Food & Wine’s Cocktails ’09 combines a lot of solid information with on-trend ideas in handy, nearly pocket-sized, reference.
The first section of the book, ‘Cocktail Clinic’, gives a fairly comprehensive overview of barware and glassware, offers storage tips (always refrigerate an open bottle of vermouth), and a lexicon of major spirits, including some newer entries to the market, such as St-Germain’s elderflower liqueur.
Perhaps of greatest interest are the taste tests of whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, and tequila – each spirit is broken down into top picks in ‘value’ and ‘high-end’ categories.
Recipes form the bulk of the book – more than 130 in all – and range from classics to new creations. Many of the new ideas that caught my eye are testament to the increasing trend of ‘savory’ ingredients that are appearing in cocktails, such as the Cilantro Cooler (cilantro and cucumber), Caribbean Shrub (a strawberry-balsamic vinegar gastrique), Blueberry-Maple Caiprissimo (a syrup made from maple syrup and fresh rosemary) and Black Friar’s Pint (one of the eight ingredients is Guinness Stout infused with cardamom and cinnamon.)
Kudos to Food & Wine for rating the cocktails in terms of complexity which allows the aspiring mixologist to know what they’re getting into before they get into it.
Organizationally, some of the categories of cocktails are a little confusing – traditional categories, such as Aperitifs, After-dinner Drinks and Frozen Cocktails are mixed with less-defined categories such as ‘Latin’ and ‘Seasonal.’
This book is published by Food & Wine, so of course there are some creative, mouth-watering party foods that go way beyond the typical Chex Mix, such as Banger and Egg Sandwiches, Coconut Shrimp Beignets with Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce, and Tagliata of Porcini-rubbed Rib Eye. And in true Food & Wine form, there are dozens of inspiring photographs of the drinks and foods.
If you’re looking for a book to spice up your cocktail library with on-trend ideas, or if you’re just getting started and want to re-create the latest drinks from the country’s hottest bars, you’ll get a lot of mileage and inspiration from Food&Wine Cocktails ’09.
–Chef Dennis Pitchford