Book Review: The New Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Think Like a Master Mixologist

Book Review: The New Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Think Like a Master Mixologist

Some recipe books end up dog-eared and well-worn beyond acceptable levels for even book lovers to keep on shelves. However, for those who call upon their wisdom with regularity, they become a badge of honor and reliable wisdom on which to lean. They are filled with Post-It notes of numerous colors peeking out from the top of pages, ripped with stains of various liquid colors, each serving as reminders of past successes and failures behind the basement bar.

Such is the case with my copy of Dale DeGroff’s 2002 The Craft of The Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender. I never aspired to be a master bartender, and even after twenty years of being able to legally consume spirits, after attempting numerous recipes featured on this site and beyond, I’m still nowhere near a level of expertise of any noteworthy credential. I would much prefer others do the driving while I enjoy the scenery, so to speak. But this book was critical to my tutelage, and I know I am not in the minority of opinion. To say this book was influential is an understatement: it was a roadmap which sent many staffing some of the nation’s top bars well on their way, present-day.

The impact DeGroff’s writing had on the cocktail resurgence is massive. In the last two decades an entire cottage industry has bloomed and taken place in the cultural zeitgeist: podcasts, night school courses, online videos, websites, and even conventions all dedicated to the craft cocktail. Much has changed and accordingly, it was time for a refresh 18 years on from its original publication.

With 500 recipes at your disposal, it is easy to find something appropriate for the moment and incredibly easy to make. The recipes are listed not by ingredient or style, but by alphabetical order, which can be troublesome if you’re trying to recall what you had a few weeks ago but can’t remember the formal name — again, have the Post-It notes handy.

The beauty of DeGroff’s writing is that there is a total absence of fluff. He gets right down to brass tacks on every topic, whether it is ice, drinkware, or the love of his life, cocktails. In the numerous anecdotes throughout the book, he spares people the atypical folksy old-timey rhetoric and mythology and makes the reader feel truly engaged – the hallmark of the best storytellers. He resists the temptation to kowtow to trends found in many contemporary cocktail books and instead opts to forge his own pathways, demanding you keep pace with him.

It’s a masterclass right at your fingertips, and quite possibly one of the best cocktail books to have on your bookshelf.


The New Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Think Like a Master Mixologist




Rob Theakston is a contributing editor to Drinkhacker.

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