This has been sitting on my desk for far too long, as I have repeatedly tried to figure out a logical place in which to discuss it. You see, most of my cocktail book reviews go into trade journals like Nation’s Restaurant News to be read by people already “behind the stick,” as my mixologist friends like to describe life working the bar. And for a couple of reasons, The Modern Mixologist doesn’t seem to me to quite fit within that space.
First off, there’s the fact that my editor at NRN says I’ve been talking about books a bit too much lately, which may be true. But more significantly, I don’t really see this as a book for established mixologists. Aspiring one, certainly, for reasons that will become clear below, but not necessarily those already in the biz.
(I should note that a lot of people in the bar business will be buying this book anyway, because Tony is a definite icon in such circles. And well they should, too.)
The Modern Mixologist is a bit of an enigma in cocktail books in that it is: a) fiercely personal; b) well-suited to the newbie cocktail aficionados; and c) a recipe book containing some rather advanced drinks, including ones made with relatively obscure spirits like arak and others that call for home-made liqueurs and infused spirits. As such, it slots neatly into neither the “bar basics” category, like the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, nor the “drink ‘n’ learn” class, like Dale DeGroff’s excellent The Essential Cocktail.
So what do I make of it, you ask? Well, after pouring over the book’s easy-to-follow recipes and gorgeous photography — cocktail porn is fast becoming as much an art as food porn has been for some time! — I have reached two conclusions. First, if, like the IT genius who helps me out from time to time, you believe that the ability to shake a proper cocktail can be a gateway to the fairer sex, then you should definitely seek out this book and read and reread the first 83 pages. If there exists a better, more concise and definitive primer to mixology, I have not yet seen it.
And two, in this lovely hardbound edition we have a cocktail book that may be more than simply referenced, but read from cover to cover. To each bit of advice, each innovative recipe, each admonition, Tony has added a usually highly entertaining story, some quite short and others more embellished, but each a worthy read on its own. All of which makes The Modern Mixologist an ideal book for the novice or advanced cocktail consumer. And yes, it does contain a recipe for a Negroni, made with Anchor Distilling’s Junipero Gin.