Cocktail Books

I’ve often been asked by guests at my bar which books one should get when beginning their exploration into the world of cocktails. Seeing as my bar’s cocktail program focuses on classics and twists on those classics, I assume that they are looking for a book that will reflect my passion for these classics. While many good cocktail books from Prohibition and earlier and not in print anymore and quite expensive, there are some older books that are still in reprint and would be a benefit in any cocktail geek’s collection.

In no particular order, here they are:

1. The Savoy Cocktail Book (by Harry Craddock)

2. Jigger, Beaker and Flask: Drinking around the World (by Charles H Baker)

3. Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book

4. The Bartender’s Guide (by Jerry Thomas)

5. The Stork Club Bar Book

6. 173 Pre-Prohibition Cocktails (by Tom Bullock)

7. The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics

8. Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century (by Paul Harrington)

9. Killer Cocktails: An Intoxicating Guide to Sophisticated Drinking

10. Imbibe! (by David Wondrich)

11. Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, (by Ted Haigh)

While this in by no means a complete list, it is a good start for anyone who is getting serious about cocktails, and doesn’t want to hurt their wallet too much.

Now, if I were to pick out a book that I think every bar should own, I would have to go with diffordsguide to Cocktails #7. With over 2250 cocktails in between its thick hard covers this book will have a drink recipe for everyone. Not only is it authoritative and encyclopedic, it’s also damn pretty. Each drink recipe has a picture of the finished drink in beautiful glassware, and in the notes each recipe is accompanied by a comment and/or origin of the drink. Simon (as in Simon Difford) was also kind enough to throw in a five-star (circle) ranking system for each cocktail.

As I’ve mentioned, the photography is beautiful, and interspersed throughout the tome are little vignettes with thorough descriptions of drink classes (like the Crusta) or specific cocktails themselves (like the Sazerac).

Overall, I can’t say enough about this book, if you own a bar, this is a great resource and darn cheap at $23. If you don’t own a bar, I would still suggest it, as it is easy to read and it will inspire you to start creating your own concoctions.

That’s all I have for you today. If you’re wondering what brought on this post about books, I’ve recently been interviewed by a magazine that was curious about my collection, and wanted a picture of me surrounded by my library. Below is that picture, with some of my books in the background. That huge book that I’m holding? Well, it’s two months of newspapers from November and December 1933. (That’s right, the year and month that Prohibition was repealed. Interesting reading indeed.)

Good night and happy collecting!

~ by Jamie Boudreau on February 19, 2008.

20 Responses to “Cocktail Books”

  1. Heh. The first book I bought was Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which goes a long way to explaining how my tastes developed…

  2. I can’t believe that I forgot that one! Thanks and consider it added.

  3. My first “real” cocktail book, and the one that got me started on this whole thing, was DeGroff’s Craft of the Cocktail. Still a favorite after many others.


  4. great list, Jamie!

    Harrington’s columns on HotWired set my feet on the right path originally, I’d say. It’s near criminal that his book only had a print run of, what? 10,000 copies? I’d love to see it picked up – with Doug Bowman’s meticulously crafted design intact – by a publisher who recognized it for the jewel it is.

  5. Hiya Jamie,

    Thanks for the list. I have been looking for something like this! I have a geeky question about the Savoy book — do you know if there are significant differences between the new edition and the vintage one(s?)? I’m curious if it’s worth it to root out an old copy.

  6. Man, I hope you don’t run into Gary Regan in a dark alley any time soon…

  7. Jeffrey:
    Or Gary better hope that I don’t run into him! I’ve got at least 75 pounds on the guy!
    But seriously, his book is fantastic, but perhaps for more of the geek, and not the beginner. The key to my very short list was to list books that would interest the beginning classic cocktailer. Not only does this mean tons of recipes with historical value, but also great design which will encourage the reader to seek out more books. While Gary’s book is great (and would definitely be in my top 20) the design is severely lacking, and may be a little dry for a first book. So back off you hippie tree hugger!

  8. Eugenia:
    Buy a reprint. The first edition is only for idiots like me who will drop two to three hundred on a book (3 times. Why do I feel the need for all those copies? I feel like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory).

  9. You might have 75 lbs on me Jamie, but I have youth and agility on my side . . .

    No offense taken re JoM, my one and only baby, the fruit of my loins, my most treasured one, not making it to your list. I do need to point out, though, that the drink families detailed therein could be extremely useful to the beginner.


    Cheers, Gary

  10. agree with gary on the drink families, which i thought was brilliant.
    Straight Up Or On The Rocks by William Grimes I think is an essential book, mostly because there is no other book which so lovingly lays out the history of the American cocktail. If you read through that book and don’t get excited about the history of our craft, there’s something wrong….also ditto the Degroff mention. finally, this may not be the perfect book for the beginner, but in my mind The Jones Guide is the best cocktail guide I own, even though it is in dire need of an update.
    good to see you the other night, brother. hope you’ve gotten some sleep by now.

  11. Gary:
    While I concede (as I have already) that yours is a very useful and detailed book, I still hold to the thought that, if I’ve just peaked the interest of someone who knew nothing about classic cocktails before they came to my bar, yours would not be the first book that I would point them to. I consider your tome more of an encyclopedia, while the others that I’ve listed are much lighter, easier to read fare.
    I feel that if the JoM did indeed come more from your loins (and by the way, ewwwww), and less from that over-stuffed cranium of yours, it might be a little more accessible to the newbie. The books that I’ve listed either offer a snapshot of another era (which would draw one in, and make them more curious about cocktails) or are beautifully laid out with drool-worthy pictures (encouraging page turning).
    Having said all of that, yours is the first book that I give a newly-hired bartender, and would be one of the first books that I would suggest to anyone who has any previous exposure to the world of classic cocktails, as your drink families are brilliant (who did you steal that from anyway?)
    And as for playing your pitiful violin, don’t make it sound as if the JoM was the only book that you’ve ever written. We all know better. Your sympathy ploy may have played in Jolly Old, but your an American now, act like it! (This means don’t ask for my thoughts, just tell me to bugger off. And don’t think that I’ve forgotten that you’re one of the main reasons that I’m allowed in this country, we Canadians are a mean back-stabbing bunch, we just do it with a smile and a toque)
    Oh, and you may have noticed the JoM in that horrific picture of me just above and to the right of the Gentlemen’s companion, in all of its red glory…..

  12. Okay, okay, okay, I’ll just have to settle with you being wrong about this, Jamie, so as long as you’re comfortable with that . . .

    Seriously, though, you’ve given me an idea for a potential new book for beginners. I’ll keep you posted.

  13. I love my Difford’s guide vol. 7 even more than I did vol. 6. Many of the recipes have been updated and arguably improved from their earlier incarnations (and in fact, many of those earlier versions are presented as well.) The only unfortunate aspect of vol. 7 is that they seem to have spared some expense on the actual binding, as the wonderful text fell completely out of it’s equally beautiful hardcover. be careful and beware!

  14. 1965 “Old Mr. Boston ” and Ray Foley’s “The Ultimate Little Shooter Book” are the only bar books I own. There are others? Why?

    Just rying to help,

  15. Here is a link to an insanely cool booklet that I scanned and posted.

  16. Trying to find the recipe for INCAN GOLD which contains pisco and sauvignon blanc wine, plus ????? Send info to, Thank you

  17. Hey Jamie,

    do you have a complete list your amazing library. It´s my passion to collect books abpout cocktails,spirits and bartending.

  18. You should check out a book titled, “Cocktails of the South Pacific and Beyond” which contains recipes from as far back as the 19th century all the way to the present day from exotic bars around the world.

  19. Wonderful list. I have recently come across quite a unique cocktail book

    Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them

    Highly recommended

  20. Ahaa, its good conversation regarding this article at this place at this website, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting here.

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