COVID-19 has got all of us home quarantined leaving our bars empty and bartenders wondering what to do. Thankfully, there’s a bunch of some great books on the topic that can be read at leisure until the mandatory 21-day quarantine comes to an end.
To all our bartender friends, we know how much you are missing your lively and energetic workplace. Why don’t you utilise this phase of quarantine by reading about what you love doing instead of just missing it? Non-bartenders can learn about mixology and there’s no harm in it. Here are some of the best books about bartending and mixology that we recommend.
How To Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion – Jerry Thomas
Originally published in 1862, this was undoubtedly the first book on cocktails to be written. Jerry Thomas was one of the ‘first movers’ in the world of bartending. Consequently, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of cocktails. It’s also essential for any bartender who wants to expand his craft and experiment. He wrote another book called, The Bartender’s Guide that laid down the principles for formulating mixed drinks in all categories.
The Bar Book: Elements Of Cocktail Technique – Jeffrey Morgenthaler
If you want to learn and acquire the finer details and varied aspects of bartending, then this is the book you should look out for. This book is the unofficial training manual for bartenders and barbacks alike. There’ll be many versions available for all the famous cocktails, but this book will promisingly deliver you with its best possible version.
A Gentleman’s Companion: Around The World With Jigger, Beaker and Flask – Charles H Baker
This may not be ‘the’ book when one wants to refer to recipes since they might require tweaks to bring them up to date. So why is this book among the best? Well, this book has travel accounts from all over the world from the point of view of an eminent bartender. This book shares his travelogues as he meets various people around the globe, members of the Bacardi family, one of whom gives him the recipe for the superb ‘Daisy de Santiago’ — a forgotten classic that combines Bacardi rum with Chartreuse and lime and is simply superb.
The Bourbon Bartender – 50 Cocktails to Celebrate The American Spirit – Alla Lapushchik and Jane Danger
No bourbon lover can afford to miss out on this book. The cocktails created in this book along with the ingredients mentioned and the methodical approach applied to everything in this book is so compelling, that a true connoisseur would definitely be able to relate to. This book has it all: a deep-dive into the history of bourbon, a list of best bourbon-specific bars, a calendar citing important bourbon festivals and events. Enjoy bourbon, the American way!
The Drunken Botanist – Amy Stewart
If a bartender wants to learn about spirits from the ground up (literally), then reading this book would be a great decision indeed. From the sugar canes that make rum, the rice grains of sake, the agave of tequila and mezcal, this book talks about spirits before they even spirits. This book will help a bartender understand why a certain liquor is the way it is and use it in a better way. If botany and bartending had a crossover, it has to be in this book.
Liquid Intelligence: The Art And Science Of The Perfect Cocktail – Dave Arnold
This book will awaken the science geek inside you by answering why things in the bartending world appear as do and why everything during the making of a cocktail must be perfect. If chemistry is your favourite subject then this book explains things like why the shape of the cubes of ice matters, and what does the size of the bubbles in Champagne represents to the science of perfect dilution and mixing. In short, this book is for the truly intelligent folk out there that’ll show you all about the chemistry of cocktails.
Bartender’s Manual – Harry Johnson
This book stays true to its purpose and trains and guides a bartender on all the aspects of becoming an all-rounder bartender. From how to open a champagne bottle, how to store beer, to staff training, what to consider when buying an old bar, bookkeeping and the list goes on. Even though the book was published in 1882, the advisories and directions make sense even today.
There you are then. Take your pick from any of the books listed above and move to the next one. If you have any other books that you think would be helpful to the community, then let us know in the comments below.
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Gargi Shanbhag is a polyglot and bibliophile who is always up for discussing regional movies - preferably over many cups of filter kaapi.