The idea of “slow food” – embracing local and traditional foods over imported, processed, and speedy alternatives – has been at the forefront of modern cuisine for decades now. You’re probably more familiar with the “farm to table” concept, which is kind of the same thing, although sometimes the farm and the table can still be pretty far apart. Given the long history of “slow food” and the craft spirits movement that followed, it’s somewhat surprising that it took this long for us to get an official beverage companion. We have Danny Childs to thank for that.
Slow Drinks is the product of Danny’s formative years spent in the Amazon with a college professor he likens to Indiana Jones, studying ethnobotany and imbibing a number of indigenous brews, both medicinal and recreational. While homesteading in southern New Jersey farm country, Danny applied lessons learned to his own local brews and shrubs, eventually helming the bar program at well-known restaurant The Farm and Fisherman, where his focus on natural, seasonal ingredients and modifiers earned him national acclaim.
I’ve encountered plenty of cocktail books that include the occasional syrup or tincture made from homegrown herbs, but Slow Drinks goes lightyears beyond this, offering recipes dependent as much on their locally foraged modifiers as they are their base spirit. Lots of the cocktail recipes come complete with pages on their prime flavoring agent like pawpaw or persimmon. And the recipe modifiers run the gamut of complexity, from simple syrups to a 20 ingredient amari complete with several flowers I’ve never even heard of. Thankfully, it’s all nicely divided into seasonal availability, so you won’t accidentally go off hunting cider apples in the springtime.
Hiking for cocktail ingredients or even digging around in the backyard might not appeal to every craft cocktail enthusiast. Chances are good, a lot of adventurous drinkers don’t have much of a yard or live a decent distance from anything resembling woods. Thankfully, Danny’s book remains valuable for the less outdoorsy reader, as well. The Basics section is one of the better quick overviews of general bartending I’ve encountered in a cocktail book, with easy recipe guides to various cocktail styles, a visual glossary of tools and glassware, and a great primer on botanical flavoring agents to help even the least scientific among us identify a bitter ingredient from a floral one. Need a quick guide to basic fermentation, mead making, beer brewing? Check. Check. And check. And the cocktails themselves, once the ingredients are collected and refined, are pretty straightforward to make. Several recipes even offer store bought substitutes for some ingredients which, while departing somewhat from the original intent of Danny’s tome, make it easier for the novice home bartender to wade into the wide, wonderful world of slow drinking.
A- / $27 [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]