Drink for Thought: 5 new Books on Cocktail and Bar Culture
From basic cocktails and a “bar bucket list” to medical beverage history: Jan-Peter Wulf introduces 5 new books for professionals, beginners and “connoisseurs”.
1. “Cocktailkunst – Die Zukunft der Bar” (Cocktail Art – The Future of the Bar) by Stephan Hinz
Bar operator, drinks producer, consultant, book author and lots more: Stephan Hinz from “Little Link” in Cologne has re-launched his extensive bar book published in 2014 in a revised new edition. Boasting over 350 pages this thick volume is truly all-encompassing: it introduces readers to the history of the cocktail and bar cultures, presents various types of spirits and their production methods and takes them through “bar wines” from sparkling wines to Sake. It explains how our sensory perception works and how - Hinz calls it, borrowing from music, harmony theory - balance is created in the glass. Add to this, 400 alphabetically sorted recipes – often with a twist on the original, as the author believes “every recipe only serves as a basis for improvisation and spontaneous variation” anyway. Those eager to immerse themselves in the world of mixology, will find a host of tips and instructions for extracting, filtering, refining, straining, drying, emulsifying, carbonating and the like in the chapter “The Future of the Bar”. In this section, Hinz also addresses the issue of sustainability in bars and shows how to cut your power and water usage to save energy, buy seasonal-regional products, minimise packaging waste and find alternatives for citrus fruits.
Verdict: a cutting-edge standard.
360 pages, € 49.90, published in 2022 by Matthaes Verlag
2. “The Cocktail Cabinet: The Art, Science and Pleasure of Mixing the Perfect Drink” by Zoe Burgess
With “The Cocktail Cabinet” Brit Zoe Burgess explores the realm of taste and aroma: how are harmony, balance and pleasure created? What underlying components ensure perfection in the glass? Creating cocktail menus for both companies like Pernod Ricard and celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal while assisting gastronomes with their “liquid assets” at her “Atelier Pip”, the author never takes a rigid approach. Like Stephan Hinz, she also highlights how a drink’s taste profile can be impressively shifted merely by altering slight nuances – leading to entirely new experiences, as she states: “This is how modern-day cocktails are created; we identify the gaps in the classics and use personal preferences and a change in the ingredients or technique to push the structure of a cocktail into something exciting and new to experience.” Exciting: Burgess not only familiarises us with our five different taste sensations (sweet, sour, savoury, bitter, umami), but also provides little “taste tests” to try out – like adding saline solution to reduce the bitterness of grapefruit juice. Those working their way through the book’s dense theory section can “let off steam” with Burgess’ recipes afterwards. Interestingly, she not only groups her cocktails under the headings champagne, stirred, bitter and sour but also lists them in the index at the back of the book according to the basic spirit they contain. Proving a real visual highlight are the graduated tones of the liquids presented in the filigree drinks illustrations.
Verdict: a book oriented towards sensory experiences providing many impulses.
240 pages, € 24.50, published in 2022 by Octopus Publishing
3. “The Five-Bottle Bar: A Simple Guide to Stylish Cocktails” by Jessica Schacht
A bar with just five bottles? Doubtlessly, the Canadian Jessica Schacht, co-founder of the “Ampersand Distilling Company”, a manufacturer of craft spirits, primarily had her own little bar at home in mind. But her book is also relevant for professionals by all means: not every venue has room for hundreds of bottles, as we know, and many a concept deliberately focuses on a lean “menu”; restaurants that also want to offer their guests a reduced but refined selection of drinks to pair with their dinner without a big bar, can draw inspirations with this book just the same. “It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the Five-Bottle Bar cocktail club, where the only rule is: A simple drink can still be a stylish drink,” the author charmingly writes in her introduction. And what does her quintet include? Bottle No. 1: gin. Bottle No. 2: whisk(e)y. Bottle No. 3: dry vermouth. Bottle No. 4: sweet vermouth. Bottle No. 5: Campari. As you can see: the five-bottle bar has a clear and classical orientation. All the more astonishing is the plethora of drinks you can mix with them. Mint Julep, Old Fashioned, Bee’s Knees, various sours, but also hot toddies or more up-to-date drinks such as Bramble (in this case with fresh blackberries) or Espresso Martini (in this case with gin) can be created with just a few basic products. Less is … well you know.
Verdict: a book for small bar venues and all those intrigued by the principle of artificial scarcity as a concept.
208 pages, approx. € 23.50, published in 2022 by Touchwood Editions
4. “150 Bars You Need to Visit Before You Die” by Jurgen Lijcops
This book title is as “bucket list” as it gets. However, as it is usually the case with such lists: they are always subjective and to be taken as suggestions. Jurgen Lijcops, actually a sommelier by trade who you would expect to list the “must-see wine bars” (maybe a separate book is already in the making), here dedicates himself to his second passion – spirits. Since 2016 he has run his own bar, the “Bar Burbure”. In his job, Lijcops obviously reaps the benefit of travelling extensively, seeing a lot and visiting many bars – and in his book he presents 150 venues. The book was published first in 2018 and is out now in a revised edition: 50 bars were replaced by new ones (some places only recently opened, others closed down in the meantime, not forgetting the pandemic). The spectrum ranges from New York’s “Dead Rabbit” and the “Super Lyan” in Amsterdam to the “The Everleigh” in Melbourne. In particular, the author has made a large number of recommendations in London, Singapore and – unsurprisingly – in his home country of Belgium. He even features some far-flung locations away from the metropoles, like the “Rock Bar” in Jimbaran on Bali/Indonesia or “Stollen 1930” in Kufstein. But there are also some gaps. Not a single bar in Berlin? Nothing in Vienna? As we said: it’s a subjective list and nobody, not even the widely travelled author, can have been to them all. But maybe he will make it to BCB one day and have a look at our own local bar tips. :-)
Verdict: Not just for your next trip. The book is also great for those looking for inspiration and flights of fancy – if only for your interior design photography.
256 pages, € 29.99, published in 2022 by Lannoo
5. “Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails” by Camper English
Camper English, one of the highest-profile authors on the cocktail and spirits scene, ice-nerd and avowed Baywatch fan, dedicates his new book to the history of alcoholic beverages with reference to their medicinal origin as well as their often former medical use. No, drinks are not cures, as he stresses in his book time and again but: English’s fairly niche take is extremely plausible. Even the Egyptians used their fermented proto beers from cereals to relieve crocodile bites – or to combat sweaty feet. The Ancient Greeks also appreciated the apparent benefits of their wines on health. English’s history spans Asian alchemists and European monks to Paracelsus (an intriguing character!) and Pasteur through to our present day. On the way you also learn that Carthusian monks, who invented Chartreuse producing it to this very day, also manufactured toothpaste, and that during the Plague in Italy spirits were sold through the window like Apérol Spritz during lockdown, that Bénédictine liqueur is still administered as a cure in China today and that the infamous Buckfast, which Scottish kids lifted to icon status, was first sold like medicine and for a long time also at pharmacies (which also open on Sundays). An entertaining mix of cocktail, medicine and science history packed with anecdotes and botanical excursions, plus in-depth product know-how and nerdy factoids on wellness drinks long since disappeared.
Verdict: an entertaining read for anyone in front of and behind the counter. And – as our recommendation for your “mise en place” or your commute – it is also available as an audiobook.
368 pages, US$ 18.00, published in 2022 by Penguin Random House
Bar ohne Namen
Entschlossen verweigert sich Savage, der Bar einen Namen zu geben. Stattdessen sind drei klassische Design-Symbole das Logo der Trinkstätte in Dalston: ein gelbes Quadrat, ein rotes Viereck, ein blauer Kreis. Am meisten wurmt den sympathischen Franzosen dabei, dass es kein Gelbes-Dreieck-Emoji gibt. Das erschwert auf komische Weise die Kommunikation. Der Instagram Account lautet: a_bar_with_shapes-for_a_name und anderenorts tauchen die Begriffe ‘Savage Bar’ oder eben ‚Bauhaus Bar‘ auf.
Für den BCB bringt Savage nun sein Barkonzept mit und mixt für uns mit Unterstützung von Russian Standard Vodka an der perfekten Bar dazu.