Alcoholic beverages have been a passion of mine. And so are books. I have already reviewed a book before by David A. Embury entitled “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks”. Embury describes in great detail the various spirits and many of the cocktails that were popular that era. And although that is a great book it is not up to date. And that’s not really a problem regarding the material that is already included in the book; that is still the same. It is a problem because the number the spirits you can now access has grown a lot. I am not only talking about the varieties of whiskey for example, but the variety of the distilled spirits you can find. Back then spirits from Argentina and Brazil were not even heard. Now they are sold next to the rum.
To navigate your neighborhood liquor store now you need a guide. You might thing that you need an ultimate guide. An Ultimate Guide to Spirits someone might have said…. and that someone is Andé Dominé. He did the unthinkable. He made a book that contains 90% of the commercial sold spirits. From the Bourbon and the Rye to the Arak and the absinthe. Listing liquors is not that hard. Well it is, but you know what is even harder? To list them in a logical manner. Categorize them in a way that makes sense and it is easy for the reader to find it what he is looking for. I recently found out that there is a new version of the book (the one shown above).
Dominé did just that. Starting by explaining the history of distillation, the types of distilleries and the raw material used, he continues to the specific spirits, describing the history, their economic significance, and ends with their modern or current version. He even suggests a number of them with a short description their flavor profile. He is very informative, good writer and also very accurate. I am not a spirit aficionado but by reading the sections of the spirits I know that he is accurate to the spot.He even contains specially spirits including the greek “brandy” Metaxa. I should mention that the historic perspective that he also includes is a great addition. Several spirits shaped the world we all live in. He does an amazing job capturing that in his book.
And right then you thought he was done he comes back with yet, one more chapter. The cocktails. Distilled spirits were made for cocktails. Some more than others of course, but certainly for cocktails. And cocktails are nothing if not in drunk in a bar ambiance. Dominé explains well the modern bar, the history and their evolution. And then he tackles one by one the classic cocktails. The Martini, the Manhattan, the Sidecar… And again high accuracy and great photography.
Overall this is a must have book if you are in bar-tendering. Many of these cocktails are extremely historic and moreover over the years they seemed to lost their importance and their character. Dominé restores much of it. And I grant you: you might not find your favorite brand, your favorite cocktail, or even your favorite spirit but you will find a lot more that makes up for that. You will find out what you need for a successful home bar. It will change the way you look at cocktails.
I must note here that this review is mainly for the 2008 version that I have. Dominé released one more in 2011. I cannot imagine it not to be better than the one I have. It is published from h. f. Ullmann which is a very well-known publisher for reference books like this.Amazon