11 Must-Have Classic Cocktail Recipe Books For Your Home Bar
Stay-at-home orders and high levels of anxiety dictated by the unknown turned the majority of us into at-home drinkers throughout 2020 and beyond. But while many of us may fancy ourselves cocktail experts at this point, do we really know what we’re doing when concocting a Manhattan or a martini in our living rooms?
After all, there is an art to preparing drinks, which may take years to master and certainly requires some guidance. That’s why we find these cocktail recipe books to be just as essential to anyone’s at-home bar setup as the perfect shaker is.
Whether you’re into classic cocktails (which, in our humble opinion, are actually the hardest ones to pull off) or more creative renditions of old-time favorites, rest assured that the following tomes will teach you how to prepare the very best version of your drink of choice and elevate your bartending game.
As they say in France, salut!
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“The Joy Of Mixology”
This classic cocktail book — which was first published in 2003 and then updated in 2019 — offers both outstanding recipes and guidance on how to efficiently set up and look after a bar. Written by Gary “Gaz” Regan, the renowned cocktail pioneer recognized by just about everyone in the industry and who passed away just a couple of years ago, the book gets to the heart of what a cocktail should be while breaking down drinks into recognizable categories (think cobblers, juleps, Milanese drinks, Champagne cocktails) meant to help out both professional and amateur bartenders.
Get “The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan for $24.49.
This one’s an interesting one: Put together by the three personalities behind New York’s famous cocktail den Death & Co., “Cocktail Codex” illustrates the experts’ process when developing their bar menus. The trio, in fact, presents six relatively easy cocktail templates that they claim form the root of any cocktail ever created. These include the martini, the whiskey highball, the old-fashioned, the daiquiri, the sidecar and the flip. They’re pros, so you’re going to want to trust them on this one.
Get “Cocktail Codex” by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald and David Kaplan for $21.47.
If it’s the history and origin of the Manhattan that you’re curious about, you’re going to want to read through David Wondrich’s wonderful “Imbibe!” It’s as much a history book as it is a collection of recipes. Expect over 100 drinks to strike your fancy (the first edition of the tome, which was released in 2007, even won a James Beard award) but it’s the section about the very first American cocktail, the mint julep, that makes this one of our go-tos both when concocting a drink at home and as an addition to a coffee table.
Get “Imbibe!” by David Wondrich for $19.47.
Who says bartending skills can only be applied to liquor-based cocktails? If Julia Bainbridge’s book teaches us anything, it is that virgin drinks also require a certain kind of expertise. In her cocktail guide, the James Beard award-nominated expert presents us with the likes of a Verjus spritz and a blackberry-infused cold brew made with coconut cream and almond milk that will delight all types of imbibers. Lesson learned: Non-alcoholic cocktails can be even more satisfying than their liquor-heavy counterparts.
Get “Good Drinks” by Julia Bainbridge for $15.49.
“The New Craft Of The Cocktail”
To learn all about the basics of cocktail making, you’re going to want to invest in this guide by Dale DeGroff, often referred to as the king of cocktails. When the original version of the book was first released in 2002, it was considered by many to be the first real cocktail bible. This updated edition takes into account cultural updates but still includes over 500 recipes, plus the author’s thoughts on the perfect at-home bar, interesting tales about industry folks and more.
Get “The New Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale DeGroff for $18.69.
This one’s for the slightly more advanced, although it will certainly add to anyone’s bartending skills. Dave Arnold’s guide, in fact, mostly covers the chemistry behind cocktail making, explaining why certain shapes of ice work better with certain drinks, for example. Think of this as a scientific guide to drinking — an act we also happen to consider an art.
Get “Liquid Intelligence” by Dave Arnold for $26.21.
“Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails”
Expect this to be your go-to cocktail book during warmer months. Focusing on summer’s quintessential tropical tiki drinks (mostly made with rum), Shannon Mustipher offers both classic and more creative recipes, also enlisting the help of a few of her tiki expert friends to contribute some pretty awesome recipes.
Get “Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails” by Shannon Mustipher for $18.69.
“I’m Just Here For The Drinks”
Alongside Regan’s “The Joy of Mixology,” Sother Teague’s “I’m Just Here for the Drinks” is a must-have for any at-home cocktail enthusiast. Teague’s collection includes essays about the joy of drinking, over 100 recipes and insights from industry gurus. A note: The author actually owns one of the best — if not the best — bars in Manhattan, Amor y Amargo … so he obviously knows what he’s talking about.
Get “I’m Just Here for the Drinks” by Sother Teague for $15.99.
“The Drunken Botanist”
Given everyone’s devotion to all things green and the importance we place on our ecosystem, we couldn’t leave Amy Stewart’s “The Drunken Botanist” off this list. The cocktail book focuses on, well, the botany of drinks. Expect to read about all the flowers, herbs and fruits that give rise to your favorite liquor and how they all actually come to be. Of course, top-notch cocktail recipes are also included.
Get “The Drunken Botanist” by Amy Stewart for $13.89.
This is a fun one to add to your library or at-home bar. “Tequila Mockingbird” combines literature and drinking (a fantastic twosome to begin with) by presenting 65 different recipes and pairing them with specific novels. Think Vermouth the Bell Tolls, The Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose, Love in the Time of Kahlua, and Romeo and Julep, among others. Also expect a slew of drinking games to be included, which turn the book into a great party favor or host gift.
Get “Tequila Mockingbird” by Tim Federle for $7.39.
“Meehan’s Bartender Manual”
Thinking of actually opening up your own drinking den? You’ll want to invest in this book by celebrated mixologist Jim Meehan when first starting off. In addition to the plenty of cocktail recipes included, entire chapters are devoted to the importance of hospitality, the process of spirit production, bar and menu design setups and drink mixing techniques. Required reading for current and prospective bar owners, “Meehan’s Bartender Manual” covers it all.
Get “Meehan’s Bartender Manual” by Jim Meehan for $35.99.