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Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail Hardcover – November 10, 2014
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“A manual to the most deliciously potent science kit ever.” (Publishers Weekly)
“If you want to know exactly how much ethanol is in your vermouth, how to work with liquid nitrogen and why a red-hot poker is useful behind a bar (it’s got nothing to do with unruly patrons), [Dave] Arnold is your best guide. Serious, sure. But there’s also a great spirit of play and experimentation here.” (Rosie Schaap - New York Times Magazine)
“Examines cocktails on the nanoscale… extremely fascinating.” (Wayne Curtis - Wall Street Journal)
“His observations offer insight to anyone with a cocktail shaker and a few basic ingredients… for amateurs looking to get creative with boutique spirits, Mr. Arnold’s data is a blessing.” (Rachel Wharton - Wall Street Journal)
“Dave Arnold is the smartest person I know in the world of food and drink. He’s relentless in his pursuit of understanding, of improved and new techniques, and above all, of deliciousness. Cocktail enthusiasts and professionals alike will find insights and inspiration galore in Liquid Intelligence.” (Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking)
“Like modern cocktails, most books about them are rejiggered rifts on the classics that came before. And then there’s Dave Arnold’s book: an entertaining treatise of more than ten years’ worth of pioneering research he’s used to create the game-changing cocktails at his bar, Booker and Dax. Required reading for all of us from now on.” (Jim Meehan, author of The PDT Cocktail Book)
“Dave Arnold has always been ahead of the curve in the cocktail world, and in this book he brings the rest of us up to speed.” (Wylie Dufresne, chef/owner of wd~50)
“Probably the most important cocktail book that’s been written ever.” (Julian Cox)
About the Author
Dave Arnold is a food science writer, educator, and innovator. He hosts the radio show Cooking Issues and runs the high-tech cocktail bar Booker & Dax in New York’s East Village, part of the Momofuku restaurant group. He has taught at the French Culinary Institute and at Harvard University and has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and the Today show. In 2004 he founded the Museum of Food and Drink. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.
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Top Customer Reviews
I'm a professional bartender that has remodeled his kitchen to be as much a chemistry lab as it is a place of cooking. I have a HUGE library dedicated to bartending books... in addition to cooking, gastro, flavor-profiling, pairing, etc. I love the food and beverage industry, and I believe that a bartender is as responsible for creating an enjoyable meal as a chef. My personality is front-of-house while my mentality and drive (and sometimes my personality, too) is back-of-house.
This book is perfect for people like me that are always on the look-out for ways to bring new techniques to their libations, not to mention a thorough explanation for why things work they way they do... which is wonderful for inspiration.
However, this book is also perfect for someone that simply wants to know how to make the magic happen at home.
1) Dave Arnold is a genius. Certifiably, not hyperbole. It takes a unique and gifted soul to bring this level of thoughtfulness to his trade, and a generous spirit to pass along just enough of that information to make someone incredibly dangerous if they're on a first-name basis with their welding shop (like me: former iron-worker). What he has to say about everything is worth paying attention to... especially the giant chapter on ice.
It's funny to say it, but embracing 25 pages on solid water has made me a much better bartender than the hundred of other pages detailing elevated techniques.
2) Outside of understanding how ice and dilution actually work to make or break a cocktail, there is very little in this book that pertains to bringing an extra bit of flair and wonder to your bar. Tossing bottles is for kids that work at TGI Fridays. Real flair is about making the creation of something that's liquid unforgettable look effortless.
This book is all about preparation. The first part is education. The second part is experimentation. The third part is learning how to set everything up in advance so that the actual mixing, building and shaking is as smooth and consistent as possible.
3) This book will force you to be a better bartender. I don't care if you're a professional or home-based booze-hound: this book will force you to elevate your knowledge and ability just from the kind of humble enthusiasm Arnold communicates for the bartending trade.
Not only am I a better, more educated bartender capable of applying the various techniques and technologies discussed in Liquid Intelligence to the recipes bound within it, I've also gained the confidence to seek out my own individuality using these lessons.
I have a ten-pound bottle of liquid nitrogen in my kitchen, now... and I'm sourcing a carbonator.
And then there's the red-hot poker I know just enough about electrical engineering and fabrication to injure myself perfecting.
4) This book has made such an impact on me that I've begun carrying my own tools to my job. I refuse to use pint glasses for shaking cocktails, I refuse to use their muddlers, I refuse to use their strainers. Just like when I worked on steel fifteen years ago, I pack in my own tools every day I go to work, and when I take over a new bar in three months, all of the bartenders that work for me will do the same.
Chefs pack their knives.
Carpenters pack their saws.
Real bartenders pack their shakers, clarify their juices, and analyze every bottle with a Brix meter to make sure each cocktail they craft is consistently delicious.
THAT'S how good Liquid Intelligence is.
First off, I should say that I have a hetero-man-crush on Dave Arnold. I’ve been listening to Cooking Issues for well over a year now. He’s answered numerous questions of mine, some cocktail related. I’ve experimented with many of the concepts in the book before it came out. I bought some Pectinex Ultra-SPL, for instance, and agar, and did a few different juice clarifications. I built my own carbonation rig. I’ve read his work on chilling and dilution and watched all the YouTube videos. There isn’t much he’s done that I haven’t heard about.
So I was afraid going in that there’d be nothing I haven’t heard before. Turns out, there’s quite a bit in there I didn’t know, and there’s a lot more depth on some of the things I did know.
Dave (he’s answered enough of my questions that I feel like we’re on a first name basis) goes into depth on the science of cocktails. Want to know which sugars are sweeter upfront but fade faster? (Hint, things containing fructose, like agave nectar.) Or which acids to use when? The ingredients section has you covered.
Every bartender, whether professional or enthusiastic amateur, needs to read the section on ice. It clears up many misconceptions in the bar industry. There are 25 pages devoted to it, and they’re worth the read possibly more than anything else in the book.
His section on Cocktail Calculus has a balance chart that shows, at a glance, the sugar, acid, and alcohol levels of a cocktail. His formula lets you develop cocktails almost mathematically. That’s really interesting to me, and something I hope to play around with more.
The section on carbonation will help even those of us who’ve been doing it at home a bit. It had never occurred to me to mix nitrous with CO2. His clarification flowchart will help you figure out how to clarify any juice for bubbles. He’ll help you troubleshoot problem commons. (I think everyone who carbonates has had a drink foam out, only to turn the PSI up and have it foam out even more.)
To do most of the stuff in this book you’re probably going to have to get out of your comfort zone if you haven’t done any modernist cooking or mixology. The good news is, Arnold includes a ton of ways to do recipes at home that require little to no equipment. Armed with basic bar tools, an ISI Whip and a Modernist Pantry account, you can do most of the recipes.
It won’t be cheap. And it won’t be easy. Most of these drinks take preparation. There’s a list of classic cocktails, but if that’s what you’re looking for (something to stir up and drink right now) PDT or Death and Co. are better books. This isn't meant to be a list of classic recipes.
However if you want to push the limits of what a cocktail can be, and don’t mind some prep work (hell, the bottled cocktails save you work at the party) this is THE book right now.
As an avid home bartender, this book gave me a greater appreciation of the craft of bartending and I was able to put much of this to immediate use. One thing I'm particularly appreciative of is that the author understands that home bartenders and even most professional bartenders won't ever need or even want to use such devices as roto-vaps but he gives you an appreciation of what they can do and how they can be used.
Dave Arnold's writing style is very approachable. He offers fun and drinkable experiments to solidify the concepts in the book and offers interesting and often funny examples of his own journey into craft bartending.
I highly recommenced this book. Even if you're simply interested in gaining an appreciation of the bartending craft and have no intention of bartending yourself, this book is both informative and highly amusing.