Category Archives: publications

Book Review: Shake. Stir. Sip.

shake stir sip book

There is no shortage of great cocktail books on the market, though there are a even larger number of crummy ones. Because of this, you have to be careful that you stick with the writers and bartenders you trust to show real care for the craft of cocktail-making, people who are present in cocktail culture and who know the great bars and bartenders of the world.

Kara Newman is one such person, someone who’s well-connected in New York craft cocktail culture, but is also known well nationwide for her writing in Wall Street Journal or Wine Enthusiast. Kara seems to know all the great NY bartenders and has recently put together a compilation of her knowledge into a great new book: Shake. Stir. Sip. More than 50 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts.

Now, I’m aware of a handful of equal-parts cocktails, especially the Negroni or the Last Word, but Newman has assembled a great list of cocktails that my readers will love: they’re simple. Organized by how many parts they’re made of, from 2-part cocktails to 5-part cocktails in the end, Shake. Stir. Sip. consistently offers familiar cocktails that reflect the current state of the craft scene (mezcal, amaros and chartreuse, anyone?). All recipes are easy to assemble and, even better, easy to remember!

Shake. Stir. Sip. is beautifully photographed by John Lee and each 2-page spread includes a cocktail photo with it’s name and ingredients and the opposing page has backstory and the instructions for making it. It’s a good cocktail book for those with smaller home bars, too, as the recipes won’t overwhelm those with limited ingredients.

Shake. Stir. Sip. is available in hardcover or Kindle here from Amazon.

Book Review: Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey

fred minnick bourbon book

Since I got a preview copy this summer, I haven’t been able to get my nose out of Fred Minnick’s newest book: Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey. I’ve been pretty clear about how much I’ve loved Fred’s other book, a tasting guide called Bourbon Curious which I always keep handy as my favorite “drinking dictionary.”

Dubbed the Bourbon Authority of the Kentucky Derby Museum, there really is no other expert I’d put above Fred in his field, and he’s the perfect person to write a bourbon history book, which Bourbon… is.

The big question that Fred addresses in the book is one that has been debated for decades: who invented bourbon? Historically, that prize has gone to Baptist minister Elijah Craig (especially if you ask the Elijah Craig whiskey company), but Fred’s access to historical documents tells a different story (though probably a harder one to market than the Craig legend).

Minnick does a great job of telling a story about something that’s a lot of fun (drinking bourbon) and keeping the tone and the historical stuff just as fun, too. Bourbon is a comfortable, sometimes funny, read. I imagine some liquor companies may ruffle at the accurate historical analysis of the legends of their founding fathers, but Fred knows his stuff, and if you need to know absolutely everything about bourbon, look no further than this book.

Buy Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey from Amazon.

Buy Bourbon Curious from Amazon.

Hear our podcast interview with Fred about Bourbon here.

Drinking with the Republicans & Drinking with the Democrats

drinking with the republicans drinking with the democrats

Election Day in the United States is tomorrow, and it has increasingly become a polarizing event in our country. Based on the outcome of the election, Americans will most certainly be drinking tomorrow, whether in celebration or to bathe their sorrows.

Mark Will-Weber, also the author of Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking (Amazon link), has chosen to divide our drinking pasttime as we’ve divided our political pasttime, and that’s by political party. He’s published two, 200-page books that allow you to choose your favorite party, and drink your way through history.

Both books are seperated into chapters by president, and each of those chapters has some short historical tales of the leader’s preferred tipples and one cocktail is chosen for each president. Will-Weber uses interviews, newspaper stories, and sometimes a bit of lore to figure out his stories for each prez, though based on his previous book, be’s pretty much the authority on presidential drinking. Will-Weber does a great job or writing 2 very entertaining cocktail books, regardless of the party you identify with.

These books server as excellent bathroom or coffee-table reading because of the books’ short, sections and sidebars. One of the first cocktails that jumped out at me as I flipped through was this recipe, imagined by Will-Weber as George W. Bush’s drink of choice:

Beer Old Fashioned

  • in an old fashioned glass, add:
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 2 tsp superfine sugar
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • stir
  • fill with ice and top with 3-4 oz of chilled lager or pilsner beer
  • squeeze an orange peel over the glass and drop in

Buy the books on Amazon here: Drinking with the Democrats // Drinking with the Republicans

Guide to Cocktail Podcasts

cocktail podcast header

Simple Cocktails with Friends is one of several cocktail podcasts available on the web. Because there’s no solid resource for finding cocktail-focused podcasts like ours, I created the following list as a guide for those who are looking for more.

Here are all the cocktail podcasts I know of, many of which I subscribe to. If you’re aware of any others that aren’t listed, or if you host a cocktail podcast, please leave a comment below and I’ll keep this list updated on a regular basis.
Continue reading

From our Editor: New Mexico Cocktails (the book)

nm cocktails book

I’m thrilled to announce that in just a few weeks, my first cocktail book: New Mexico Cocktails: A History of Drinking in the Land of Enchantment will be released! While there is some fascinating NM history and facts, you should find it a handy cocktail reference book regardless of where you are in the world!

You’ll be able to purchase New Mexico Cocktail wherever fine books are sold beginning on July 4, 2016. Preorders are available now at Amazon.com. Thank you for your continued support of Simple Cocktails and all that we do!

signature- greg

National Bourbon Heritage Month

bourbon curiousOf all the “National _______________ Days” that seem to come daily on our social feeds, this one is unique because it wasn’t created in a marketing department or PR office, but by congress. That’s right, the U.S. Senate declared September National Bourbon Heritage Month back in 2007, a “month to celebrate America’s Native Spirit,” the official title also given by congress back in the 60’s.

Clearly, the best way to celebrate bourbon is by drinking bourbon, but first, it’d be wise to learn all we can about it so that we can find bourbons we like. I’ve been talking about it a little bit on the podcast, but the new book by Fred Minnick, Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker is deeply interesting and unmistakably helpful.

Covering many details of bourbon making and history (did you know Tabasco sauce is aged in bourbon barrels?), Minnick leads us into the final 1/3 of his book: a highly-valuable tasting guide. Categorizing bourbon flavor profiles into 4 groups, grain-forward, nutmeg-forward, caramel-forward and cinnamon-forward, I realized quickly that the bourbons I’ve loved the most were in the cinnamon category.

four roses bourbon

…..then I realized that Simple Cocktails had previously missed an entire brand of cinnamon-forward bourbons. I’m not exactly sure why, but I has thought Four Roses was an expensive, exclusive bourbon, so I figured it’d be hard to cover here, but after reading Bourbon Curious, I noted that Four Roses is one of the oldest, most respectable bourbon brands in the flavor category I love the most, and I had to grab some immediately. Continue reading

Cocktail Books, New and Old

4 cocktail books

If you aren’t aware, we’re in the midst of a craft cocktail boom that’s been going strong for a decade or so. In light of that, there is a deluge of great cocktail books, new and old, that are more readily available than ever. I’ve had the chance to get my hands on several of them lately, so I’m going to review and summarize some of the books that I’m reading right now.

New books: 

The Art of American Whiskey by Noah Rothbaum ($13). As a hardcover horizontally-designed book with lots of color photos, I imagined that AoAW would mostly be a coffee-table book. It certainly is nice to flip through in this way, I discovered AoAW is also a really well-written, well-researched historical book. It’s organized in a very cool way: segmented into 7 “ages” of American Whiskey, each age with history, whiskey labels, and “Cocktails of the Time.”  I was surprised at the thoroughness of AoAW and found it to be both an interesting coffee table book and a great history lesson too. Noah can be found at Liquor Intelligence.

Cocktail Chronicles by Paul Clarke ($15). It was hard not to get choked up reading through Cocktail Chronicles‘ first chapter, “Notes from a Renaissance in Progress,” because it’s true. Clarke quickly charts the near-death of the cocktail in the 70s up to the craft boom of the last decade, and here we are at the present Renaissance. Clarke then dips our toe in a handy-yet-formulaic cocktail technique section (later completed in the “Bottles, Tools and Tips” chapter), and onto the core of the book. Chronicles is primarily a history book, so sections are divided historically (“Not Forgotten”/”Muses and Bridges”/”Staying Power”), with subcategories given to ingredients, bartenders, even locales that fit that description. You’ll find a related, but small, recipe boxes on each page of your journey. This is a unique perspective on cocktail history, as Clarke calls it, a “renaissance in progress.” You can find Paul at Imbibe Magazine and at Cocktail Chronicles (the blog).

Old books:

The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by Bernard DeVoto ($12).  Originally published in 1948, The Hour is more of a long, ranting essay than a cocktail book. At just over 100 pages, it might be a comedy piece – DeVoto lists only two alcoholic drinks that are “acceptable”: the Martini and a slug of American whiskey. He curses olives as a garnish and bans just about every other cocktail imaginable: “Remember always that the three abominations are: (1) rum, (2) any other sweet drink, and (3) any mixed drink except one made of gin and dry vermouth in the ration that I have given.” His Martini ration, by the way, is 3.7 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. The Hour is a fun (and funny) book to read, and I think is the point. Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) writes the hilarious intro, in which he references giving his 18-month-old a sip of his Martini.

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury ($25). Also from 1948 and published as a “replica” from Cocktail Kingdom, Fine Art… is really a love letter to cocktails. Embury is not a bartender, but a home cocktail enthusiast, and this tome is the most cocktail-heavy of this group. Throughout, Embury paints a picture of what makes cocktails great, beginning as many cocktail books do with proper tools, liquors, ice, setup, and measurement, all the way through through 300+ pages of cocktail recipes. As I read Fine Art… I realized it’s been echoed in many cocktail books published more recently. I feel that if you asked a friendly, passionate, experienced home bartender to explain what’s great about cocktails, this very book would be the answer. This is a perfect starter cocktail book.

Book Review: The Seeker’s Guide to Bartending

seekers guide to bartending

“Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” -St. Francis de Sales

This is one of many quotes that begins each chapter of Jennifer Crilley’s 2014 book The Seeker’s Guide to Bartending. The Seeker’s Guide is similar to the “For Dummies” series, acknowledging that readers have basic bartending skills and are working towards their goal of being a bartender.

An easy read, The Seeker’s Guide incorporates Crilley’s personal stories of challenges, joys, and spiritual growth as a bartender. It’s helpful to know that the book was written by someone who has spent twelve years tending bar.

seekers guide to bartending ipages

The book is very relatable, and each short chapter is filled with personal insights, fun facts, illustrations, simple tips, scientific facts, and perspective shifts. To top it all off, a related activity is placed at the end of each chapter for the readers application. You’ll find everything from insight into how to be a better bartender to overcoming fear, controlling emotions and interacting with customers, to managing tip expectations and money management.

The Seeker’s Guide to Bartending could really be called New Age Bartending based on the content – Crilley writes from personal experience with the clear intention of sharing this knowledge with hopeful bartenders. This is a great read for the up-and-coming bartender. Buy The Seeker’s Guide to Bartending here.

Editor’s note: this is the first post by our new team member Andrew Moore. Welcome to Simple Cocktails, Andrew!

Book Review: Vermouth

vermouth book

Vermouth is closely tied to cocktail culture, a staple ingredient in classics like the Martini or Manhattan. I have written a lengthy post about vermouth here, including some basic history, recipes, and advice for caring for your vermouth.

Adam Ford has just released a comprehensive and beautiful book on this amazing fortified wine, titled: Vermouth, The Revival of the Spirit that Created American Cocktail Culture. Ford does a great job of delivering a helpful and informative book on vermouth, which he reckons is the “world’s oldest alcoholic beverage.”

vermouth book

On rough estimation, I’d say a third of this book is committed to history of vermouth, a third to America’s role in vermouth (historically and currently), and a third is a cocktail recipe section. The heavy leaning toward American vermouth is useful, as there really isn’t much of a source for these facts elsewhere. It’s helpful that the author is an authority on American vermouth – he’s the founder of NY-based Atsby

The photography in Vermouth is melancholy (see the cover photo above, for example), and the photos fit perfectly well with the style and the layout of the book, which has a very clear sense of it’s own style, and fits perfectly with the subject matter. Anyone with a passing interest in cocktail history, and vermouth in particular, will enjoy Ford’s book very much, and the recipes serve as a handy guide for exploring vermouth further as well.

Buy Vermouth from Amazon here.