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If you’re serious about making a perfect Old Fashioned, or want to get into creating your own inventive cocktails, it’s a good idea to pick up a few of the industry’s essential books before you get behind the bar. Cocktail books teach you the basics of cocktail making while giving you an appreciation for the science, history, and artistry of the craft.
Robert Kidd, the head bartender of Wilmington, Deleware brasserie Le Cavalier at Hotel du Pont , told Insider Reviews, “I think it’s important that the public and the professionals invest more in books. I can’t tell you how many terrible recipes come from the internet. Books can be a trusted source for the industry standard when it comes to making drinks.”
“If you’re able to use books for inspiration for a foundational drink, you can always build on the experience from there,” said Wael Deek, the beverage director at Alice and Osteria 57 in New York City.
“There have always been piles of cocktail-related books on the market, but it can be difficult to know which direction to go. Sifting through the ‘1001 Martini’ messes and finding books that have well-researched info, written by professionals can be a chore,” said Charles Joly, Diageo World Class bartending champion.
So we asked the pros for their best recommendations. These are the books that helped them develop their knowledge — the ones they still reach for when they need a refresher on mixology concepts or inspiration for an original recipe.
“The Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem” by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Jillian Vose, $14.59, available at Amazon
[This book] pulls the curtain back and gives the reader a unique look at how one of the best bars in the world crafts some of its most innovative cocktail menus. It’s a must-read for aspiring bartenders, but also functions as a gorgeous coffee table book that any non-bartender can enjoy!
Honestly, this book has been a massive source of inspiration for me. [It] really has been one of my favorite pick-ups. Bar goals. —Deke Dunne, head bartender and beverage director at Allegory in Washington, D.C.
“Cocktail Codex” by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan, $21.49, available at Amazon
It really goes a bit deeper into the theory of cocktail categories. They explain to the reader that there are essentially six categories of drinks based on six classic cocktails. They then teach the reader how to make each of these classics, and then follow up with lessons about modifying the classics. You can really learn what makes the classics great, and how to start making your own recipes. —Robert Kidd, head bartender at Le Cavalier at Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, DE
It’s very good for beginners and showcases all kinds of techniques. In addition, it helps readers think outside the box to create new drinks and explains everything clearly and logically. —Nico de Soto, master mixologist at Mace in New York City, NY
“Cocktail Codex” continues to be a resource for me. I continually go back to it and it was instrumental in helping me streamline my last two cocktails programs using practical but elevated techniques for flavor development. —Lynnette Marrero, bar director at Llama San in New York City and Llama Inn in Brooklyn, NY
Also recommended by Wael Deek, beverage director at Alice and Osteria 57 in New York City, NY
“The Japanese Art of the Cocktail” by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig, $21.70, available at Amazon
Masahiro is an amazing mixologist, and Michael, who I’ve met on countless occasions, is a wealth of knowledge and an overall great guy. I’ve always been curious about the “Eastern style” of mixology and this book really opens up the door into it.
Here in the United States, mixology sort of fell behind back in the Prohibition Era, whereas in Japan it was innovated upon tremendously. And this book really lets you in on their innovation while helping you to understand the science behind cocktails a little more. —Anthony Baker, the “Cocktail Professor” and virtual cocktail teacher
“Proof: The Science of Booze” by Adam Rogers, $10.55, available at Amazon
I love “Proof.” It’s a super detailed script of how spirits are made. In addition to learning all about scotch production from grain to glass, you learn about fermentation, distillation, and the scientific processes and chemical reactions of aging bourbon in fresh charred oak barrels. —Drew Johnson, head bartender at Musket Room in New York City, NY
“The Bar Book” by Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Martha Holmberg, $17.35, available at Amazon
One of two revered books in Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s repertoire, this cocktail book teaches the “Morgenthaler method.” Known as the world’s first technique manual for cocktails, this book will break down the basics of building classics like an Old Fashioned and setting a foundation for inspiration from there.
An essential for any bartender, Morgenthaler’s book is also a terrific training tool for staff and a how-to for educating hospitality professionals. –Lynn House, national spirits specialist and portfolio mixologist for Heaven Hill Brands in Bardstown, KY
Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s “Bar Book” is my favorite bartender guide to recommend for professional and at-home bartenders. Jeff’s writing style and personality make the techniques and processes entertaining and approachable. —Jeff Bell, managing partner at Please Don’t Tell in New York City, NY
“The Bar Book” is one of my favorite foundational resources. It is an essential beginner’s guide on how to construct a delicious and balanced cocktail using simple techniques and simple but flavorful ingredients.
You don’t get a lot of pomp and circumstance with Jeff, just an unadulterated, elemental approach to mixing tasty cocktails. Less is more! —Drew Pompa, beverage director at Takoi in Detroit, MI
“The New Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale DeGroff, $18.69, available at Amazon
One of the earlier modern books on bartending was written by King Cocktail himself, Dale DeGroff. You can’t say enough about Dale’s contribution in bridging some very dark days in adult beverages through to the modern cocktail era.
He recently released an updated version of his must-have text “The New Craft of the Cocktail.” This is a great place to get started with all of the fundamentals. —Charles Joly, Diageo World Class bartending champion, official bartender for the Oscars and Emmys, and founder of Crafthouse Cocktails
There’s no more important figure in the cocktail revival in New York. Many of us are lucky enough to have learned directly from him, or from his many pupils. For the rest, thankfully he’s documented his place in history in this book.
There’s more to cocktails than ingredients: There’s as much recollection as recipe and as much tale as technique. This volume situates modern drinks and drinking culture in personal history. —Rob Krueger, master mixologist at The Loyal in New York City, NY
“Drinking Like Ladies” by Misty Malkofen and Kirsten Amann, $16.47, available at Amazon
[This book] features historical narratives of badass women throughout history and around the globe and pairs them with inspired bespoke cocktails created by female bartenders.
It accomplishes so many things — it’s educational, fun, political, and most importantly a joyous celebration of women. As their dedication states “If we’ve learned one thing in all our research, it’s that history rewards tenacity and persistence, and we can’t think of a better reason to raise a glass.” —Stephanie O’Neill, head bartender at Antique Bar & Bakery in Hoboken, NJ
“The Savoy Cocktail Book” by Harry Craddock, $18.93, available at Amazon
My favorite cocktail book is the vintage book called “The Savoy” written by Harry Craddock during his tenure as the barman at the Savoy Hotel, where he goes on to document London high society of the 1930s. Amazing drawings and cocktail recipes we still use today. —Johnny Swet, founding partner and master mixologist at JIMMY in New York City, NY
“Imbibe!” by David Wondrich, $19.47, available at Amazon
“Punch” by David Wondrich, $26, available at Amazon
[“Imbibe”] reads more like a novel and takes you back to a different time and place when cocktails were just being discovered. If you’re a history buff and love the food and beverage industry, this book paints a colorful description of vintage spirits and Prohibition classics.
As a coffee table book, “Imbibe” also has neutral colors that could also look great on a bar cart. Additionally, since our restaurant group has eateries that span to different parts of New York, including Little Italy like Gelso & Grand, we try to preserve that time period and will feature some classics on our menu featured in the book. —Fee Bakhtiar, bar manager and general manager at JaJaJa Group in New York City, NY
You can’t have a conversation about spirits and cocktail books without talking about David Wondrich. Affectionately referred to as the Historical Oracle, David stays up waaaay past last call to research the nitty-gritty of cocktail and spirits history.
His seminal work, “Imbibe,” changed the world of cocktail writing in the 21st century and unraveled what is thought to be the original cocktail guide, “The Bon Vivant’s Companion” by Jerry Thomas. His follow-up to “Imbibe,” “Punch”, was just as thorough and entertaining. —Charles Joly
“The Aviary Cocktail Book” by Nick Kokonas, Allen Hemberger, and Grant Achatz, $85, available at Amazon
“The Aviary Cocktail Book” is not only beautiful but from one of the most innovative chefs and creators in the industry. In general, the pages and creativity are captivating but it’s also informative for a restaurant that features wine-based cocktails when we’re always looking to push ourselves to create new techniques and presentations. Also, nice to flip through with beautiful imagery. —Gupreet Singh, co-owner and bar manager at Sunday to Sunday in New York City, NY
“The Flavor Bible” by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen A. Page, $22.49, available at Amazon
Another must-have for your average home bartender, home cook, and pros alike is “The Flavor Bible.” This is one of the all-time coolest and most unbelievably useful cooking/food reference sources.
It gives you the flavor affinities of virtually every ingredient imaginable. It is my go-to tool when charged with designing a new cocktail list or anything bespoke. This one must be on your shelf if you consider yourself any sort of food and drink enthusiast. —Drew Johnson
I think this book is one of the most valuable tools a bartender can have. You can have all of the equipment and glassware you want but if you don’t have a fundamental understanding of how flavors work and interact with each other you can only go so far. It is especially helpful when coming up with original drink concepts. —Troy Ali, bartender at Trifecta at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, MA
Also recommended by Ivy Mix, co-owner and head bartender at Leyenda in Brooklyn, NY
“The Ultimate Bar Book” by Mittie Hellmich, $15.69, available at Amazon
It’s literally a thousand recipes. Good ones, too, with bare-bones explanations. I won’t say that this book is how I turned raiding my parents’ liquor cabinet into a semi-respectable career, but I will say it was exquisitely helpful. —Ricky Agustin, bar manager at The Mountaineering Club at Graduate Hotel in Seattle, WA
“The Ideal Bartender” by Tom Bullock, $15.95, available at Amazon
Written in 1917, “The Ideal Bartender” is the first-ever cocktail book published by a Black American. The son of former slaves, Mr. Bullock would eventually become a bartender at the famed Pendennis Club, as well as The St. Louis Country Club.
His hospitality and cocktails charmed the world. This book is essential for everyone who loves a great cocktail. Not only will you experience a slice of history, but you will also walk away with a great understanding of how to make a beautiful and well-balanced cocktail. Mr. Bullock is credited for teaching the world how to make the perfect Old Fashioned. Like the book, this cocktail has stood the test of time. —Lynn House
“Liquid Intelligence” by Dave Arnold, $26.21, available at Amazon
“Liquid Intelligence” is the opposite side of the spectrum, in that it brings a scientific approach to crafting cocktails. At Takoi, we focus mainly on draft cocktails which means we have to sous vide infuse and clarify liquids, batch all the ingredients for a cocktail together in a keg, pressurize it and then cool it down.
When it’s ready to serve, we then hook it up and dispense it from a draft tower similar to how a beer or cider is dispensed. This requires a whole different approach to technique and “Liquid Intelligence” was the perfect resource to help us make our drink-making game stronger. —Drew Pompa
At first, “Liquid Intelligence” might feel like you just purchased a college science book; however, I pick it up over and over again when I have a question or searching for inspiration. Yes, it is dense with science facts and fancy equipment that I don’t own, but a girl can dream, right? —Tara Downs, master mixologist and bar manager at Barr Hill in Montplier, VT
“Drink What You Want” by John deBary, $14.99, available at Amazon
My absolute favorite cocktail book these days is “Drink What You Want.” John is as qualified as they come to write a nerdy cocktail book, but the tone and structure of the book are laugh-out-loud funny and approachable while sharing real and practical tricks of the trade. If you’re going to buy one cocktail book for the cocktail novice or cocktail enthusiast, this is the one. —April Wachtel, mixologist and founder of Cheeky Cocktails
“Spirits of Latin America” by Ivy Mix, $13.63, available at Amazon
Not only are there amazing recipes in this book, but it is also layered with appreciation, love, and respect for the history and culture of so many spirits that line our bars. —Tara Downs
“Meehan’s Bartender Manual” by Jim Meehan, $25.99, available at Amazon
The page corners of my copy of “Meehan’s Manual” are worn from turning and I have spilled more than one cocktail and coffee inside. My partner and I opened a bar and a restaurant seven weeks ago and Jim’s advice was used from the design process through creating our steps of service. It’s a vital tool for any operator. It also contains the most stunning and inspiring cocktail photography by the unparalleled, Doron Gild. —Jessica King, master mixologist at Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella in Knoxville, TN
This is a personal favorite of mine and the first book I would suggest for a new bartender. It’s incredibly meticulous and thorough while being surprisingly approachable to newcomers. It goes through everything from building out a home or commercial bar to the intricacies of how different spirits are produced and the histories of some of your favorite cocktails. —Troy Ali
“Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails” by Robert Simonson, $15.99, available at Amazon
This is a beautiful book with a catchy design that piqued my interest right away. I’ve also been drinking a lot of mezcal and tequila lately — Ramona happens to pair wonderfully with both — and this book gives me creative ideas for other ways to utilize these delicious spirits. —Jordan Salcito, sommelier and founder of Drink Ramona
“A Spot at the Bar” by Michael Madrusan and Zara Young, $29.99, available at Amazon
I think this has to be one of the most creative and playful approaches to a bar book I’ve read in a while. The Everleigh team collected recipes from their favorite cocktail bars around the world and had them written out on napkins, dollar bills, and coasters which they then photographed and printed in the book. I think this book probably has the best recipes for classics and modern classics out there. —Troy Ali
“Death & Co” by David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald, $21.49, available at Amazon
This one is an obvious must-have for any new bartender. I feel like most people in the industry may know this book, but if you’re new and looking to learn, the first 100 pages or so can really set you up for success. After you get down to the basics this book has some great complex recipes to try out in the back half of the book. —Robert Kidd
Also recommended by Wael Deek
“3-Ingredient Cocktails” by Robert Simonson, $15.99, available at Amazon
Author Robert Simonson has put in the work and researched some important categories and cocktails. His dry wit and straightforward approach demystify several venerable classic cocktails in easy-to-digest books. Any of his works, from 3-Ingredient Cocktails, “The Old Fashioned,” “The Martini Cocktail,” and others, are a fine addition to your boozy library —Charles Joly
“Market-Fresh Mixology” by Bridget Albert, $28.97, available at Amazon
Bridget has been the teacher and mentor to many of today’s rock stars in the business. This cocktail book takes a fun and whimsical approach to making cocktails. Focused on seasonality, Bridget Albert embraces the garden-to-glass approach to making great cocktails.
In this book, you learn how to take your favorite recipes and adjust the recipes as to what is available either in your garden or at your local farmer’s market. Great for the home bartender who wants to dazzle their guests. —Lynn House
Also recommended by Ivy Mix
“The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David A. Embury, Robert Hess, and Audrey Saunders, $39.95, available at Amazon
This book was published in 1948 and I believe it is one of the cocktail books every bartender should read at some point in their career. It is one of the true original cocktail books that you find a lot of new books trying to imitate (in a good way).
It covers a lot of common-sense material that you don’t think about until he points it out. Be warned the measurements in David’s drinks are a bit overkill in some recipes. As a side note, this book can be found easily on Amazon but keep an eye out for an older copy. Really cool book to find in secondhand book stores and thrift shops. —Robert Kidd
“The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan, $24.49, available at Amazon
This book is the quintessential cocktail book that should be in every bartender’s library, whether they are a beginner, a seasoned professional, or budding home bartender. “The Joy of Mixology” walks one through the history of making cocktails, methodology, spirits categories, and finishes with classic recipes that have stood the test of time.
Gary Regan was one of the most influential characters in modern-day mixology. This book was a labor of love for him and that will be immediately apparent to the reader. While there is a great deal of technical knowledge shared within these pages, it is an easy read and approachable to everyone, no matter what level of bartending they are at. —Lynn House
“The Drunken Botanist” by Amy Stewart, $13.89, available at Amazon
“The Drunken Botanist” is what I imagine a nerdy bartender retreat in the woods would be like (at least my version of one). Stewart opens up the world of booze and cocktails by diving deep into the botanical and horticultural nuances that make up all of the tasty things we love to imbibe.
Ever wondered what the heck gentian was? Ever wanted to impress your friends by knowing that the compound erroneously feared in Wormwood to cause hallucinations is called thujone? Well, my friend then you are a kindred spirit and this book is for you! —Stephanie O’Neill
Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected].