Top positive review
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"If you could use some exotic booze..."
on February 22, 2013
Author Tom Sandham, the dust jacket informs us, "has travelled widely in search of the perfect mixed drink, the best bar, and the most innovative bartender," and this book -- three hundred oversized, full-color pages of thirst-inducing booze porn -- is lifestyle journalism at its most ostentatious. It will intrigue and excite you. It will stay on your coffee table, because very little of the content will help you to mix better drinks.
Sandham's foremost concern here is the cool, the chic, the visually appealing. The drinks are photographed exquisitely; the bar interiors gleam; the celebrity bartenders make the most of what nature gave them. The drinks are a celebration of name brand spirits, exotic ingredients (umeshu liqueur, anyone?), and the genuinely unexpected. The book's five hundred or so "couture and vintage" cocktails include twenty-two absinthe cocktails, thirty with Scotch, four with cachaça, and three with pisco. Not a sign of such humble, popular drinks as the kamikaze, the gin & tonic, and the whiskey sour -- or the very non-humble Waldorf, for that matter -- but who needs 'em with such trendy cocktails as the Porn Star Martini (terrific name, horrific ingredients)?
It's too bad that no one told the book's designer and photographer, Jacqui Small, that small print text against color backgrounds is hard to read, but I'm fond of the "Cocktail Essentials" section at the end of the book, especially its nice, clear, illustrated list of techniques: stirring, layering, swizzling, floating, and throwing (if you're feeling all adventurous and show-offy while you're mixing).
This is a fun but flashy coffee table book -- or better yet, a hardcover lifestyle magazine -- for amateur bartenders ready to explore their drink options beyond martinis and Manhattans, although there are extensive spreads on both cocktails. It's a good gift, but not a book I'd need to hold onto very long.