Friday, November 7, 2008

2 for 1 Book Review: Dale Degroff & Robert Hess

I try to stay on top of what is current in cocktail books. A lot of what comes on the market, is, quite frankly, crap. However, over the last couple of years, the quality of cocktail related writing has improved somewhat markedly. The last month has seen the release of two fantastic cocktail books by two of the people I respect most in the world of mixology, Robert Hess and Dale Degroff.

Dale Degroff's latest, The Essential Cocktail, The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks , is a beautifully photographed and well put together book. Featuring approximately 500 different cocktails and their variations (a nice touch), this book isn't as comprehensive as Degroff's earlier book, The Craft of the Cocktail, but this book is a wonderful introduction to the world of classic cocktails. This is an easy to use and wonderfully laid out book, full of nice photography and of a decent enough size that you can lay the book out and read from it if need be. If you know a bartender or have any cocktail enthusiasts to do Christmas shopping for, they will be very happy to find the "Essential Cocktail" under the tree.
Robert Hess, sometimes known as Drinkboy and host of the Small Screen Network's wonderful shows, has just published "The Essential Bartenders Guide". While DeGroff's book seems to appeal to a broader audience of cocktail enthusiasts and bartenders alike, Hess delivers a precisely focused, well written and designed manual for working bartenders. While he does offer some tips on stocking a home bar, I think the real value in the Essential Bartenders Guide is to the professional, who can put it behind the bar (great job on the binding with this one) and read and reread selections from it when it they have time. Hess provides the background on things like Fernet Branca, proper glassware selection and more. Even better, while the recipes are heavy on the classics (A Bamboo cocktail anyone?), Hess doesn't waste time with half assed contemporary drinks, instead focusing on a small but signifigant selection of modern classics including Ryan Magarian's Pepper Delicious and Paul Harrington's Jasmine in addition to some of his own creations. This is going behind the bar at 50 Plates tonight, joining the Hess autographed and rather dog eared copy of the Museum Of American Cocktails recipe book, and it is an invaluable addition to any bartenders library.
Both of these books come highly recommended. If you can't make up your mind between the two, buy both, you'll be glad you did. Both are excellent new offerings from some of the top people in the world of mixology. I'm glad that they both have a home on my bookshelf.


thesharkguys said...


I can't even begin to imagine having an inventory of 500 drinks in my head...

Here's a fun list we put together that you might like:

It's our Top 10 Coolest Bartenders of All Time (Fictional). If you have any to add, that'd be great as we might revise our list...

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