I used to say and I still do, that cooking in all its glory is 30% ingredients and 70% technique. The best ingredients can be transformed to crap with bad techniques and mediocre ingredients to gold with great technique. Imagine tiling your floors. You have no technique, but you did buy the best tiles at the store. How do you thing this will end up? Well not good… Same goes with other aspects of cooking, like let’s say mixology. You start with the best spirits, nice shiny expensive tools, but you have no idea how to properly make a cocktail, or even worse you think you know, but you don’t. Well, you need a guide for that. I know what you are thinking right this moment: ‘Another bar book? Again?”. Yes, but this is not the first time I write about bar books and try to convince you that this is the best one. All I have reviewed are amazing. Then what makes this one unique? Three things, the author, the content and the photographer.
Starting by the first element the author. This book is written by renowned bartender and cocktail blogger Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Morgenthaler start working as bartender almost by an accident, which became his night job to support his studies at the University of Oregon, while studying Interior Architecture. What started as summer job continued for four more years. He continued at a less regular schedule after he graduated, and got his first job as an architect. Soon enough he realized that this is not just a night job, a supplement to his income, it is what he wants to do and what he loves the most. Why do I mention all these? Because it is critical. A guy, with deep education and understanding of science decided to follow his hobby. So this is not just adds credibility to the book and the content but also to the organization and where the emphasis is given too.
As a result “The Bar Book” is on one of the best, if not the only one, technique-driven cocktail handbook out there. It does not give you recipes only. Recipes you can find at the world-wide web for everything you can imagine. What is hard to find is proper instructions and justification. The book emphasizes three elements: Ingredients, Recipe and Technique. As opposed to the typical books, this one does not revolve around the spirits, not even around a cocktail. As the author mentions he laid down the book the same way he is preparing cocktails. First is the preparation of the ingredients and the tools where the basic elements of the cocktail are prepared, juices, fruits and even bitters! Then comes the synthesis of the drink. I borrowed the term from the Materials Science where we use it to describe the ingredients and the precise steps that are required to prepare a new material, because that’s how his instruction are. Finally comes the presentation. The part that separates the kids from the men, the part that tells if you are a professional bartender or a phony. And he knows that not all of us are professional bartenders so he takes great care to highlight the difference from the amount of ingredients to the tools and the prep work.
The last element of the book is the photography. Photography is captivating, showing many vintage tools, that are important to understand their utility and evolution. It also shows the man in action, necessary to understand the utilization of the tools and the techniques. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case you can judge it, and you will be right. The cover itself is an amazing photograph that you can frame over your bar.
This indispensable guide breaks down bartending into essential techniques, and then applies them to building the best drinks. More than 60 recipes illustrate the concepts explored in the text, ranging from juicing, garnishing, carbonating, stirring, and shaking to choosing the correct ice for proper chilling and dilution of a drink. With how-to photography to provide inspiration and guidance, this book breaks new ground for the home cocktail enthusiast.