4 cocktail books to quench your summer reading thirst

"Southern Spirits" and "Spritz" are two new books that make for entertaining reading for cocktailians. Photo credit: Beth McKibben

“Southern Spirits” and “Spritz” are two new books that make for entertaining reading for cocktailians. Photo credit: Beth McKibben

It’s hot out there — cool down by making these tasty cocktails perfect for summer.

“The Coupe” by Brian Hart Hoffman (Hoffman Media, $19.95)

As a collector of antique glassware, the elegant coupe always has fascinated me. The wide-mouthed bowl perched high atop a long, sexy stem opens up like a blossoming flower to let magical potions like Champagne and Manhattans float breathlessly within it.

“The Coupe” takes a brief look into the myths surrounding its lineage, including the most famous (and false), about it being molded after Marie Antoinette’s left breast. The coupe is likely the distant cousin of the ancient chalice, with its modern form being traced back to the 1760s as a candy dish.

My only wish is that Hoffman had delved deeper into the history and lore before heading into the book’s well-curated list of cocktails.

Recipes are broken down into spirit categories like tequila, vodka, whiskey and sparkling. Many of the country’s best bartenders created original concoctions for the book, including Julian Goglia of the Pinewood, with the tequila-based Bebida de Los Muertos.

“Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail” by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau (Ten Speed Press, $18.99)

Baiocchi and Pariseau write of a world of casual sophistication in a way only Italians can pull off — cafe-lined streets and evenings full of heady conversation while sipping the fizzy bitterness of Italy’s national cocktail, the spritz.

The authors weave in the aperitivo’s storied history and cultural importance to Italy’s lifestyle through clever wordplay, vivid descriptions and personal introspection. I felt transported to the cafes they visited and the drinks they sipped, from Turin to Venice. All of this from the first 35 pages, which thoroughly prepares you for the 50 recipes (with food pairings) that follow.

“Spritz” is fun and informative, with quirky illustrations and vintage-style photographs highlighting the country’s past and present iconography, as well as its laid-back approach to life. These moments in the book are textured, almost tangible.

Look for fairly simple recipes for concocting fizzy drinks at home, including one from Atlanta bar wizard Greg Best of Ticonderoga Club.

"Smuggler's Cove" and "The Coupe" are new books that cocktail-lovers will drink up. Photo by Beth McKibben

“Smuggler’s Cove” and “The Coupe” are new books that cocktail-lovers will drink up. Photo by Beth McKibben

“Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Culture of Tiki” by Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate (Ten Speed Press, $30)

This is a modern-day tropical drinks bible, full of history, stunning photography and vivid retellings of stories about cocktail culture’s most colorful cousin, the tiki. Myths are dispelled, secret recipes are divulged (sort of) and explicit instructions are given on how to dress the part and throw the most epic tiki party ever.

Those looking to immerse themselves in cocktail culture’s tropical trappings shouldn’t hesitate purchasing the Cates’ wonderfully geeky book detailing tiki’s primordial days in the Caribbean. The story ranges from founding fathers Ernest Gantt (“Don the Beachcomber”) and Victor Bergeron (“Trader Vic”) to the godfather of the modern tiki revival, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, author and owner of New Orleans’ Latitude 29.

The Cates, owners of San Francisco tiki mecca Smuggler’s Cove, delve deep into the vibrant culture, tiki’s meteoritic rise and fall, and its resurrection. Chapters are dedicated to influential characters, major ingredients, fashion and design elements, mixing techniques and bar tools.

More than 100 original recipes and adaptations fill the back of each chapter, with at least two of those chapters devoted to tiki’s most prolific spirit, rum. Mai tais, anyone?

“Southern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South” by Robert F. Moss (Ten Speed Press, $24.99)

In this heavily researched and exquisitely written compendium on the South’s tippling past, culinary historian Moss gives us an in-depth look at the region’s spirited exports and imports, distilleries, medicinal toddies and whiskey and cocktail evolutions.

While there’s a smattering of recipes throughout, the majority of the book is dedicated to historical and cultural context, the telling and dispelling of myths, and the South’s colorful cast of drunken characters.

Some of my favorite chapters dealt with many cocktails’ humble beginnings as boozy Advil-like concoctions; myths behind the South’s grandest tipples, like the mint julep and the “vanquisher of men” Chatham Artillery Punch; and Prohibition’s unintentional birthing of rumrunners, bootleggers and moonshiners.

For those wanting an explicitly detailed timeline (with recipes) of our region’s drinking progression from the 18th century to the present day, Moss provides an encyclopedia full of exacting facts, wholly Southern stories, legendary characters and whiskey.


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