In honor of World Cocktail Day, specifically May 13, 1806, I’d like to introduce my latest book review on a much-anticipated title, A Spot at the Bar. As a cook and cocktail book aficionado, I’m always on the hunt for a good tome about food and/or drinks. Well, this one has both…but it’s not your typical “cocktail” book.
By that I mean, it’s not a drab book full of words and no pictures. A Spot at the Bar is peppered with thoughtful pictures from beginning to end. One of the first chapters, “Tools of the Trade,” goes into great depth about the essentials any cocktail maker should have. This includes: a sturdy peeler, a jigger, a strainer, a muddler, and a knife (hello, garnishes). Eachitem is succinctly described and pictured, so no need for googling “what is a cracking spoon.” There’s then a quick glossary of different kinds of alcohols, syrups, and modifiers.
As someone’s who’s spent years ordering drinks, but only recently discovered a modifier can transfer a drink from just okay to making you shout “hooray,” this book breaks it down in the easiest of terms. Now, let’s skip ahead to the fun part of the book, the drinks.
It’s broken down into “kinds” of drinks, specifically: apertifs, beer, wine, savory, bartender’s choice, digestifs, nightcaps, and the morning after. While I haven’t personally counted each and every recipe, the back cover states there are over 300 in the book. THREE HUNDRED. That should last you a good many dinner parties.
One of my favorite parts of this book is the bar memorabilia seamlessly woven into the recipes. Thereare all kinds of souvenirs from bars-napkins, matches, coasters, envelopes- all with classic recipes! To me, this was such wonderful attention to detail. I’ve never seen this approach in any other cocktail book, and it almost looks like a preserved keepsake (which I love, even though I haven’t been to many of the bars and restaurants mentioned). Nevertheless, this book is like a bartender at your fingertips.
Another thing that I really like about this book is that the recipes aren’t overly complicated. Unlike a classic cocktail book that’s bogged down minutia, this book gets down to the brass tacks, if you will, and tells you exactly what you need to know to make the perfect drink.
Take, for example, a Tom Collins. A classic “manly” drink that’s made up of four ingredients: gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and soda. Simple enough-measure out the ingredients and drink up, right? Nope. First you need to know that there are six kinds of Tom Collins variations. A Sandy Tom Collins means the bartender used Scotch whisky, while a Pierre Tom Collins uses cognac.
If you’re worried this book is all alcohol and no food, fear not! There are a variety of small bites and appetizers that can be paired with many of the drinks. Personally, I tried the deviled eggs, and they WOWED my dinner party. I made several of the drinks included in the text (my favorite that I tried was the pisco bunch-excellent batch drink for a large party).
So the short and skinny of this book, if you’re looking for a good read to give a friend who appreciates good cocktails, this is an excellent choice. I’ve read many cocktail books and this one takes all the charcuterie boards (ya know, because it’s better than taking all the cheese). Jokes aside, this book is a beautiful coffee table (or bar car addition) of of stories, drinks, and snacks. I’d cheers to that!
Score Card: Cover Art 4.5/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher, but all thoughts are my honest opinion after reading it.
Recipes Pictured: Pimm’s Punch (pink drink), Negroni (dark red drink), and deviled eggs.