If you're looking to reorganize your cookbook collection in the new year, don't forget about the cocktails. Here's a look at six cocktail books -- some old, some new -- to add to your collection.
This is the optimum cocktail coffee-table book, and there's a reason its featured prominently at Anthropologie: The book cover feels like soft suede. Along with full page photos and recipes, authors Eric Prum and Josh Williams, the duo behind the Mason jar cocktail shaker, include stories of sunshine-filled horse races and ice cold mint juleps. Prum and Williams give readers an inside look at their envious lifestyles and explain the inspiration behind their seasonal cocktails. Following a little cocktail-making 101, with basic information on glasses and ice, drink recipes are categorized by season. For summer, "hop, skip, go naked" is made with vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice, lemon slices and summer ale; and for winter, "sage advice" is made with sage liquor, grapefruit zest, pink grapefruit, winter sage and cava.
Tim Federle, author of the literary cocktail book "Tequila Mockingbird" has created a book featuring cocktails inspired by classic nursery rhymes. Like most books for young children, "Hickory Daiquiri Dock" is a board book, but it's intended for a toddler's parents. The book features fun illustrations and cocktails with names such as Jack and Coke (and Jill), Ring Around the Rose, and Old MacDonald Had a Flask. You can always read it to an age 21-plus friend before bed.
"Distilled" (Available April 2015)
What's a spirit? What are the different types of distillation? Authors Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley are looking to be your "sherpa up the mountain of distilled drinks." Rather than being a guide to every spirit ever (the book is only 224 pages), Harrison and Ridley choose spirits you would typically find at a well-stocked bar. There's a chapter on vodka, gin, tequila, absinthe, rum, whiskey, brandies and more. After hosting more than 250 spirit tastings around the world, the authors offer information on the best way to drink each spirit, its ingredients and the method in which it's made. And if you really want to impress your bar companions, there's an entire chapter on the 21 words distillers can't live without.
If Alton Brown's "Good Eats" focused on cocktails, this book would be it. Author Dave Arnold, who is also the founder and president of the Museum of Food and Drink, owns the New York food-and-drink research lab and bar Booker and Dax and hosts the radio show "Cooking Issues." He introduces readers to his mad-scientist mind in "Liquid Intelligence," which features more than 120 recipes but is not a cocktail recipe book. Arnold explains the science behind everything from clear ice cubes to nitro-muddling fresh basil to create the perfect cocktail. Drink enthusiasts can expect lessons on clarifying cloudy lime juice, working with liquid nitrogen and making homemade sodas.
Jeff Hollinger and Bob Schwartz, bartenders at San Francisco's Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, give readers a look at their version of barroom artistry. The two like to enhance recipes for classic cocktails with various herbs and syrups made from scratch. Hollinger and Schwartz describe themselves as "the mad scientists with bottles and shakers strewn before us, stirring potion after potion until we find the perfect combination to send a customer's tastebuds on a euphoric journey." That translates to recipes for martinis and Martinezes, Sazeracs and more. And along with cocktail recipes, there are mini history lessons on everything from bitters to absinthe -- and the first Old Fashioned.
Whether you're a Springbank, Highland Park or Glenmorangie fan, Charles MacLean's "Malt Whisky" will serve as your bible. The award-winning book was republished in a portable size so whiskey drinkers could tote it around as a sort of reference guide. There's a full directory of Scotland's most famous distilleries, tips on buying malt whiskey with color label photos and more.
Sometimes a lush, but always classy about it. Follow me on Twitter@Jenn_Harris_
In another life, I would have loved to pursue graphic design. I hardly know anything about it, but I am a sucker for beautiful branding. I remember watching the documentary Helvetica in college and being completely enthralled. Clean typography makes my heart melt. I am in love with Anthropologie‘s whimsical marketing. Cookbooks with ample white space and simple, rustic photos… I just can’t get enough.
When I first found out about Art in the Age‘s organic spirits line (via Joy the Baker), I knew it was only a matter of time before I tracked down one of their liqueurs to call my own. The appearance of the bottle takes my breath away. The sharp label, the quirky handrawn-like tag telling the backstory… it’s too much!
Art in the Age currently makes four different spirits: ROOT, SNAP, RHUBARB, and SAGE. Joy has written a few times about SNAP, which apparently tastes like ginger snap and sounds just incredible. I was intrigued by SAGE, a gin-like spirit — though not technically a gin since it does not include juniper berries. The smell of sage always makes me think of Christmas and the holidays. Art in the Age’s SAGE is modeled after the plants in Thomas Jefferson’s garden! I was very excited to find a bottle at Potomac Wines and Spirits in Georgetown.
We hosted our bible study for a Christmas Cocktail Party a few weeks ago and tasked each couple with bringing a pitcher of their favorite cocktail — and then we all voted on the best one. There was quite a range of drinks! A Trump wine cocktail (50% sparkling, 50% dessert wine), a “Beergria” (exactly what is sounds like!), a mulled cider Manhattan with bourbon, Winter Sangria, and our cocktail, a Rosemary Sage Fizz.
I wanted to share the Rosemary Sage Fizz with you today, because I think it is the perfect Christmas to New Year’s transition drink. You have the winter forest notes with the rosemary and sage flavors, along with some bubbles of celebration! We tried SAGE in a few different cocktail recipes before the party, and this one was our absolute favorite. (I’ll also mention that it won the contest!)
This beautiful drink involves homemade rosemary simple syrup, SAGE liqueur, Prosecco (yay!), fresh lemon juice, and garnishes of lemon slices and rosemary. I have been intimidated by making simple syrup in the past, but it is actually not hard at all and makes quite the difference in cocktails. I’m hooked, and want to try making simple syrup everything now.
If you don’t have the desire to buy SAGE liqueur, try making this with regular gin. I wonder what the drink would taste like if you used a standard gin along with a fresh rosemary and sage simple syrup. It’s worth a try!
As the ball drops, countdowns begin and people start angling for their first kiss of 2015, do you really want to be drinking warm Champagne from a plastic cup? If your answer is yes, well, you’re probably a lot of fun. Enjoy yourself out there. But if you’re looking to spike your Champagne with a little something extra, we’ve got five New Year’s Eve cocktails for your consideration.
It’s no secret that here at Lamps.com we are experts at lighting up a place, but in terms of libations, well, we quite enjoy that kind of getting lit as well! And in the spirit of ringing in the new year, what better time to share some of our favorite cocktail recipes over the past year. Some include local liquors like Art in the Age, some are home brews, some are cocktails created while on vacation. Any way they come, they are bound to make your night glisten! Happy New Year and CHEERS!!!
The Craft Cocktail Revolution Sweeps Chain Restaurants -- Strawberry RHUBARB Martini at California Pizza Kitchen
Suburban living has a lot to offer. Say what you want, city folks, but it’s true.
Reasonable housing prices, good schools, accessible parking spaces. Great if you are starting a family. This is what led my husband and me to move to the hinterlands north of Los Angeles. For the most part, we are content.
Except where are the cocktails? The real cocktails. Not Mudslides and Appletinis, but serious drinks for serious drinking. Let’s face it, the average suburban restaurant isn’t exactly the epicenter of the craft cocktail movement. But recently the trickle-down theory has reared its head and higher-end chain restaurants are starting to catch up, offering old-school cocktails for their customers. Suddenly, the ‘burbs are drinking like they mean it.
The realization began with an innocent lunch foray this past summer. I walked into the California Pizza Kitchen near my house and, rather than having only the choice of a Lemon Drop or a Cosmo, I noticed a Strawberry Rhubarb Martini made with Art in the Age Rhubarb liqueur on the menu. Not exactly your average chain-restaurant cocktail.
On a different day, I learned that Islands, purveyors of the Pipeline burger and Yaki tacos, was infusing its tequila with house-roasted pineapple for its Makaha Maggie margarita. And then, during a road trip through Arizona, I found myself in Applebee’s, which bills itself as a “neighborhood bar and grill.” On the menu: an Old Fashioned and a Brandy Smash. I wondered if Jerry Thomas, the proclaimed 19th century godfather of the cocktail movement, was rolling drunkenly around in his grave.
I wondered what led these restaurants—with business already booming—to plunge into the classical drink world. For Mike Hurt, beverage director at Applebee’s, it was as simple as making a good business better. “Momentum behind the bourbon segment of the category is really strong,” he explains. “Consumers have been trending toward brown spirits for some time. Combining that macro-level consumer trend with the trend toward an appreciation for things that are authentic and have some historic relevance led us in this direction.” Business speak, sure, but if Applebee’s is serving up an Old Fashioned and a Smash, you can could certainly argue that craft cocktails are now reaching the masses, not just the cocktail cognoscenti.
Wisely, Applebee’s focused on familiar, basic cocktails without a lot of shaker bells and infusion whistles. Its Old Fashioned and Brandy Smash have several things in common. As Hurt summarizes, “They are really clean, straightforward drinks. They focus primarily on the flavor of the spirit, they are seasonally appropriate and, from an execution standpoint, they are not complicated to make and can be made pretty quickly.” Crafty thinking in a competitive market.
Much like today’s craft cocktail bars, Islands has always tried to use fresh ingredients and has rotated its cocktail menu seasonally. Though known for the house Mai Tai, the majority of Islands’ drinks are more prosaic. Then, recently, the chain introduced a hand-shaken Strawberry Daiquiri and a spicy Mango Shandy. Islands Restaurant has a similar concept. “Pineapple is one of Islands’ key ingredients,” says vice president of food and beverage, Tim Perriera. “We use 14,000 pounds of it every week—and we’ve been grilling it for our signature Hawaiian Burger since the first restaurant opened more than 30 years ago. With the popularity of infused liquors on the rise, we started experimenting with how to incorporate it into our tropical cocktails. We infused tequila with grilled pineapple and used the tequila in our Makaha Maggie margarita.”
To me, though, California Pizza Kitchen is at the forefront of this strip-mall cocktail boom. During the summer, that Strawberry Rhubarb Martini I so willingly embraced took artisan spirits brand Art in the Age’s Rhubarb tea liqueur and blended it with fresh strawberries, Monin organic agave nectar and fresh lemon. The result? Pretty damn tasty—even if it isn’t strictly a Martini according to the textbook definition.
CPK’s upcoming menu continues to play on its philosophy of fresh ingredients with a California twist. Like Applebee’s, CPK has created a Smash. The Blueberry Ginger Smash combines Jack Daniels and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur with agave nectar, blueberries, lime and cranberry juice. In another example, the Svedka vodka–based California Roots plays with fresh avocado and mint, as well as, shockingly, a fennel salt rim. When a chain restaurant starts rimming its glasses with fennel salt, the cocktail-shaking times are a-changin’.
As craft cocktail bars in big cities chart even more experimental territory, suburbia is starting to catch on—and catch up. Spirits are one of the biggest parts of a restaurant’s business. It pays to play the game. As Mike Hurt of Applebee’s says, “We view the spirits category as a place to be a little experimental.” We in the strip mall jungle thank them.
Here's the Negroni's earthy, more herbaceous cousin thanks to a sage-infused spirit from Art in the Age.
1 1/2 ounces Art in the Age SAGE
1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica (preferred) or sweet vermouth
Fill a shaker halfway with ice; combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Add an orange wedge and sage leaf for garnish.
THE SMOKING GUN
This is not for the faint of heart—mezcal and Fernet-Branca are heavy-duty liquors in both the taste and alcohol-content departments.
1 1/2 ounces mezcal
1/2 ounce Fernet-Branca
1/2 ounce Art in the Age SNAP
1/2 ounce simple syrup (2 parts sugar to one part water)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and dry-shake (no ice) for about 2-3 minutes. Add ice to shaker and shake again to chill. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.