Ask a Bartender: What's Your Favorite Modern Cocktail Book?

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Claire Sprouse of The Square in San Francisco and other bartenders from around the country share their favorite cocktail books—beyond the classics.

We recently surveyed bartenders about their favorite classic cocktail books; today, we're asking about the more recent ones. What are the best books on drinking published in recent decades? Which cocktail recipe books inspire today's bartenders?

We asked our crew of bartenders around the country for their favorites: the cocktail and bar-related books they'd recommend for you to seek out. Here's what they had to say.

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Young Won of Rialto in Cambridge, MA

"Gaz Regan's The Negroni. I love being reminded of how important this drink is and how much it has influenced modern cocktail culture. My favorite cocktail of all time is the Old Pal. Regan brings up the question of which came first, the Negroni or the Old Pal. What makes this book notable is how Regan reminds us that a cocktail's appeal can be all about the stories that go along with it—a whole book's worth." —Young Won (Rialto)

"The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart. It teaches you how to get the most out of your ingredients and gives you some inside knowledge on spirits and their botanical make up. None of the cocktails made a huge impression on me, but all other knowledge I gained on herbs and all things regarding botany is priceless." —Leo Holtzman (The Cocktail Collection at Tobacco Road)

"Ron Fimrite's The Square has been my go-to lately. It is about the history of the old Washbag (the former tenant of our current restaurant) during the 1970s and 1980s. It serves as inspiration for our cocktail menu today. I don't think there is one recipe listed, but it gives great insight into the drinking culture of that bar and our neighborhood." —Claire Sprouse (The Square)

"The PDT Cocktail Book. Such a great resource of new and classic recipes from one of the top bars. One of my favorites is the Old Flame, made with gin, lemon, simple syrup, and eggwhite. After you shake and strain, you pour a half ounce of Chartreuse V.E.P. in a jigger and light it on fire. Drizzle over the frothy top of the cocktail. It's a great show for the crowd and is delicious to drink." —Shane McGrath (The Oakland Art Novelty Co.)

"The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff is comprehensive and great and tough to disagree with." —Kyle Storm (French Louie)

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Rodger Gillespie of LAVO Las Vegas

"I love Speakeasy, by the good fellows from Employees Only in New York. The format of classics and their own twist on them is awesome. I love the Nerina, a great twist on the Negroni containing Meletti, my favorite member of the amari family." —Rodger Gillespie (LAVO Las Vegas)

"Cocktails of the South Pacific and Beyond - Advanced Mixology by Greg Easter really intrigued me. To be honest, many of the recipes are too complicated and call for many ingredients (not atypical of tiki-style cocktails), but I really like that the book contains techniques, not just recipes. I particularly like the technique Easter calls 'supercharging' a juice, which involves running a citrus juice through a sieve that contains zest of the same citrus." —Josh Berner (Poste Moderne Brasserie)

"Tony Coniglairo's The Cocktail Lab. Such an interesting foray into the wonders of flavor—it's hard to achieve many of the recipes without a ton of specialized equipment. But even through all the extraordinary techniques and fancy gadgets, the beautiful simplicity of the cocktails is awe-inspiring." — Dave Porcaro (Bigalora Wood Fired Grill)

"Daniel Cocktails For Him and Daniel Cocktails for Her, a set of cocktail books from restaurateur Daniel Boulud. Both are packed with unique blends that really change the way you think about a drink. My personal favorite in that book is the Basil Haven, a gin, cucumber and basil cocktail. Another favorite book: The Curious Bartender, where the author takes classic cocktails and remakes them. A personal favorite of mine is the Scotch cocktail, which is a reinterpretation of the famous Rob Roy." —Tommy Shani (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)

"David Wondrich's Imbibe!—it has an immense amount of really cool historical information. I am particularly fond of the Philadelphia Fish House Punch recipe." —Ben Anderson (The Corner Office)

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Jon Harris of Firefly in Washington DC

"Cocktail Techniques by Kazuo Uyeda. It's written by a legendary Japanese bartender, and it illustrates the unique Japanese style of bartending. Very beautiful. I haven't tried many of the recipes, but one of the things I like is his focus on visual aesthetics. There's a very cool-looking drink with blue curaƧao, Champagne, and gold flakes that looks so gorgeous and regal. A reminder that things need to taste and look good." —Jon Harris (Firefly)

"Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em, by Stanley Clisby Arthur. It has some great drinks and a fascinating story about the birth of the cocktail. Cocktail a la Louisiane is my favorite." —Juan Sevilla (Soho House West Hollywood)

"The Joy of Mixology by Gary Reagan. A fundamental piece of literature for any aspiring bartender or cocktail enthusiast. History behind the greatest cocktails, bartender etiquette, the theory of mixology, the art of mixology, foundational principals of being behind the bar, and categorized 'must know' drink recipes. It contains Gary Reagan's Orange Bitters No. 5 recipe, a recipe that really opened my eyes to the world of homemade bitters." —Jon Feuersanger (Second Home Kitchen + Bar)

"Vintage Cocktails by Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel. It's my go-to book to have on hand for classic cocktail recipes. It's a fun little book that not only highlights vintage cocktail recipes, but also offers a fun look into the historical origin of these cocktails from 1920 to 1960." —Sam Scholl (Sweetwater Tavern & Grille)

"Drinkology by James Waller. My copy is creased at the page that has the recipe for the Grasshopper on it, which happens to be my parents' favorite after dinner cocktail." —George Donahue (The Treemont)

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Terence Lewis of Barbuzzo and others in Philadelphia

"The Art of The Bar. The recipes are upscale without being too overdone. I'm a fan of the Ginger Rodgers: muddled mint, lime juice, gin with a ginger simple syrup made with peppercorns. Very refreshing and a great drink with company." —Terence Lewis ( Barbuzzo, et al.)

"The Flavor Bible is quite handy. It's a book that many chefs use, and contains great flavor pairings that are useful behind a bar. It gives me the tools to work intuitively with ingredients, by learning what flavors have stronger affinities for one another." —Allyson Harding (Boca)

"Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. I found a copy of this while shopping for used books in the French Quarter. The layouts and design of the book were so eye-catching that they really inspired me to go out and try the cocktails in the book. Long story short, I decided to stop managing restaurants and go back to bartending, which is what I am still doing today." —Steve Yamada (Bar R'evolution)

"I really like Modern Mixologist from Tony Abu-Ganim. Not necessarily his style, but showing people about seasonality and proper balance of spirits, fruit, acid, herbs, etc." —Nate Howell (Jsix)

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