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The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks Hardcover – October 28, 2008

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The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks + The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, with 500 Recipes + The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405739
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Degroff (The Craft of the Cocktail) likes to be referred to as the King of Cocktails, and it is hard to argue the point. During his stint as bartender at Manhattan's Rainbow Room, he shunned packaged mixes and ushered in the use of fresh ingredients for classic drinks as well as potables of his own device. In this book, he offers 100 popular whistle-wetters and 100 variations thereof—martinis, sours, highballs and punches are all well represented. A Bloody Mary is never shaken, but rather rolled back and forth, while a Bloody Bull adds beef broth to the recipe and can stand up to a vigorous shake. There's the lowly Long Island Iced Tea, mated with a variation called a Full Monte, which calls for Champagne instead of cola. And a basic Daiquiri (rum, simple syrup, lime juice) is out-boxed by Dale's Hemingway Daiquiri, which adds Maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice to the mix. 150 full-color photos help sweeten the deal, and historical asides provide fine fodder for party chit-chat. The Tequila Sunrise, it turns out, was created south of the border during Prohibition and included fresh lemonade and French cassis. But when the drink traveled north, inexperienced bartenders dumbed it down to today's mix of OJ and grenadine. Where was a cocktail king when we needed one? (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

DeGroff, who with David Wondrich and Eric Felten forms a triumvirate of indispensable drinks writers, can also claim a major role in the start of the still-flourishing cocktail revival. His inspired work behind the Promenade Bar at New York City’s Rainbow Room during the 1980s helped create a bulwark against the encroachment of wine coolers and lite beer, and demand for his services as a corporate consultant is a testament to the public’s continued thirst for high-test, high-taste concoctions. Far more focused than his 500-recipe Craft of the Cocktail (2002), The Essential Cocktail is a carefully selected, judiciously blended mix of recipes, instructions, and historical lore, garnished with well-seasoned advice on tactics, techniques, and tools. Oft-consumed classics and overlooked also-rans sit comfortably alongside DeGroff’s and others’ variations, and cutting-edge innovations like foam supplement rather than supplant tried-and-true preparations. DeGroff is a man to trust with the details both small (Angostura bitters or Peychaud’s?) and large (shaken or stirred?). If you’re not thirsty after consulting this volume, there’s no medicine for what ails you. --Keir Graff

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 30 customer reviews
His book, Craft of the Cocktail, is a classic.
Amy Senk
Every time I've sampled a cocktail using one of this book's recipes I've understood the reason for the cocktail's popularity.
It is very well written and has beautiful photographs of the many drinks presented in the book.
P. Halpern

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By D. Rivera on November 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a definite must-have book -- Mr. DeGroff's reputation is such that you can trust pretty much every recipe he has in the book. If you are wondering whether to buy this book over pretty much any other similar cocktail book, I would advise you to buy it in a heartbeat.

Would I rather have it over his earlier Craft of the Cocktail? For most people, no. That book covers the basics for the average home mixologist, whereas this sequel tends to discuss more advanced techniques, like certain foam toppings.

Mr. DeGroff continues to share great anecdotes about the cocktail hour in the Essential Cocktail and certainly isn't a dry writer. I also like how many of these recipes prescribe a particular brand of spirit to be used in each cocktail. This specificity is an improvement over the Craft of the Cocktail.

If I do have to criticize the book, it is that I don't always feel that the pictures jive with the recipes. Specifically, many pictures have these peel garnishes hanging off of the glass. It was my understanding that this style is not really Mr. DeGroff's, especially for those recipes calling for flamed peels. There is even a section in the book entitled "Garnishes" that advocates a style in direct contradiction to the pictures. However, I have not had the pleasure and privilege of Mr. DeGroff's live performances. Perhaps I'm wrong, but based on some of the videos I've seen of his, these drinks don't look like they've been made in the style of Mr. DeGroff. In Craft, many of the pictures features DeGroff's hands as he makes the drink. So, unfortunately I get the sense that Mr. DeGroff wrote a great book but then had Potter Publishers provide some generic pictures. A minor issue of trusting what I see that detracts from the sense that this book is all about Dale DeGroff.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By BoarderPaul on June 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This was one of the first cocktail books I bought, and I still turn to it often. It's quite complete, and has beautiful photography. I also appreciated that DeGroff has included a number of his own creations, which add some interest to the book. There's a good discussion of barware, tools, techniques, etc, and just the right amount of cocktail history.

The reason it's a 4-star and not a 5-star is that ultimately it's really just another recipe book--though a very good one. Ultimately, I hope for reference books, whether they are cookbooks, cocktail books, or plumbing repair books, to tell me WHY I'm doing something and not just WHAT to do. If you're already very familiar with cocktails and are looking for some new ideas, you'll probably enjoy this book just fine. However, if you're looking for an in-depth overview of cocktails which will give you more of a sophisticated understanding of the subject, I would recommend The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender's Craft. At the very least I would recommend you check out both books before buying.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By scratchline on December 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Proofread! Please! While this book isn't as riddled with misprints as Mr. DeGroff's first book, there are still mistakes aplenty. No excuse. The book is beautiful and arguably better laid out than Craft of the Cocktail which is also essential. And, of course, Dale DeGroff is as close as you can get to a cocktail oracle. But, for Chrissake, proofread it! Next time, just drop me an email, and I'll do it for free. It would be an honor. Oh, and throw some o.j. into that Ward Eight.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Carlsson on October 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautifully done in both material and layout,this is bound to be a must have classic tome on mixology.While it covers only about 500 recipes,it covers 500 worthwhile or essential(hence the title)cocktails, all well worthy of inclusion in a cocktail reference book - not just a compendium of every drink ever concocted (for better or worse). Almost every drink is given a short but interesting history/intro, then ingredients, directions, and photographs of the finished drink.
Larger format (quarto or about 10 1/2" Tall and 8" wide)with a rarely seen (in drinks books past or present) decent binding so it stays open nicely with tasteful graphics,easy to read type fonts,and even a nicely retro cover (under the more modern dust jacket),it combines the practical and the high art both in its content and production. A lot of thought must have gone into not only the contents of the books but also the practical aspects of it.Built not only to please the eye and palette it works well on a counter,(or better yet behind one of those clear plastic book holders),laying flat, easy to read/consult,easy to wipe pages,and logically organized with a fine array of carefully chosen drinks.
While not as exhaustive as Dales other classicThe Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Make 500 of the World's Best Drinks and Host Legendary Parties It is a precis on how to do the included cocktails properly and artfully.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By H. Rivers on June 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I decided it was time to start finding some more things I'd like to drink other than the 3 things I order at every bar. So I checked a bunch of books on bar tending out of the library. This is by far my favorite so I bought a copy to keep. First, it has a lot of the classic drinks that you'd get at a bar and also lots of others and all the drinks I've made so far are really great. Second, the photos are super - I pick half the drinks just by their looks alone. Third, the stories with each drink just add another layer of fun. I didn't expect to learn anything about the history of cocktails in America, but I have and it's been really fun.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

The cocktail bars of New York City are a natural resource like the Redwoods in California and the bartender is like a forest ranger protecting you from the wild animals and guiding you through the thick under-brush of alcoholic beverages. This description is tongue and cheek but in 1967 when I walked into Charley O's, a great New York City bar and grill. I KNEW I was home; to quote my own book The Craft of the Cocktail,

"... I fell in love with bars because of the uninhibited, disordered and surprising way life unfolds at the bar. The only logical progression in my life has been the wealth of characters that crossed my path, leaving their sweet, sour, strong, and weak for me to ponder. I dedicate this book to all the friends and strangers who took a moment to tell a great story and send me on my way".

Over the next several years I learned the ethics of the barroom, what to drink, and when to drink it and why. How to treat the bartender and how I should be treated in turn. And of course how to tip. But the most important thing learned was how to listen and enjoy the life of the bar.

In 1959, in New York City, Joe Baum, a genius of the restaurant business and the president of the newly formed Restaurant Associates Company opened two restaurants that would change the way we eat and drink over the next 40 years. Both restaurants were located in brand new glass towers. The Four Seasons Restaurant was located in the Seagram's Building on Park Avenue. The Seagram's Building is the architectural achievement of two of the 20th century's most celebrated architects, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Philip Johnson. The second restaurant La Fonda Del Sol was located on 6th Avenue in the not so celebrated Time Life building.

The Four Seasons, still operating today, celebrated a return to fresh and regional ingredients prepared with culinary techniques from around the world, while La Fonda Del Sol celebrated the cuisine of the Latin Americas' from Mexico to the tip of South America. La Fonda's cocktail menu boasted the Pisco Sour and Mojito Criollo ... indeed Joe was way out front of the pack!

All this in the 1950's world of bland unchanging menus based on meat and potatoes when the most exciting greens on the plate were iceberg and Romaine lettuce. I went to work for Joe in 1985 and he demanded that I recreate the 19th and early 20th century cocktail bar based on fresh ingredients and classic recipes. Over the next 15 years with Joe, most of them at the Famous Promenade Bar in the Rainbow Room, I celebrated the American cocktail.

Today as founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, I along with curator and author Ted Haigh and the other founding members of the museum continue to celebrate the great American culinary institution the cocktail. We are a non-profit Museum and you can visit for a virtual tour at

and shut the lights when you leave
Dale DeGroff

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The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks
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