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Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century Hardcover – May 1, 1998

22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Paul Harrington, a.k.a. "The Alchemist" of, HotWired's popular cocktail Web site, amuses and enlightens, while making the reader feel like an insider in today's swinging, hip cocktail culture in Cocktail. It is true that there is a bit of the mixologist in each of us, and this book provides all the information you need to produce a perfectly blended Gibson, Petit Zinc, or any other drink your friends are likely to request. Harrington presents a well-organized and thorough guide to drink making, beginning by explaining the intricacies of mixers, spirits, garnishes, glassware, and how to stock a home bar. He goes on to recount the history behind 64 classic cocktails (the Lemon Drop may have fern bar origins, but it still meets with the Alchemist's approval), giving proportions for each drink, with precise instructions and a mouthwatering illustration of the finished result. Harrington finishes with a comprehensive list of drink recipes, and a glossary that clarifies obscure cocktail jargon. (How does Chartreuse get its color, anyway?) His voice is authoritative but witty throughout; he comments with sarcastic affection on this era that he terms the "Revival of American Drinking". Slip on your smoking jacket, grab a copy of Cocktail, and mix up a pitcher of Gimlets tonight. --Lori Forest

About the Author

Paul Harrington, a bartender for ten years, is the columnist for the Web site ?Cocktail? and is featured in publications from Go to The Economist. He hosts cocktail gatherings for such companies as Microsoft and the band Combustible Edison.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; F First Edition edition (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670880221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670880225
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.8 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By David J. Huber VINE VOICE on October 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is it, folks - the only cocktail mixing book you need, unless you're a not-quite-grownup that just wants fruity, sweet drinks that obscure the taste of alcohol, and doesn't want to hear about Maraschino Liquer, Pernod, or daquiris and margaritas that haven't been blended (Hemingway, like all true connoisseurs, drank them straight).
What I appreciate most about this book is that not only does Harrington give us many recipes, he gives us the history alongside beautiful color photographs of the drinks. This is a book of classic cocktails, lovingly offered by a man who is passionate about his art, and about maintaining the purity of his craft and the sacred act of relaxing and/or sharing cocktails with your good friends. For Harrington, a cocktail is not for getting drunk, but is a special treat to be savored for the complexity of the ingredients working together on one's tongue, and warming one's soul. I also appreciate very much the lengthy introduction with cocktail history, and his cocktail philosophy, and descriptions of all the various alcohols (gin, vodka, whiskey, etc.) out there, many of which I had never heard of (like Pernod, Pisco, and Lillet), and how they can work together to form amazingly complex (and exciting!) taste sensations, like the Floridita (a drink in which the beginning of the sip is slightly sweet, moves into a full bodied flavor, and ends with just a hint of chocolate in the finish). Few cocktail books will mention this drink, and only Harrington will tell you where it comes from, what to be careful about when mixing, and what to taste for when you drink it - directions he gives for all the drinks.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jupiter Jones on January 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you were stranded on a desert island (one with a well-stocked bar of course) and could have only one bartender's guide, this would be the one to bring. Paul Harrington would, I'm sure, be quick to recommend the Mojito, or possibly a Mai Tai, for your situation.
I've long been a fan of Harrington's "Cocktail" web site at HotWired for that very reason. He focused on the cocktail not as a means to get blasted, but as the perfect complement to the occassion at hand. The articles made for good reading and the recipes made for good drinks. Not so much of a snob as a respectful purist, Harrington dismissed the trendy fern-bar drinks and embarrasing "naughty" drinks in favor of the classics. And he did them right.
Of course, I always thought it would be great if he put out a book, so I wouldn't have to boot up the computer and get on the net everytime I needed to remember how to make a Bronx. Well darned if he didn't do that very thing. It's all here--the drinks, the opinions, and Douglas Bowman's gorgeous illustrations. Only you can take it into the kitchen without running an extension cord, and the pages load instantly.
I have an extensive collection of vintage bar guides, yet I find myself referring to "Cocktail" more than any of them. For a book on drink classics, I can think of no higher compliment.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Ben Melhuish ( on January 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book focuses on "classic" cocktails -- for the most part, those that were around before Prohibition. You won't find Sex on the Beach, but you will find a bunch of almost-forgotten morsels like the Pegu and the Mojito.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part is a primer to mixing and stocking a bar, with lots of background on various ingredients and techniques. The second part, my favorite, focuses on 64 cocktails, mostly old-school drinks like the aforementioned Pegu and Mojito. In addition to these recipes, there is also a nicely-pretentious discussion of each drink, including its history (as near as can be determined). The third part is the reference section, with a couple hundred recipes -- again, still fairly old-school -- and a nice glossary.
This book is very highly recommended. After buying this, you'll want a couple more books for your bar shelf, but you'll find yourself returning to this one again and again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is the best bar book you will find. It combines the best elements of many different kinds of such tomes. Beautifully illustrated, the book highlights more than sixty cocktails, with two pages of texts and artistic photomontage each. The text gives interesting historical information, as well as intelligent discussion of variations and proper occasions. There is a supplemental section with hundreds more cocktails. The book is opinionated and witty. You'll love it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Evans Thompson on August 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first learned of Paul Harrington, "The Alchemist," from the Cocktail website at HotWired. His classic descriptions of drinks, their histories, and the nuances of mixology (NOT bartending) made me an instant devotee.
As much as I love the website, it's not the most practical reference (i.e. few people have a computer in their bar). I was thrilled when Paul released this book with all the wonderful aspects of the website, including the gorgeous and inspirational illustrations, intact. I've browsed through a number of other drink related books, purchased a subset of those books, and use even fewer. When I want a recipe or a history, I turn first to this book.
While Cocktail doesn't claim to have recipes for every drink known to man, it does have all the classics. Let's face it, do you really want to know how to make a "pink squirrel" or "slow comfortable screw"? If so, this book is probably not for you. Take heart, though, for Paul does provide direction for countless other, less classic, drinks at the website.
If you're serious about exploring cocktail culture or expanding your libation repertoire -- both as a mixologist and an imbiber -- you'll find this book infinitely useful and a joy to use as well as peruse.
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