The Culinary Library

Worthwhile gift choices from Santa's book bag

The Culinary Library

The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, With 500 Recipes

by Dale DeGroff

Clarkson Potter, 230 pp., $35

Dale DeGroff is a fanatic about cocktails. He wants to make drinks the old-fashioned way. Ban all mixes. Make everything from scratch. If a drink has morphed over the years, go back to the original, and let folks know about the transformation. If all of this seems much ado about nothing, understand that DeGroff feels the craft of making a correct cocktail is crucial: almost a matter of national pride.

"I was given credit for inventing it by New York Magazine. Well, I didn't," writes DeGroff. The "it" is the Cosmopolitan, a drink made famous from Madonna enjoying a few at the Rainbow Room in New York. DeGroff was head bartender, and -- thanks to her glamorous blessing -- he and the drink became famous. That was 1996. Recently, he decided that it's high time to enlighten the public to the pleasures of well-mixed booze, the subject of The Craft of the Cocktail.

As he writes, "The cocktail is, in a word, American. It's as American as jazz, apple pie and baseball; and as diverse, colorful and big as America itself." That may be taking it a little too far. I wouldn't put a Lynchburg Lemonade on the same pedestal as Louis Armstrong. Then again, I'd usually take a Manhattan over an apple pie.

To some people, cocktails are just drinks, fun ways to kick-start an evening. If you are happy to use a mix on the one or two annual occasions you make a cocktail, you should go to one of the many other bar guides that give you simple recipes. If, on the other hand, you are obsessive about your drinks, this book will make you happy. DeGroff is a passionate partisan with evangelistic fervor, and The Craft of the Cocktail is a terrific book.

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