys by Darek Bell
Historian Mike Veach is no stranger to bourbon history. He got his start fresh out of college at Louisville’s Filson Historical Society, archiving the papers of the famous Stitzel-Weller distillery. Over the last few decades, he has dedicated his career to preserving, documenting, and researching the stories of Kentucky’s greatest exports. He’s won numerous awards and earned the title of honorary Kentucky Colonel for his academic pursuits.
It makes perfect sense that someone with access to the craft’s most intensive information would compose such a comprehensive overview of bourbon’s history with his latest work Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage.
Continue reading “Book Review: Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage” »
The secondary title of Fred Noe’s memoir could serve as ammunition for contentious debate among scholars and devotees of bourbon culture. “The Bold Story Of The First Family of Bourbon” is a hefty declaration when considering the many families of Kentucky whose heritage calls back several generations — some right down to the Commonwealth’s pioneering days. That said, few families have loomed so large or contributed so much to the advancement of bourbon as those with the surname Beam.
Continue reading “Book Review: Beam, Straight Up” »
With the verdicts on the previous editions of the Drinkology series split right down the middle, I was curious which way the words would sway in this third Drinkology treatise, devoted to all things involving the almighty grape. Thankfully, it falls under the same category as its beer sibling: an engaging, educational guide about the wine world, crafted in a manner that will appeal to veterans and newcomers alike.
James Waller leaves no vine entangled or bottle uncorked in his detailed history of the winemaking process in Drinkology Wine. There is a lot of territory to cover and explain; so much so that a second volume with greater detail could have easily been authored. But Waller does the best he can to dissect and survey the extensive range of wines available globally. In the span of about 150 pages, he delves into the vocabulary of vino, the methodology of tasting wine, and a very basic history before dedicating close to an additional 100 pages to the different varieties of wine available, and what sets one style apart from the other. The remainder of the book focuses on specific wines from around the world and a brief appendix covering such things as wine etiquette and hardware.
Unlike Drinkology Beer, Waller cuts back on the anecdotal frivolities, most likely for lack of space. However, like Drinkology Beer, it is an entertaining read worthy of a place on any wine drinker’s bookshelf or coffee table.
A- / $22 / [BUY IT HERE]
Given the recent onslaught of titles dedicating themselves to a single spirit or beverage, the bookshelf of the cocktail connoisseur may find itself with a little less room to spare these days. Thankfully Albert Schmid’s paean The Old Fashioned is compact enough at 110 pages to fit right in, leaving room for those massive wine and cocktail tomes we’ve been reviewing as of late.
Continue reading “Book Review: The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail” »
James Teitelbaum has traveled the globe and has, apparently, seen nothing but its bars. This exhaustive book, subtitled “The Traveler’s Guide to Superior Libations,” takes you through more than 40 cities and hundreds of cocktail bars to let you know, should your travels take you to Austin or Anchorage, here’s where you can get a really good cocktail.
I’m in no position to tell you whether Teitelbaum’s picks in Cleveland or Vienna are solid, but I can vouch for the quality of his selections in the San Francisco Bay Area… although I will note Teitelbaum’s extreme penchant for tiki bars.
Continue reading “Book Review: Destination: Cocktails” »
Tony Abou-Ganim is a happy guy. In fact he’s so happy that within the first twenty pages of Vodka Distilled, the reader is treated to not one, but four photographs of Mr. Abou-Ganim flashing his pearly whites in various states of pose. And well he should be pleased himself: his 2010 opus The Modern Mixologist won critical warmth from such household media giants as Batali, DeGroff, and Fallon. His tireless efforts at championing mixology and his pleasant personality have solidified him as a go-to guy for mass media, landing him appearances on Iron Chef America, Today, Good Morning America, and numerous other programs.
Continue reading “Book Review: Vodka Distilled” »
The title is most certainly not a misnomer, as Henry G. Crowgey’s Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking wastes no time in immersing the reader in his world, beginning with a discussion of Egyptians, Moors and the migration of distillation practices to Europe. Originally published in 1971, this challenging read holds a venerable place in bourbon’s literary canon, and for over four decades has stood as a pillar of information to those immersed in their own research. It has once again been re-pressed for a new generation of book and bourbon lovers alike.
Crowgey delivers on his premise: providing the reader with die-hard facts from the commonwealth’s primal origins to the years slightly preceding the Civil War, leaving no information unchecked and no barrel untapped. On selecting this time period for the book’s endpoint, he laments
“There was never a serious attempt on the part of 19th-century historians to perform the necessary research. Thus was much valuable history was lost, perhaps beyond recall, and therefore arose many pleasant legends in its stead.”
With the exception of a few small turns, Crowgey eschews scientific theory and methodology in favor of the minutiae: bills of deed, political theater and eloquent passages all intertwine to capture both the history of bourbon and of the Commonwealth with which it seems inextricably linked.
As a factual, historical, academic tome it is thorough and highly informative. It is a delight to watch a master scholar get his hands dirty and tell a history free of corporation-approved tales. However, it is also what makes Kentucky Bourbon such a challenge of a book to absorb. Those looking for an easy read may find these pages difficult or cumbersome in detail. Definitely an offering for enthusiasts and students of the craft.
B+ / $15 / [BUY IT HERE]
The “Smart Guide” series of books are designed as an alternative to the “for Dummies” books, and that makes sense to me. Who wants to be a dummy when you can be smart, right?
The format, however, is pretty much the same: Lots of sidebars, lots of iconic graphics, lots of entry points. And everything is written with simplicity and the absolute basics in mind.
Continue reading “Book Review: The Smart Guide to Single Malt Scotch Whisky” »
Every serious wine drinker needs a big fat book on Bordeaux, the world’s pre-eminent wine region, on his shelf. Oz Clarke’s fat tome on the area and its wines (and, per the subtitle, the vineyards and winemakers) is a decent pick, but it’s not the best I’ve seen.
As is frequently the problem with “celebrity” authors, the book is significantly more concerned with Oz Clarke than with Bordeaux. The word “I” appears on nearly every page. And Clarke himself is seen mugging in a vast number of pictures (far more than any winemakers, anyway). Continue reading “Book Review: Bordeaux” »
We presented Alt Whiskeys previously. Now we have Extreme Brewing. Written by Sam Calagione, owner of the highly-esteemed Dogfish Head Brewery, Extreme Brewing is a treatise on how to make beers that push the boundaries of the beverage. Several dozen recipes are included, ranging from the expected pilsners and lagers to stuff that includes pumpkin, cranberries, and Port-soaked oak chips. A number of recipes for commercially-available brews, like Dogfish Head’s prized 60 Minute IPA and Allagash’s Belgian Wit, are in the mix, too.
Continue reading “Book Review: Extreme Brewing” »
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is home to many a splendored thing: actors Clooney, Depp, and Shatner, bluegrass music, horses, Lionel Hampton, Loretta Lynn, and of course bourbon. While these are all claims of which to be Kentucky proud, one of the finer small indulgences signaling spring’s imminent arrival to the Bluegrass is the season’s first sip of Mint Julep.
Indeed, even the poets have sung of its luxury. Clarence Ousley pontificated on the wedding of mint and bourbon in his poem “When The Mint Is In The Liquor,” so eloquently writing that “When the mint is in the liquor and/its fragrance on the glass/it breathes a recollection that/can never, never pass.”
Continue reading “Book Review: The Kentucky Mint Julep” »
How enticing do all those artisan cocktails you see these days look, with their organic cinammon-rhubarb puree and house-made schnozzberry syrup? I frequently enjoy these libations, then regret that I’ll never be able to make them the same way at home.
Well, with Katie M. Loeb’s Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails, now you can. All those syrups, mixers, infusions, and bitters are just a recipe away — and while many are far more exotic to make than the dinner you’ll prepare afterwards, the directions are clear, concise, and easy to follow.
Continue reading “Book Review: Shake, Stir, Pour” »
Alt Whiskeys is a book that will be absolutely fascinating to many, but will be practical and actionable for only about 200 people.
Why? Because for the vast majority of you, cooking the recipes in the book will be illegal. Very illegal, as author Darek Bell (of Corsair Distillery) notes. Five years in jail and a $10,000 fine illegal, that’s how illegal.
Bell’s book — a big 8″x10″ manual with full color photos — is a treatise on how to make whiskey. Not the usual Bourbon or rye, mind you, but as the subtitle states, “Alternative whiskeys and techniques for the adventurous distiller.”
Continue reading “Book Review: Alt Whiskeys” »
For nearly three decades, essayist and author Lewis Lapham steered the good ship Harper’s as its editor-in-chief and figurehead. He stepped down from the masthead five years ago, and went on to establish a journal of history and ideas, Lapham’s Quarterly, tackling contemporary topics and placing them in a historical context. He calls on voices across time to establish an educational and entertaining narrative in an attempt to build a compelling case that there is truly nothing new under the sun. In every issue Lapham asserts and presents evidence that many of the issues and events we face today have happened before in some incarnation on the dotted timeline of our past.
Continue reading “Book Review: Lapham’s Quarterly: Intoxication” »