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Take Bartending to the Next Level,
This review is from: The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics (Hardcover)The Art of the Bar is a solid book of how to make classic cocktails. The two bartenders that wrote this book describe cocktails from start to finish, using experience from their many years of tending bar. There is a wonderful change in style for cocktails, long gone is Tom Cruise in Cocktail doing a floor show while mixing drinks. Instead this is a book of fine nuanced drinks, carefully prepared one at a time.
This is a large pretty book; many cocktails are presented with a color picture to show the best way to complete the drink. The authors cover a lot of ground with their recipes, from absinthe to whiskies (they even include Vodka, avoided by some of the cocktail snobs). On purpose they avoided the sweet blender drinks, not denigrating them simply saying that their bar is not at a beach or a cruise ship. There are two pages at the front of the book that list all the cocktails with ingredients. I like these two pages because I find myself with specific ingredients and scan those pages to find cocktails I can make at that moment.
A book of recipes is nice. The authors took things to another level with the text. They include the history of some of the major cocktails. This is a good book for somebody that wants to take making drinks to another level. There is excellent advice on all the important things, ingredients (ice, spirits, garnish, etc.), equipment to mix drinks, glassware, and presentation. The majority of the text is about why certain drinks have those ingredients and how to make the best darn cocktail possible. The one criticism I have with the book, the authors mention their bar and restaurant a bit too much. After the 50th mention, I began to think this was an advertisement for their bar. It is a small issue with the book - given the fine recipes and excellent advice, I can ignore the advertisement.
If somebody tried to make all the cocktails in the book, they would go broke at the liquor store. Some of the ingredients are a bit harder to find and are expensive for just a dash or two in a drink. As they describe, it is important to use good ingredients. Cheap liquor that tastes bad requires other ingredients to mask those bad flavors, instead of blending and making something that tastes wonderful. Their drinks are built based on particular ingredients, a substitution may or may not taste great, but it isn't the same drink. Those two pages of all their drinks is the best place to figure out if it is worth buying a bottle of Crème de Violette, or Averna. I've discovered some amazing flavors buying spirits I never had a clue would be good (Aperol, Cynar, Dolin Vermouth, and Averna to name a few).
Most of the drinks in this book are classics (some are not well known classics, but classics all the same). There isn't much revolutionary in here. That's a good thing; the recipes work well and taste great.
The book is a coffee table book. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because the book is easy to read and looks beautiful. That is bad because it is not easy to use while mixing drinks. For my bar I prefer a book I can put on the counter and read the recipes while I mix the drinks.
For the home bartender looking to step up their game, this is an excellent book. If only recipes are the goal, there is an outstanding free app, Speakeasy Drinks, that is easier to use (the ability to search for certain ingredients is huge). If the authors had left out the bar advertisement, I would love the text much more. Those two pages of cocktails with ingredients are worth the price of admission.