Sunken Treasure, Flaming Shots, Absinthe Drip: Top Booze Books

The cover jacket of "Cocktails & Amuse-Bouches, For Her & For Him" by restaurateur Daniel Boulud and bartender Xavier Herit. Photographer: Harald Gottschalk/Assouline via Bloomberg

There are all kinds of drinkers and, fortunately, all kinds of drinking books. Here’s my list for this holiday season.

The Entertainer

Wow your friends with a soon-to-be-classic cocktail from “Cocktails and Amuse-Bouches: For Her and For Him” by Daniel Boulud and Xavier Herit (Assouline, $50). Each book in the two-volume set contains recipes for 20 drinks and 10 appetizers.

Who among us females wouldn’t love a festive Strawberry and Pearls? This margarita-like cocktail is made with Herradura tequila and served with strawberry-and-Cointreau “pearls” formed in a calcium bath with the help of a magnetic agitator.

For the men -- and a tad more easily prepared -- is a Smokey Bandit with Mezcal, orange Curacao and eight drops of jalapeno juice wrested from the pepper with an extractor.

The food recipes, like Tempura Squash Blossoms and Turkish Lamb Meatballs, make from 20 to 80 hors d’oeuvres each and most don’t require special equipment. The typeface is distracting, but the books are a great gift for the ambitious host.

The Budding Bar Owner

“The PDT Cocktail Book” by Jim Meehan (Sterling Epicure, $24.95). This book is so detailed you could use it to open a franchise of its namesake East Village cocktail lounge, Please Don’t Tell. You might want to: It was recently named World’s Best Bar by industry magazine Drinks International.

Meehan, PDT’s managing partner and chef de booze, includes more than 300 drinks, the bar layout, an equipment list and a recipe for David Chang’s Momofuku Napa Cabbage Kimchi (which is served on hot dogs at the bar).

I liked Chris Gall’s illustrations, especially the Statue of Liberty holding a Manhattan garnished with brandied cherries and a well-endowed Tinker Bell overseeing an absinthe drip.

The Beer Snob

“Brewed Awakening” by Joshua M. Bernstein (Sterling Epicure, $24.95) is the story of craft beer. What makes this book exceptional is its design and attention to detail, including a dust-jacket map of lagers and ales, sidebars with labels and tasting notes and a guide to food pairings.

There’s information about special releases such as Kate the Great, Portsmouth Brewery’s Russian imperial stout (they only make 900 bottles and sell it all in one day). Home brews, seasonal brews and gluten-free brews are discussed in-depth.

There are homebrew competitions to enter, like Stone Brewing’s March Madness, Craft Beer Weeks to attend, like Alaska’s in January, and types to try, like Session lager from Full Sail Brewing Co. or Torpedo Extra IPA from Sierra Nevada. This book should become the handbook of the beer snob.

The Historian

Pour a glass of your favorite brown spirit and settle in for “Barrels and Drams: The History of Whisk(e)y in Jiggers and Shots,” edited by William M. Dowd (Sterling Epicure, $18.95).

This collection of essays introduces us to whiskey and heroes worldwide. We’re educated on what to collect, where to hide it, how to make a blend and the horror of drinking whiskey from plastic.

F. Paul Pacult tells the story of Scotsman George Smith, born in 1792, who became distiller of The Glenlivet. Peter Krass informs us that after the Civil War, Jack Daniel of Tennessee was an orphan with expansion plans.

Jim Leggett follows the voyage of Al Capone’s 100-year-old bootleg Sandy Mac Scotch as it’s dug up from the bottom of the Detroit River by a treasure hunter and makes its way home to Glasgow to be sold at auction by Christie’s.

Hit It Hard

Sometimes a shot is called for. One year, I was charged with making Jell-O shots for the Pal’s Lounge Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. They would have been beautifully layered had I read Chapter 6 in “Holiday Shots” by Lindsay Herman and Devorah Lev-Tov (Cider Mill Press, $12.95).

This book’s holiday theme makes it a great stocking stuffer, but most of the 80 recipes can be enjoyed year round -- eggnog shots excluded.

Difficulty and potency ratings are included for each slug, and there’s a chapter on flaming shots with tips like “Invest in a fire extinguisher. Please.” When dealing with a drink recently set ablaze, I use a straw.

(Catherine Smith writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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