08 June 2013

Weekend Cooking: An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl

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As some of you know, I was in New York last week attending BookExpo America (BEA), where I spent some time learning about the upcoming food and drink titles from a variety of publishing houses. I'm so excited by many of the summer and fall foodie books and can't wait to share some of my discoveries with you.

One fun little book I picked up was An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl, which is no ordinary bartender's cheat sheet. First, the book is amply and charmingly illustrated by Elizabeth Graeber. You can get a taste of her style by looking at the cover at the left and the scan I include below. I love her animal drawings, and she seems to have captured Shtuhl's engaging sense of humor.

As the subtitle, 50 Classic Cocktail Recipes, Tips, and Tales, implies, the book includes stories, history, and other information for each of the drinks. Although the cocktails are fairly no-nonsense classics (martini, bloody Mary, Tom Collins, for example), the recipes and presentation are anything but. All it takes is a look at the two-page chapter on the Long Island iced tea to make my point (click image to enlarge):

But despite the humor, Shtuhl provides quite a lot of information in this slip of a book. For example, on page 1 we learn that the structure of a classic cocktail is quite simple: strong + sweet + bitter = great cocktail. The strong is the alcohol; the sweet is sugar, a liqueur, or juice; and the bitter is, well, bitters or citrus. We also learn the origins of the cocktails, their names, and what famous people sipped them. We can even pick up some useful tips for buying bar equipment. But even here, Shtuhl is quick to point out that a good drink can be made without fancy gadgets. And, in fact, his zero bar equipment recipe is hilarious--and a bit reassuring to those of us who are minimalists.

I also enjoyed the sections on how to like different types of spirits (whiskey, tequila, gin, and so on). Included here are beginner, advanced, and expert cocktails (in taste, not execution) as well as general information about the liquor and how to use it in a drink. I thought the stories about the people behind the drinks--from the historic (George Washington) to the fictional (James Bond)--gave me a new appreciation for the liquid in my glass.

If you're looking for an easy introduction to traditional cocktails or a thoughtful Father's Day gift for your favorite home bartender, I highly recommend Orr Shtuhl's An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails.

Penguin USA / Gotham Books, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781592407958
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com


caite 6/8/13, 6:05 AM  

oh, this book has my name all over it!

Uniflame 6/8/13, 6:31 AM  

It must have been so great attending BEA and learning about all upcoming foodie books! It sounds really exiting to go there :D

Joy 6/8/13, 8:41 AM  

Fun! The illustrations are a hoot for a book aimed at adults.

Joy's Book Blog

Marg 6/8/13, 8:58 AM  

I pretty much never make myself cocktails! It sounds as though this could be a fun read for a newbie like me.

Esme 6/8/13, 9:34 AM  

This looks like a fun book and probably my speed considering I am not a fan of alcohol-I could just enjoy the illustrations.

Trish 6/8/13, 9:39 AM  

I love the sound of this even though we aren't big drinkers (I'm more likely to grab a glass of wine and hub a bottled coke). I love the excerpt you included and think this one would be a lot of fun to read!

bermudaonion 6/8/13, 9:46 AM  

I picked this book up too and can't wait to try it out.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 6/8/13, 9:54 AM  

Ok that looks fun - I want a closer look at this book.

(Diane) bookchickdi 6/8/13, 11:09 AM  

Oh my gosh, how cute is that book cover? I can't believe I missed that one.

Sandy Nawrot 6/8/13, 12:49 PM  

That is adorable. I'd say that I'd get it for my husband, but I personally think he needs to write his own cocktail book. He makes the most amazing, self-invented drinks.

Peaceful Reader 6/8/13, 2:23 PM  

Someday I would love to attend BEA! I can't wait to see other upcoming food titles you discovered. This one looks fun. I love a really well-made Long Island Ice Tea!

Laura Fabiani 6/9/13, 9:45 AM  

This would make a perfect gift for the person who loves to entertain.

Kelly 6/9/13, 9:57 AM  

What a fun book!! It would be the perfect gift for my bartender sister.

Laurie C 6/9/13, 11:22 AM  

This looks so funny and so practical at the same time! I would give it to my husband for Father's Day, but he'd immediately recognize it as one of those gifts for myself disguised as a gift for him!

Rachel 6/10/13, 9:39 AM  

Going to check out the other Weekend Cooking recipe posts right now. Need some inspiration from all these clever cooks!

Julie P. 6/10/13, 10:01 AM  

This is an adorable book and great for gift giving. Was the pink drink at the Penguin Bash from this book?

Tasha Brandstatter 6/11/13, 12:11 AM  

This looks like it could be interesting. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

Christine 6/12/13, 4:26 PM  

I LOVE illustrated cookbooks. They're so fun to read and make me feel all creative. Which is probably just what I need to mix up some fun cocktails! I'm going to check this one out. :)

Jennifer 6/12/13, 9:54 PM  

My boyfriend is very into cocktails and not so into books so I'm thinking that this one might be a perfect little gem for him and I to share. I love cocktails but I tend to lean toward the fancy fruity stuff you get at bars and restaurants. When I make my own at home, I just mix together various liquids that we have in the house. I'm thinking that mastering the classics is a good thing to do.

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