Book Review: Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places

Book Review: Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places

I am generally not one for an adventurous life in the great outdoors. When discussing the splendid pursuits of natural environments with someone evangelical about its numerous benefits, I often reach for Frank Zappa’s quote: “Outdoors for me is walking from the car to the ticket desk at the airport.” Folks will either sail right past this notion and carry on with an enthusiastic sermon about foraging Maine blueberries, or change the subject entirely.

I am very aware this is a shortcoming on my part and, being in the second trimester of life, ingesting as much natural splendor as possible while my physical body allows for such activity should be a priority. But, at this point, I can’t help what I am. Maybe one day I’ll get out there raring to experience all of Mother Earth’s joys.

All this to say Backcountry Cocktails makes me want to aspire to a more rugged, transcendentalist version of myself. It’s a beautifully designed book inspired by the White Mountain region of New Hampshire and, judging from the beautiful photography, presents itself as a New England Xanadu or Brigadoon: an outdoorsy person’s ultimate playground. And every contributor to the book shares the same sentiment: there’s nowhere else they’d rather live because everything they could possibly need is nestled in the area. Their sincerity and passion ring true on every page, which is what kept me glued from cover to cover.

The book takes readers through the four seasons, starting with spring and presenting not only some delightful cocktails but lovely side journeys into anecdotes, field guides, photo essays, how-to’s (I now know how to scare a bear, should I ever come across one) and food preparation tips in the event I need to have a guide map for fundamental survival skills.

Most of the cocktail recipes rely on very earthy (obviously) ingredients, so they may not appeal to everyone’s palates, but there are so many here worth seeking out and trying in the comfort of your own home or campground situation. Of special note: the Pine Collins using Zirbenz liqueur was exceptional, and I was able to make the long, arduous trek out to my backyard to procure pine sprigs for the garnish. I even sat outside and listened to Sturgill Simpson on my phone while enjoying it. I’m also quite excited to try out the autumnal and winter drinks when the seasons return to my doorstep.

Get this one for anyone in your life with an appreciation for great drinks, great photos, and great scenery. I may not get to the mountaintop with everyone. But if Backcountry Cocktails is as close as I ever get? It has been an immensely satisfying trip, free of mosquitos and bears.


Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places




Rob Theakston is a contributing editor to Drinkhacker.

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