Book Review: Drink Like a Bartender

Book Review: Drink Like a Bartender

Ever been concerned that a bartender would “judge you… hard” for what you’re drinking? (If so, leave the bar.) Good news: Here’s a book to help you with your barstool etiquette. Boston-based writers Thea Engst and Lauren Vigdor fill this trifle of a book with bon mots from the drinking world. The book doesn’t really carry a narrative of any kind. Rather, it’s largely composed as a series of unconnected vignettes, most a single page long, but some two or three pages.

Written very informally and in an oversized font, the book is subtitled as “Secrets from the Other Side of the Bar.” Secrets might be pushing it, though. The book comes together a bit like a jumbled notebook of wisdom this duo has collected over the course of years of bartending, without much organization involved. Very little of the content will come as any kind of secret to a seasoned drinker, and some of it is arguably wrong. Scotch tends to be “woody, earthy, peaty, and smoky”? American whiskey is “95% of the whiskey you will encounter in a bar”? Hmmm.

But most of it is simply frivolous. Engst and Vigdor have strong opinions, but few of them amount to much. Reading the earnest commentary can be cringeworthy at times. Here’s a random selection to illustrate: “Yes, Prichard’s is pretty much proof that there is a higher being, but dude, if you mix that with Coke, you lose all the respect knowing the brand gets you. We respect someone who orders a Jim Beam and Coke more than someone who orders a Prichard’s and Coke.” Hey, you wouldn’t want to lose their respect, dude.

On the plus side, Drink Like a Bartender is a very quick and easy read (some pages have less than 100 words on them), but the format lends itself to more of a bathroom flip-through than something you’ll want to add to a legitimate library. Although the authors seem never to have met an exclamation point they couldn’t find a home for, don’t let the faux urgency sell you on what is ultimately a fairly silly throwaway.


Drink Like a Bartender




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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