Book Review: The Essential Cocktail

Book Review: The Essential Cocktail

essential-cocktailAuthor and mixologist Dale Degroff was in town recently to promote his new book, The Essential Cocktail, and while I sadly missed the promotional soiree, I did at least get a copy of the book to check out.

All in all this is an excellent and accessible introduction to classic cocktails and their newer variants. With 200 recipes total, it’s easy to find something that looks good (and which you can actually make) — and in fact all you need to do is look at the pictures, as almost every drink is illustrated with a large, full-color photo, some of them consuming an entire page — no small feat since this is a 10 x 7.6-inch hardcover tome that massively outsizes in sheer dimensions (if not depth) anything else on the typical bar shelf (including mine).

Degroff breaks the book down not by main ingredient but by style — classics, martinis, sours, tropicals, sweet drinks, etc. — and when he offers variants on a recipe they’re kept together on the page. I’m especially intrigued to try some of these alternate versions — I’m particularly interested in trying out the Grapefruit Julep, a spin on the Mint Julep (which Degroff outlines with his own unique and prickly attention to detail). The ginger-lychee infused caipirinha also sounds wonderful, but lots of work. Degroff’s effort in explaining how to make garnishes and describe the proper use of glassware is also exemplary.

Degroff offers anecdotes on the origin of many recipes — if you aren’t familiar with Pepe Ruiz’s Flame of Love from L.A.’s Chasen’s, you’ll have to read the story here — but even more interesting are sidebars on things you may not think much about. Degroff advises against storing vodka in the freezer (and explains why), and tells us what makes Myer’s Rum so dark. Fascinating stuff, which is why you’ll often find yourself flipping around and reading the book and forgetting to actually get up and make the actual drinks.


The Essential Cocktail




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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