You know what everyone wants this Christmas? No, it’s not money, or clothes, or new tech. It’s a good book. What’s better than the gift of knowledge. If you’re looking for the perfect gift to give your loved one, your friend, or yourself, then you deserve to give them a good old fashion book.
If anyone you know is interested in cocktails, wants to build a solid bartending foundation, or increase their existing knowledge, then check out these cocktail books for beginner bartenders. Can you really call yourself a bartender if you don’t own at least one (or all) of these books?
1. The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff
This is the first book I began with, and it was a great one. The book starts with some of the histories of the cocktail, the science of the cocktail, the culture of the cocktail through different time periods, and then transitions beautifully into signature cocktail recipes that every beginner should be familiar with. The book is super easy to read, and with each chapter being accompanied by some great photography, you’ll find yourself zooming through this one in no time. If you are looking for cocktail books for beginner bartenders, you might want to start with this one.
2. Jerry Thomas’ Bartending Guide by Jerry Thomas
Referred to as “the first bartending book” Jerry Thomas wrote this book in 1862 as the how-to for all matters involving the architecture of cocktails.
This book works on many levels. One, it transports you back in time to how the techniques of making some of your favorite classic cocktails started, thus giving you a better picture of how far they’ve come. Two, it provides a fundamental understanding that still holds relevant to this day. Three, if you manage to get a good copy, it makes the perfect decorative antique addition to your bookshelf.
3. Liquid Intelligence by David Arnold
If you find your inner nerd hungry for some interesting facts, or if you feel like you want to pontificate at length in a crowded room about things ordinary people may or may not know about, then I have the book for you.
After having a grasp on cocktails, detail your knowledge on liquids and their chemistry on cocktails as David Arnold puts you in the lab to learn more about that special drink that gets you tipsy. It’s a must-read. When you read it, look out for the infamous ice chapter; talk about mind-blowing.
4. Death and Co. by David Kaplan
Named after the Iconic New York City bar, you’ll be introduced to over 500 of the bar’s most signature cocktails. Pictures, graphs, recipes, personalized essays, this is the book you’ll need if you have aspirations of breaking into the bar industry. Don’t be caught dead without this one on your shopping list this year.
5. Imbibe! by David Wondrich
Okay, go on Amazon and try to find a review under five stars. Ignore the normie that skips the review and complains about the “damaged book spine”. Trust me, you’ll see it.
This book is the holy grail of cocktail knowledge. By paying respects and updating the original work by Jerry Thomas, Wondrich continues the legacy of educating future bartenders by taking a look at the history and discussing what this whole cocktail thing is really all about. Pay respect to Thomas, have some respect for yourself, and order this book immediately.
We recently stumbled upon a great review of this book on Megan Campbell’s blog spiritsirens.com. the post also contains some photos of the book. Check out her review of Imbibe! here.
6. A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson
If you’re more of the modern man who loves to indulge in real-world personal accounts of main players in the contemporary bartending world, then take a gander at this. A Proper Drink has over 200 interviews with the innovators and visionaries of the cocktail scene. Explore the journey of how the contemporary cocktail came into being, how the revolution was also a revival, and get a glimpse into where the cocktail is headed in the future.
7. The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual by Sean Muldoon
If you want a more intermediate read, try this one out. Another five-star triumph on Amazon, this book decides to challenge the reader to think outside of the box and get creative.
Although it hits some classic cocktail recipes, the authors decided to follow their own rules and create their own recipes. Fantastic read. Fun and Informative. Definitely follow their lead and take a page out of this book.
8. The Cocktail Codex by Alex Day and Nick Fauchald
Do you find yourself memorizing recipes but not really understanding what it is that makes things work together? This book explains not just the hows but the whys.
The codex can help you go from seeing all of the pieces to being able to put them together in a way that works. In other words, If you’re ever looking forward to coming up with your own concoction cocktails, then we highly recommend your own The Cocktail Codex. No cocktail is out of arm’s reach.
9. Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons
If you’ve ever made an actual cocktail, even once, then you know you are incomplete without your bitters. If you’re looking to skip some of that historical knowledge and go straight to the nitty-gritty about the pivotal role that bitters play, then you can’t go without picking up a copy of this book.
With an entire range of techniques and recipes to help you make some awesome bitter filled cocktails along the way, you’ll see just how important the knowledge this book provides is to the reader that likes to be hands-on.
10. The Art of Mixology by Parragon Books
You know what, do you just want a book that can give you a rundown of how this works, some great cocktail recipes, some tricks and techniques to get started or make you better at making contemporary cocktails? Well, look no further, friend. This book not only looks beautiful on the cover but gives you exactly what you’re looking for. Short, sweet, and to the point. No fluff, just a rich rundown about cocktails.
Looking for a second opinion? Take a look at this video from The Educated Barfly as he breaks down more of the books we discussed in this post and a few we didn’t. It’s definitely worth checking out.
We couldn’t mention all the books, but we definitely miss out on some of the great ones. Let us know down below what great reads we missed? Did you read any of the books on our list, and what did you think of them? We here at cocktail hammer recommend that after feeling well versed in the world of making cocktails, you hone the specifics by reading about individual spirits like whiskey or gin, individual cocktail styles like tiki or classic, to become the mixologist that you see in the mirror.