The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide From the Celebrated Speakeasy
Jim Meehan and Chris Gall
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011
The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide From the Celebrated Speakeasyby Jim Meehan and Chris Gall (Sterling Epicure, 368 pp., $24.95)
Hundreds of books over the last few years have tried to jump on the mixed drink merry-go-round created by the success of Dale DeGroff's The Craft of the Cocktail. What made DeGroff's book such a standard bearer was its combination of well-researched historical information and its hard-headed insistence on precise measurement of ingredients. The PDT Cocktail Book is even better. Jim Meehan (the writer) and Chris Gall (the illustrator) have created a book that grabs you at first with its handsome cover, heavy paper stock, and semipsychedelic art. But content is king, and that's where The PDT Cocktail Book has its greatest success. First, it's filled with meticulous recipes for everything from the old classics of the 19th century to the newest creations coming from New York City's hottest bars. For classic cocktails, Meehan lists the earliest known printed recipes to give credit where it is due. For the newest recipes, he gives full credit to the mixologists that created them.
But the recipes only take up about two-thirds of the book. In fact, Meehan has gone way beyond writing a simple cocktail book. There is a college degree's worth of information here for the budding bartender. While perfectly usable for someone just trying to make a martini, the book also has enough information to allow you to open a commercial bar, down to building the bar, what type of glassware to buy, ingredients needed, and even a proposed code of etiquette. My favorite chapter is titled "Spirits Primer." Meehan breaks down the vast majority of spirits into types then discusses the evolution from its inception until today. Artist Gall has an individual style that somewhat resembles the Grateful Dead's Stanley Mouse, making the book an ideal accompaniment to a wild night of imbibing antique absinthe. The illustrations are bold and filled with primary colors; they do a good job of illustrating certain points about the drinks. Given the huge amount of competition, Meehan and Gall have pulled off something of a miracle: Their PDT Cocktail Book is now the best cocktail book you can own. Congratulations to them both.
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