Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails
Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails. Photo Courtesy of Rizzoli.

As bars remain closed in the wake of the coronavirus, drinkers everywhere are learning how to make cocktails at home. One thing that can help narrow the considerable skill gap separating the amateurs from the professionals is a good cocktail book.

In that spirit, we’ve reached out to bartenders from San Diego to Toronto—many of them authors themselves—to get their top cocktail book recommendations.

After you’ve picked out your next booze-related read, maybe you’ll consider repaying the favor by purchasing a gift card to one of their bars or donating to a staff support fund.

Brian Bartels, bartender and author

Brian Bartels

Brian Bartels, co-owner of Settle Down Tavern in Madison, WI and author of The Bloody Mary and The United States of Cocktails

The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan — “This is a book that changed my life early on during our modern-day craft cocktail movement. Gaz was a lifelong ambassador of our cocktail and bar world, a true expert without preaching any of his knowledge on you. This book establishes the classic recipes before we started layering more drinks with smaller quantities to enhance the nuances. There is something wonderful on every page—and there are hundreds of recipes!”

Smuggler’s Cove by Rebecca and Martin Cate — “One element of bartending I have yet to tackle is Tiki. Exotic cocktails never really landed in my wheelhouse of bar tricks. But I love Smuggler’s Cove. It’s got so much history surrounding the birth and legend of the Tiki movement, which is only growing in popularity (also thanks to books by Jeff Berry and Shannon Mustipher). Martin said it best: “’Escape is a dying art.’”  And these books, along with the lore of Tiki and all the different potions—allow people to escape a little more, which is nice when we’re all quarantined.”

Booze and Vinyl by Tenaya and André Darlington — “A book allowing one to pair well-made cocktails… with music?  What is not to love? Especially when most of the albums are classic albums. The Darlingtons also have another great at-home cocktail book, The New Cocktail Hour, and they make the experience of recreating classics with some user-friendly at-home guidelines as easy as baking that banana bread, which you’re currently allowing to cool while you stir a Negroni for mama.”

Derek Brown, Bartender

Derek Brown

Derek Brown, owner of Columbia Room, author of Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World

The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, with 500 Recipes by Dale DeGroff – “Dale was one of my teachers and is one of the best. He’s a big part of the return to classic cocktails, as one of the leaders of the movement from the 1980s to present, and there are over 500 recipes along with techniques and tips in his book. If you’ve ever seen an orange peel flamed over a Cosmo, he’s the one who did that.”

I’m Just Here for the Drinks: A Guide to Spirits, Drinking and More Than 100 Extraordinary Cocktails by Sother Teague — “Sother is to bitters what Picasso is to paint. His bar, Amor y Amargo, is a testament to his creativity, making incredible drinks using bitters without shaking and without juice. If The Craft of the Cocktail is the intro, this is the advanced class.”

Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails by Shannon Mustipher — “Shannon has taken the genre of Tiki and updated it for the modern rum drinker. There are many classic recipes, but she steps out and offers advice on technique, spirits, and ingredients, as well as some originals. Plus the photography is beautiful.”

Frank Caiafa

Frank Caiafa

Frank Caiafa, beverage director of The Stayton Room, director of Handle Bars NYC/Global Inc, author of The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book 

3-Ingredient Cocktails by Robert Simonson — “A great jumping off point for any home bar. Most of the classics that you would need and just enough history and talking points to keep the conversation going without scaring the non-discriminating drinking partner away.”

Shake. Stir. Stip. by Kara Newman — “These 50 cocktails are all very simply replicated and include two to five equal part ingredients with a wide range. From stirred, savory cocktails to shaken, creamy dessert drinks, this fun book is perfect for expanding the home bar repertoire.”

Drinking Distilled by Jeffrey Morgenthaler — “Moving beyond recipes, this book riffs on all the other aspects of drinking and its culture and traditions. For everyone who ever wonders why certain things are done both in back and front of a bar, this book will make you a much more rounded guest when the saloon doors open again.”

Canadian Whisky by Davin de Kergommeaux — “If you’re looking for something more substantial to take away from your quarantine, this is the book for you. A very readable history of Canada’s distilleries and brands and their contributions to drinking history both past and present.”

The Cocktail Chronicles by Paul Clarke — “This approachable history and recipe book allows you to take from it what you need without making you feel you’re reading a text book. Covering everything from pre-prohibition tipples to modern classics, this is a reference book you can find something new in for years to come.”

Jackson Cannon, Boston Bar Manager

Jackson Cannon

Jackson Cannon, proprietor and bar director at the Hawthorne in Boston

“Being stuck in place, one of the only ways to ‘travel’ is reading great stories of such. Thad Vogler’s By the Smoke and the Smell is a great tale of sourcing some of the finest, artisan-made spirits on earth. The intimacy with which he communicates their process and histories as well as his own are inspiring. And for some pure comic relief, Drinking Distilled by Jeffery Morgenthaler is a treat. By pithy observations and with a consistently benevolent sarcastic tone, Jeff dispenses his pitch perfect wisdom on the rules for ‘professional’ drinking. I recommend keeping a copy in the bathroom for reading a small section every day to keep your spirits light.”

Erick Castro

Erick Castro. Photo by Arlene Ibarra.

Erick Castro, co-owner of Polite Provisions, Boilermaker, and Raised By Wolves, host of the Bartender at Large podcast and director of the Bartender at Large documentary

“One of my favorite books out there for cocktails has got to be The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff. It is a classic that still stands up over time. It covers the fundamentals well enough for the beginner, yet thorough enough to keep the professionals coming back for it.”

“When it comes to new school Tiki drinks, I am a big fan of Shannon Mustipher’s Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails. Much like the tropical pioneers of the past, it pushes the boundaries of what Tiki can be while still staying rooted in the fundamentals of the genre.”

Robin Goodfellow Toronto bartender

Robin Goodfellow

Robin Goodfellow, partner at Bar Raval and Pretty Ugly in Toronto, and founder of Little Bones Beverage Company

“I always tell staff to read these three books as a start, and in this order: Cocktail Techniques by Kazuo Uyeda, Imbibe! by David Wondrich, and Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh.”

Ash Miyasaki bartender

Ash Miyasaki

Ash Miyasaki, bar manager at Bar Henry in LA

“The Smuggler’s Cove book offers a nice blend of history, rum education, and recipes. Due to some of the ingredient calls being a bit more obscure or labor-intensive, this may not always be the book for the casual at-home bartender, but for the Tiki-lover who is ready to dive in, this is a great reference.

“Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence is one of the best nerdy books on bartending techniques. From rapid nitrous infusions, to juice clarifications, clear ice and carbonation, this is a powerful resource. Though it is slightly less recipe-heavy, it is such a wealth of information on ‘science-ing’ your way to great cocktails.”

Amaro from Brad Thomas Parsons is fantastic for branching out into the world of digestivi. There is such a range in this category, which can make it exciting yet also slightly daunting! This book shines a light to guide you through all the complexities as well as just how to enjoy them.”

“This book, brought together through posthumous collaboration, was one of those Holy Grail-type reads for me. Regarding Cocktails from the late Sasha Petraske is full of modern classics, variations, theory and lore. Its ethos is that of Petraske’s minimalist yet exacting and passionate approach to bartending. Part hand-me-down wisdom, part cocktails, this holds something of value for the novice and professional alike.”

Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar manager at Clyde Common and Pépé le Moko, co-author of The Bar Book and author of Drinking Distilled

“I really recommend everyone who is in the business or is a fan of the business read Cosmopolitan: Bartender’s Life by Toby Cecchini. It’s a really intimate, sweet, and funny tale about what it is we do, and how what we do informs the rest of our lives. It’s a terrific read.”

Jared Sadoian, the Hawthorne

Jared Sadoian. Photo by Melissa Ostrow

Jared Sadoian, Assistant Bar Director at the Hawthorne in Boston

“I’m a big fan of exploring the cultural and political backgrounds of the spirits I enjoy and how our consumption and love of some spirit categories can have far-reaching rippling effects across borders and cultures. Now that we’re all holed up at home, there is certainly time to devote to some denser pieces of literature! Two books in particular that I love are Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production by Sarah Bowen, which explores the recent explosive growth of consumption of agave spirits and how it’s affecting the production, branding, and regulation of those spirits; and Caribbean Rum by Frederick H. Smith, which delves into the sometimes sordid history of a central economic, cultural, and political piece of the islands for centuries.”

Claire Sprouse Hunky Dory bar

Claire Sprouse. Photo by Breanne Furlong.

Claire Sprouse, owner and bartender at Hunky Dory

Drinking Like Ladies by Misty Kalkofen and Kirsten Amann — “Let me tell you, the world does not need another book full of stuffy cocktail history that’s really just about well-to-do men drinking in private clubs in the early 1900s. This book is the opposite of that and so much more. It’s filled with mini biographies of fierce women from all across history, each inspiring a cocktail recipe from female-identifying bartenders who tend bar around the world (myself included). All of the people captured in this book are certainly worth toasting to from your living room.”

Spirits of Latin America by Ivy Mix — “This book is perfect for quarantining because it’s truly transportive to the beautiful places and cultures that Ivy Mix herself journeys to in her research. The recipes are delicious, but I honestly just want to curl up with a copita of mezcal and read this book to appreciate the people who harvest and distill all these beautiful spirits we often take for granted.”

Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails by Shannon Mustipher — “It’s getting warmer and you’re going to need a good Tiki guide on your shelf. Shannon Mustipher’s book has rebalanced the Tiki genre, presenting recipes that can easily be mixed by anyone, and a few more to aspire towards. It includes a lot of fun, but not too complex, syrup recipes that will amplify anyone’s home bar.”

Ezra Star

Ezra Star

Ezra Star, general manager at Drink in Boston

“One of my favorite cocktail books currently out there is Jim Meehan’s Bartender’s Manual. It is concise, interesting and well written. It is Jim Meehan’s attempt at placing all of his many years of bartending into a single source. As a bartender I find it invaluable.”

“For recipes I’ve been reading Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide quite a bit lately. Lots of incredibly delicious forgotten classics that are in themselves very tasty, but also useful to adjust and play around with at home.”

Bartender Lucinda Sterling

Lucinda Sterling

Lucinda Sterling, managing partner at Middle Branch in NYC

Cocktails Across America by Diane Lapis and Anne Peck-Davis — “These authors provide a fun and historical review of the way cocktails influenced different regions of this vast country.  Many walks of life were partaking in one main event, and the stories are told in postcards.”

Drinking Distilled by Jeffrey Morgenthaler — “Written by a fun-loving bartender with an acerbic wit, this book breaks down bar behavior, both behind and in front. We are also given contemporary techniques for making necessary ingredients for use in modern and classic cocktails in an informal manner.”

Punch by David Wondrich — “This book reveals the history of spirits as far back as the 16th century, relays information about who was actually bartending, and throws out modern versions of old recipes. This is applicable for home bartenders and working bartenders who enjoy serving larger groups with the ease of one recipe.”

Briana Volk, Portland Hunt Alpine Club

Briana Volk

Briana Volk, co-owner of Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, co-author of Northern Hospitality

Last Call by Brad Thomas Parsons — “Since it feels a little end-times right now, Last Call seems fitting. It is full of interviews with bartenders on what their last cocktail, and recipes, would be. It is beautifully written and gorgeous to look at. It is a book we keep going back to for at-home cocktail inspiration.”

The Bar Book by Jeffrey Morgenthaler — “If you want to up your bar game this is the book we always send and recommend to people. Jeff’s style is so approachable and it’s fun to get inside his head.”

Northern Hospitality by Andrew & Briana Volk — “Can we recommend our own book? In times where we are stuck at home and can’t travel, books that transport you to another place are always comforting and helps feed our wanderlust. Spend some time in Vacationland (aka Maine) and our little bar making drinks.”

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