Most cocktail books look great on your shelf or coffee table. But the best ones actually allow you, the home bartender, to enjoy a great tipple at home without an $18 price tag. And on top of all that, they make for fantastic gifts, and ones you can buy at the last minute (thanks, Amazon Prime).
With that in mind and a drink in our hand, we toast the 10 best cocktail books of 2018.
Here’s to knowledge! (Clink.)
For a scientific understanding of cocktails: Cocktail Codex
The team behind NYC’s Death & Co deliver a beautiful looking cocktail book (natch), but it’s the presentation here that should get you excited. Basically, the authors start with six core cocktails that you know and love (from the Old Fashioned to the Daiquiri) and progress the recipes from there. Once you understand these drink templates, you can truly begin to master cocktailing.
For the visually driven: The Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem
From the team behind NYC’s twice-awarded “Best Bar in the World,” Mayhem isn’t just an impressive collection of cocktail recipes or the story of the world’s most beloved watering hole. It’s also an actual, comic-book-styled story, one shaped by real New York history, with the creative influence of Scorsese and starring a man-rabbit anti-hero. Beyond the comic panels, the recipes here are laid out in a clean, minimalist style with beautiful photos, a thorough breakdown of all the bar equipment you’ll need and expanded chapters on how to make the assorted syrups and tinctures. (More on the book here.)
For passing a boozy bar exam: The Cocktail Guy
The worst part about cocktail recipes? Most mixologists assume you possess a full library of spirits, the desire to infuse/distill your own ingredients and an infinite amount of time and patience. Rich Woods, aka The Cocktail Guy, admits all that ... and then proceeds to very carefully instruct you — with accurate time measurements ("12 hours prep time") and superb photos — on how to make seemingly impossible drinks a real thing in your life. If you can perfect a Chocolate & Blue Cheese Martini or a Kobe Cocktail (note: you'll need to start by crafting your own wagyu-infused whisky), you'll certainly wow your friends. And maybe your bartender.
For the home bar DIY-er: Hacking Whiskey
It's not just for sipping. These whiskey recipes via drinks writer Aaron Goldfarb involve smoking, blending, fat washing and even faking your own Pappy.
For the drinking patriot: Moonshine: A Celebration of America’s Original Rebel Spirit
While our country’s booze pioneers have been distilling unaged spirits in their homes for 300+ years, moonshine only became technically legal in 2010. Thankfully, the hooch finally gets its proper due in this new tome by John Schlimm, a Harvard-trained educator and member of one of the oldest brewing families in the U.S. (More on the book here.)
For the OCD bartender: The Mini Bar
From the editors of the must-read cocktail mag Punch, Mini comprises 100 recipes divided into eight small notebooks ensconced in a sturdy slipcase, each organized by base ingredients ... and ones that go beyond well-known spirits (there’s whisky and rum, sure, but also champagne, sherry, amaro, etc.).
For the teetotaling bartender: Session Cocktails
Low- and no-proof cocktails made with the same care as your boozy variations? It was 2018’s biggest drinking trend, and this guide (also co-written by the editors of Punch) offers both aperitif-based concoctions for all-day drinking and low-ABV variations on your usual bar favorites.
For the minimalist: The One-Bottle Cocktail
It’s 80+ cocktail recipes that only require a single bottle of booze and fresh ingredients you can find at any decent grocery store or market, via the former managing editor at Serious Eats.
For the music lover: Booze & Vinyl
Authors Andre and Tenaya Darlington previously created menus for classic films, but here they craft cocktails appropriate to pair with your favorite classic records, be it Frank Sinatra to Appetite for Destruction.
For appreciating the ridiculously sublime: The Aviary Cocktail Book
The exceedingly creative Chicago (and now NYC) cocktail bar crowdfunded this 4-lb. drinking bible, which features multiple variations on classic cocktails, plus methods for infusion (own a Porthole? They’ve got 20 recipes for you!), a section on food/cocktail pairing and a photo selection that’s truly cinematic in scope and ambition. Warning: Making a fun-sounding drink recipe like their Carrot Cake Ramos Rum Fizz involves seven different pieces of specialty equipment and 36 separate ingredients.