We get a lot of books sent our way. Biographies of distillation pioneers. Tomes dissecting a particular spirit. And of course, recipe books. Some are solid (“Punch”). Many are not (“Martinis for Moms”). So when “The New Old Bar: Classic Cocktails and Salty Snacks” crossed our desks, we figured we had a winner — its title foretelling two of our favorite things.
“The New Old Bar” is a book by Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith — aka the Hearty Boys — a couple of Chicago-based caterers and restaurateurs. Enclosed are 200 cocktail recipes, ranging from classics (Corpse Reviver No. 2 and the Last Word) to some modern drinks culled from their own repertoire. Complementing those are 25 bar snack recipes, like chorizo cheddar-stuffed olives and some pretty amazing looking reuben balls. The snacks are a welcome companion to the drinks, and should prove useful when hosting a party or enjoying a particularly decadent Tuesday evening at home.
Throw in some decent photography, and so far so good. Our chief complaint with this book, however, is the fact that several of the classic recipes are incorrect (using dry vermouth in a Bijou, or subbing Averna for Benedictine in a Vieux Carre, for example). Either by mistake or by design, it’s not ideal for at-home entertainers looking to recreate a classic.
That said, there’s plenty in this book to like. And most of all, it’s accessible. The recipes don’t ask too much of the reader. You’ll find no homemade bitters or shrubs here, just cocktails made with everyday, easy-to-obtain ingredients. Plus, we’re a sucker for salty snacks.
“The New Old Bar” is available on Amazon for about $15.