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on December 5, 2013
Embury gives us a unique and wide perspective on cocktails, which are America's main contribution to the world of alcohol. He was making them before, during, and after Prohibition (1920-1933). The first edition came out in 1948 and he was still updating through the final edition in 1958.

He operates from that era (after 1933) when "stiff" drinks were popular, meaning high in alcohol. Embury dismisses the pre-Prohibition era back to the 1800s when many cocktails had less liquor and more mixer with a lot of extra flavoring. He would be horrified by today's large portions of sweet and creamy drinks. Of course he lived in an era when he and most people were slimmer than today.

His favorite liquor is gin which mixes well with almost everything and gives you a quick kick. The same is generally true for rum. Embury likes whiskey, especially bourbon, but it does not mix with everything and takes longer to have an effect. He would be surprised by today's popularity of scotch. He would be even more surprised by today's popularity of vodka. That "tasteless" liquor was just beginning to become popular when he wrote this book and he credits its growing popularity on clever advertising. He considered the "new" drink the Bloody Mary to be vile.

He lists six cocktails that every connoisseur should know but only three of those drinks are still popular: Martini, Manhattan, and Daiquiri. Embury is basically a walking encyclopedia of cocktails and provides a lot of information. He got his information from first-hand knowledge and would never be fooled by clever marketing. Some of the information is dated but the book is quite informative.

Interesting facts include the one that sugar intensifies the effect of alcohol which is why too many sweet cocktails will make you sick. Fruit juices begin to slowly deteriorate through fermentation as soon as they are squeezed so he always used fresh juice. He was horrified by canned fruit juice.

Embury was around when tequila was a new liquor brought in during prohibition. At that time it was an inferior liquor with a strong sulfuric taste. The tradition of drinking it with salt and limes was to overcome the bad taste. Since then the distillers have learned how to eliminate most of the sulfuric taste but the tradition continues with the popular Margarita.

It could be said that he was the Anthony Bourdain of his era, but without the proletarian and celebrity elements. The 2013 edition has very few typos. I noticed less than ten.
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on August 17, 2009
Get this book! Read the other reviews: the only reason this book is getting 4 stars instead of 5 is because of the typos in this edition. Ignore them and get the book. It's a pleasure to read.

Embury is a wonderful writer with a dry wit. He clearly and methodically lays out cocktail basics so you can "roll your own." This isn't a book about chocolate martinis and sour apple martinis: it's old school, taking it cues from the pre-Prohibition era of bartending (1880s - 1920). While some of his own recipes are a bit boozy (like a 7-to-1 gin martini), he gives just not his recipes, but lists other "standard" recipes, critiques them, and then urges you to experiment and find what you like best. In the interest of completeness, he even lists cocktails he thinks are terrible ("... but boys will be boys.")

An aside: A recent web article about making the perfect sidecar found his sidecar to be much too boozy ... a problem they solved simply by adding 1 drop of orange bitters. I have a feeling Embury would fully approve of their meddling.
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on January 9, 2009
There are many books around about "bartending" or "cocktails", but Embury's TFAoMD (1948) is the definitive work when it comes to mixing drinks, and it was a delight to see that it is back in print. Don't bother with any other books on the subject. Original editions of this work, in good shape, sell for a couple of hundred dollars, if you can even find them!

Not only does Embury describe the principles of a mixed drink, and the equipment that is useful in its preparation, but he also describes each base ingredient, each mixer and how to mix to get the best result. He also provides recipes for six basic cocktails and the practical possibilities in making your own.

There is also a chapter concerning "The Use and Abuse of Liquor", so you could argue that this is even a moral work.

TFAoMD is educational, entertaining, practical and an essential addition to the library of the serious mixologist. Moreover, it is beautifully written. What more could you ask for...?
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on May 31, 2015
Too much of what passes for "cocktails" in most bars and restaurants is candy. Too sweet, no fresh juice, and crappy booze. To get a decent cocktail, you must take matters into your own hands. That's where this book comes in. It's all about balance. Try a real dacquiri and you'll see the difference between it and 12 oz of slushy with one oz of liquor.
It is somewhat dated, but in a good way. When it was written, Doctors prescribed Gin to treat a number of maladies. Besides, booze hasn't really improved since then.
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on February 4, 2014
This book is a classic reference on how to make cocktails. The fact that it was written during the golden age of cocktails increases rather than lessens its value as far as I'm concerned, even if the style and references are often dated.
One of the great virtues of the book is that it presents a type of taxonomy of cocktails so that the would-be mixologist has a way of thinking about cocktails and drinks in an organized fashion.
Anyone with enough interest in cocktails to have considered buying this book ought to do so in my opinion. Having said that, it has flaws which is why I give it only 4 stars, viz.:
1. There is scant historical information on most of the drinks. Surely this is part of the enjoyment for any would be connoisseur and the absence is a real shortcoming.
2. The author's idiosyncratic (dated?) opinions limit the value of the book. It's not his ideas about proportions, say, which I'm talking about, as Mr. Embury makes clear these are his personal preferences and the reader should experiment etc. Rather it shows up in the way some drinks are over-emphasized and others are not as well as some of his pronouncements which are either dubious or dated. For example, I could find no mention of a true classic like the Vieux Carre amidst the many obscure variations of the Manhattan he presents and Embury calls tequila the worst liquor he has tasted (excepting Slivovitz) which nowadays is an absurd statement.
3. As others have noted there are some typos in this edition of the book which should have been caught by a competent (human) proofreader.
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on January 9, 2014
Find an original under $100 and I will show you something taped together at the spine.
Somewhere around page 175 is the first recipe. Detailed information about a bygone age of poor quality spirits leaves the receipts a bit off, but to be expected when spirits were of lesser quality. The nearly endless list of options is impressive. if given as at fit to a bar manager or a mixologist, you might just make an iron clad friend for life.
I have given a few, and still get free drink so rom doing so.
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on October 19, 2015
This is an awesome reference book for the novice or experienced mixologist. Each section provides a history of the given cocktails - great for fun facts when mixing drinks with friends. The author also provides suggested variations from standard cocktails, which have proven to be tasty.
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on June 29, 2015
Fantastic book, the author went into detail about not only the history of mixology but wrote about all the popular myths and most likely origin of certain drinks. Great book.
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on March 28, 2009
This book is a must for anybody interested in becoming a better host or bartender, or more informed on alcohol in general. It breaks down cocktails into several categories and illustrates not only what the drinks in those categories have in common, but also how to create your own cocktail (without ruining the drink or wasting liquor/money). While the book focuses on liquor, it does touch on beers and wines as well, not only definitions, but also (brief) histories.

One note... the author is very opinionated. Mostly it's amusing, but it can be somewhat irksome at times, usually when you disagree. :)
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on June 14, 2016
Probably the best book ever written on cocktail theory. It has stood the test of time and will continue to be important as long as human beings mix spirits to create cocktails!
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