Our contributors give you brief reviews of recent cookbooks/ kitchen gadgets/ recipes they’ve tried, and tell you whether you should take it home, just give it a taste, or toss it out.
This summer, I have positively immersed myself in booze-related books. There’s nothing like sitting outside on a warm day and consuming fascinating factoids that will transform your drinking experience just a few hours later. So here I’ve gathered my last three reads for you, and oh boy, are you in for some boozy treats.
The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes – by Tony Conigliaro
Tony Conigliaro is an international legend in the cocktail industry, respected for his incredible creativity behind the bar, his genuine joy in pleasing patrons, and his ability to combine unexpected flavors into truly fascinating drink experiences. When he puts his thoughts down on paper, the industry waits in hushed silence – and then beholds in jaw-dropped wonder. And that is what happened when I opened the pages of his newest book, which has something in it for the total cocktail novice, the proficient home drinker, and the professional cocktail scientists out there as well. Where else can you find both a Clementine Buck’s Fizz (a recipe of orange and clementine juice with champagne, accompanied by a detailed description of why the flavor compounds work so well on the tongue), and a Cosmo Popcorn (which involves liquid nitrogen – enough said)? And if you’re not already sold on the content, then you should be sold just because of the spectacular photography, and the historical anecdotes, and bursts of scientific intrigue.
Verdict: TAKE IT. Even if some of the recipes scare you, I promise that others won’t, and it’s a beautiful addition to any kitchen or bar space.
Shake ‘Em Up! A Practical Handbook of Polite Dining – by Virginia Elliott and Phil D. Strong
I’ve been positively giddy about reviewing this book for y’all, which is just the cleverest little thing I’ve come across in months! This is a reprint of a book originally published in 1930 about how to host delightful dinner parties. Or, in their own words, the book “is made for People Who Fling Parties, People Who Go to Parties, People Who Just Have a Table of Bridge, People Who Don’t Really Drink but Feel That a Cocktail or Two Enlivens Conversation.” It is hilarious and unpretentious, and I’m talking laugh-out-loud hilarious here, people. Sure, it also includes a slew of drink recipes, made from ingredients that are basic and easily found – no flaming orange peels here. But it’s the introductions to the drinks, and the descriptions of the dinner party experience, that really make the day. An example: “If you have invited strangers who, you just know, will like each other – and of course, they don’t – or if conversation languishes like a Dickens heroine, or if you don’t like the party yourself, try these combinations.”
Verdict: TAKE it. It’s tasty, entertaining, AND historical!
Bartending 101: The Basics of Mixology – by the Harvard Student Agencies
Did you know that the Harvard Student Agencies Bartending Course has certified more than forty thousand individuals in the art of drink mixing since its inception in 1972? PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND THIS COURSE. At least, if this book – which claims to be the brainchild of their best “mixologists” – is any indication. I don’t even know where to begin here. The book’s introduction was my most irritating reading experience in years. Here’s an example from the first paragraph: “But then the noble clan of the bartenders emerged, and ushered in a new age of enlightenment and wisdom, vanquishing the beasts of ignorance with the bald proclamation, ‘A dry martini shall mix but a small dash of vermouth with a much, much larger quantity of gin.’” And it’s ALL written like that. If you want me to continue in my rant, I can tell you how they recommend sour mix in a sour and don’t even mention the importance of fresh fruit, or I can weep at their statement that the type of gin you use doesn’t matter if you put any mixers in it. I honestly thought that maybe this book was a joke? A spoof? But no.
Verdict: As if you didn’t already know how I feel. TOSS this nonsense, and proceed to lose faith in today’s entire educational system.
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