The Best Cocktail Books – In Our Opinion

Jordan and Alex love cocktails – it’s sorta the reason they started this podcast. Not only do they spend their fair share of time drinking cocktails, but also reading other blogs, magazines, articles, and cocktail books. Below are some of their favorite cocktail books, some of the best cocktail books in their opinion, and likely to be a favorite of any home bartender.

The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft by Gary Regan

This book has a great selection of cocktails, but that isn’t where it provides its greatest value. The Joy of Mixology is a must have for any amateur bartender because of its organization. It presents cocktails in drink families, building a foundational knowledge and expanding on it by presenting drinks with minor changes in base alcohol, mixers, or added components. It has helped me remember classic cocktail recipes, learn improved cocktails, and provided the blueprint to tinker with when exploring original drinks. – Jordan

The Dictionary of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani

While not exclusively a cocktail book, the insights this book provides on classic American cocktails are as thorough as they are interesting. The Dictionary of American Food and Drink is a dictionary in form and format, with a number of cross-references within the book to lead to ongoing learning and entertainment. Perhaps this is the joy of a cocktail nerd, but it’s fun to see where the rabbit hole of a book like this goes. The details are phenomenal, and it keeps well on a shelf for someone who really enjoys both home bartending and cooking. – Alex

The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock

The Savoy Cocktail Book is a great resource for making great drinks the way that having the valedictorian’s class notes would be for getting an “A” on a test. It gives you a lot of great information but doesn’t provide context, a glossary, or much organization. It really is the equivalent of grabbing your cocktail notepad and trying to find that obscure drink that you made over and over again for a week, six months ago, and haven’t made it since. You’ll earmark the pages with the drinks you love, and you’ll flip pages to find something new, but you’ll never know exactly where to look for the recipe you’re looking for… so you’re guaranteed to stumble across a new favorite. – Jordan

The Year of Drinking Adventurously: 52 Ways to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone by Jeff Cioletti

Perhaps I’m biased because he’s been on the show and because he’s quickly become a friend, but this really is one of my favorite cocktail books. Jeff’s writing is always interesting and he really lays out a way to be adventurous in drinking. The amazing thing about this book, in addition to bottle recommendations, is how you can pick it up at any time and read a random chapter about something new you found in your favorite liquor store. There’s nothing else like it! It’s one of the first cocktail books I pick up when I’m looking for inspiration for a drink, and one I will look to for years to come. – Alex

Imbibe! by David Wondrich

Imbibe! is essential for any cocktail enthusiast not satisfied by knowing only how to make a drink, but who also wants to know how that drinks fits in the historical context of cocktails and bartending– or at least the ones that somehow relate back to the legendary American bartender, Jerry Thomas. Wondrich, himself, is probably the foremost historian in all things bartending and cocktails of our time, and this book in nothing short of a modern-day classic. To be fair John Hodgman reviewed the book best when he said, “David Wondrich is a such an envy-producing polymath that it drives me to drink. A brilliant historian, beautiful writer, former punk rocker, absinthe-maker, mixological marvel, and perhaps, yes, even WIZARD. Plus he can grow an amazing beard. There are few people in the world I rely on to be so authoritative and so entertaining all at once and to mix an amazing cocktail at the same time. And those few people are DAVID WONDRICH.” – Jordan

Well, I am not sure I can truly add to the praise paid to this amazing book, which really could be considered the first “great book” of the modern cocktail movement. What I mean by that is not that there aren’t wonderful and interesting books before and after this book; what I mean is that to truly be able to mark the point at which craft cocktails reached their exponential growth point—the point at which they were rising but really took off—you could just look into this book. A modern classic, and an essential for every home bartender. – Alex

Savory Cocktails by Greg Henry

If you’ve listened to the show, then it isn’t any secret to you that I am a fan of brown, boozy, and bitter cocktails. Savory Cocktails provides a great resource to expand your savory palate beyond the well-known classics into more obscure and rare flavors and ingredients. For beginners, breaking down savory flavors can sometimes be difficult. This book helps by categorizing drinks by predominant flavors–and explaining them! That said, this book is extra credit for folks looking to explore their palates and to spend some time making their own syrups, infusions, and bitters–you’re not going to be able to find many of these ingredients commercially available… you’re going to have to work for it. – Jordan

The 12 Bottle Bar: A Dozen Bottles. Hundreds of Cocktails. A New Way to Drink By David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

This is probably the first book I’d recommend to a beginning home bartender, and even one I’d recommend to more experienced home bartenders. The idea itself—of how to build a bar at home—is remarkable, and is so often overlooked. To be a great home bartender is to be a great host who makes great drinks, and few books really focus on how to build a home bar to please almost every palette. – Alex

Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold

Building on the foundation built by Joy of Mixology, Liquid Intelligence takes it a step beyond recipes and patterns and delves into the knowledge of flavor and balance. This is the lab geek’s cocktail book. We talk on the podcast about doing our R&D, or “research and drinking.” This book builds exactly that idea–flavors, technique, and helpful tips are more quickly copied from someone else than adopted from personal trial and error. We certainly encourage you to try, test, and improve on your own, but there is no harm in learning from others that have been there before. – Jordan

Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich

Of course, my top books includes another book by Wondrich, who is truly my cocktail writing idol. And I’m not just picking it for that reason, but the book stands alone as one of the books that really helped me to step up my home bartending game. In this book, Wondrich lays out the history of punch, and how the flowing bowl really helped mixology (long before that was a term) take off. The recipes he includes are favorites of mine for batching for parties, and the results are phenomenal. I think this book challenged me more as a home bartender than any other book, and I think it was a big inspiration for me to start the podcast. So hopefully others see that, in the lessons ranging from how to properly make oleo-saccharum to the importance of ingredient selection, this is one of the finest books for a more advanced party host to own. – Alex

Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage by Michael Veach

Not a cocktail book. Sometimes we still like our liquor neat or on the rocks, and bourbon is my liquor of choice. In Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, Veach provides a thorough, yet digestible, history of America’s native spirit. – Jordan

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

A little-known fact about me is that I once worked at a garden and have always loved being surrounded by greenery. This book combines two of my great loves—plants and spirits—and tells the story of the ingredients that make such beautiful concoctions. Digging into the details and reading more like an encyclopedia, Stewart is sure to keep some humor in the mix, making the book enjoyable from beginning to end (and suitable for jumping around as you please). If you’re interested in learning more about producing your own products (such as infusions or bitters), this is a great way to build your knowledge. – Alex


Have any favorites that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!