I have been drinking so many cocktails over the years that I have become quite obsessed by the subject of cocktail making. I have been experimenting at home with fai, but I am now seriously considering going on a professional course to learn the craft from scratch. In the meantime I have fallen in love with two new books on cocktail making – ‘The New Cocktail Hour’ by Andre and Tenaya Darlington and ‘Cocktail Cookbook’ by Oskar Kinberg. Both brilliant, but completely different in approach and content. Let’s just say, neither one of them has spent any time gathering dust on my bookshelf.
The New Cocktail Hour by Andre Darlington and Tenaya Darlington
Photos © Jason Varney
Published by Running Press, £14.99
WHO? Andre and Tenaya are siblings who describe themselves as ‘lushes’ and journalists who have covered the food and drink beat for over a decade and eventually started experimenting (like me!) mixing cocktails at home, inventing drinks for each other to celebrate milestones or special occasions, for example The First Grey Hair or The Demented Freelancer. Years of research resulted in this book.
WHAT? The subtitle of the book is ‘The Essential Guide to Hand-Crafted Drinks’ and is bursting to the brim with 214 cocktail recipes, divided into two main chapters ‘Heritage Cocktails’, covering drinks from the Golden Age to the Roaring Twenties & Prohibition, the Post World War II Era and the Cocktail Dark Ages of the 60s, 70s and 80s to modern Classics and ‘Seasonal & Occasional’ which covers Tiki & tropical drinks, Champagne & Wine cocktails, Cold-weather Warmers, Dessert Cocktails and more. There’s a separate chapter on preparing your own syrups, cordials, ginger beer, tonics and bitters and one on tools of the trade, glass ware and techniques. It’s choc-a-bloc with hints and tips, like no–fail cocktails ratios, a flavour thesaurus, a booze glossary and suggestions of other books for cocktail lovers. Measurements are conveniently both Imperial and metric.
WHY? This compendium is great for cocktail lovers of any level. This book a recipe book, a cookbook, a manual, a history book. Beginners will like the chapter on how to organise a drinks party with just three basic bottles of booze (gin, bourbon & Campari) and a few extra ingredients. It will also teach you the basics of mixology, from which tools to use, flavours to pair and how to garnish your concoctions. I like the idea of the curated drink lists you can find throughout the book, like ‘Hemingway’s Bar’, ‘Quintessential New Orleans Cocktails’ and ‘Farm-to-Glass Cocktails’ – it’s a great way to theme a cocktail party you are hosting and the book even suggests which food to serve which each drink. I have also been trying out some of the recipes for syrups, which in my opinion, can make or break a cocktail. Serious cocktail enthusiasts will like the sheer volume of recipes (I know most bartenders have a phenomenal memory, but just in case a customer asks for something fairly obscure) and the historic background for each cocktail.
Cocktail Cookbook by Oskar Kinberg
Photos ©Joakim Blockström
Published by Frances Lincoln, £18
WHO? Oskar Kinberg was born in Sweden and he is the co-owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Dabbous in London’s Fitzrovia and manager of Oskar’s Bar in its basement. He developed his cocktail making skills in private members bar The Cuckoo Club and has been on the forefront of London cocktail making ever since.
WHAT? Oskar Kinberg has taken a very different approach when writing this book and its name ‘Cocktail Cookbook’ is a bit of a giveaway. Instead on putting the spotlight on the different kind of spirits you can mix your cocktails with, Oskar’s book is all about specific, mainly fresh, ingredients; some you might expect, like honey, coconut, cucumber and rhubarb and some are a little bit – let’s say – unusual, like pea shoots, pine, sorrel leaf and olive oil. There are 25 ingredients and 75 recipes, complete with instructions on how to make the different kind of syrups, cordials and infusions used for your larder.
WHY? I love this book as I always felt that making a perfect cocktail is not just about mixing a couple of spirits and a few ice cubes. I love experimenting with tastes, flavours and textures when I am cooking, baking and cocktail making. I like the idea of taking one ingredient and making three very different, but equally delicious cocktails. Take for example his chapter on pineapple: first up is Wray Charles, a classic Caribbean rum based cocktail given a spicy finish by the addition of tonka bean syrup, the second cocktail Piscotheque is a fluffy and creamy take on a pisco sour, made with pisco, grapefruit syrup, egg whites, double cream and homemade pineapple and jasmine soda and lastly there is Mountain Dewar’s, made from whisky, sauvignon blanc, pineapple juice and a hint of sage. Or the one on bananas: Rum Direction – the strong flavours of rum, vermouth, bitters and banana liqueur make this a seriously strong cocktail, Adam & Eve – rum, milk, sugar syrup, banana and fig leaf produce a thick, boozy milk shake and of course Beer Grylls – a refreshing ‘shandy on steroids’ made with rum, banana liqueur, lime juice, honey syrup and wheat beer. Again: one ingredient, but three very different drinks.
BONUS: We were invited to the launch of Cocktail Cookbook at Oskar’s Bar and here are a few photos of the book launch, where we not only met and had a chat with Oskar, but also got to try some of the signature cocktails (Sloe Gin Martinez, Pass the Dutch and Pooh Sours), as well as some seriously good canapés from the restaurant: Truffeled Cheese on Toast, Sussex Slipcote Cheese with dressed courgette, basil & clover, Cured Goose with Fenugreek, Salmon Tartare with Lovage and Canales cooked in Beeswax.