Simon Difford apparently carved out a niche for himself, while working in the UK as a bartender, by writing about cocktails and mixology - his magazines became popular enough to make the jump to hardcover. Kudos. Would that more people had similar success in pursuing their personal dreams and careers.
This is actually a pretty good book on cocktails.
· INTRO: This book has a helpful introductory chapter up front on bartending basics, which covers the various types of mixing, glassware, and it comes with plenty of good procedural photos to help beginners.
· FRUIT: There's also a helpful section in back on how to process and use various fruits and herbs.
· PHOTOGRAPHY: Love it, or hate it, but this book is jam packed with photos of all 1,500 drinks included in the book.
· RECIPES: The drink recipes are simply laid out, and easy to follow, and some even include notes on origins.
· BRANDS: I dislike bartending books that insist on particular brands for every single liquor in a given drink - and it's especially unnecessary for largely interchangeable bulk ingredients like vodka and gin. In real life, the majority of drinks have no specific brand loyalty in the booze they call for - except in the case of unique liqueurs, cordials and mixers that have specific unique flavors and colors that are integral to the recipe. The author could, and should, have made his recipes more non-brand-specific ... but he obviously chose otherwise for fiscal reasons, due to fiscal corporate sponsorship.
· PHOTOS: The photos of glassware up front are nice, but are not carefully to scale. For instance - the 9 oz rocks glass on pg.11 looks like it holds over 2x as much as the 11 oz old fashioned glass on the same page ... which is clearly not the case. Duh.
· BLOAT: For me, this book has a bit too much empty white space, and too many photos. The result is an oversize format suitable for coffee tables, rather than real bar use. "Mr. Bostons" is an example of a book that goes to the opposite extreme, and is designed for compact use by professional bartenders. I can empathize with the latter because I've worked as a bartender.
· NARROW FOCUS: The author focuses entirely on cocktails, and (if I recall) largely ignores most mixers, blenders and blended drinks (a subject unto themselves, granted), and neither does he include adequate explanatory discussion of the various liquors used - where they originated, how they're made, what they taste like, why and how they're used, etc. For instance, you'll find a recipe for a "Rusty Nail" (Blended Scotch and Drambuie), but no discussion about Scotch in general or how to use a speed gun & a speed pourer to efficiently make a 2-handed scotch and ginger ... and why you should use blended scotch for it, rather than grabbing the nearest handy single malt (oh, the horror at the thought of someone making a bowmore and ginger). Ask any bartender and they'll tell you they make 20+ scotch+mixer drinks for every rusty nail they get asked for.
· WHO CARES: The book is also bloated with a lot of new-fangled recipes by the author himself. Sure, some of them look like they taste very good, but they're curiosities at best that few will order, and most readers are unlikely to ever make them in their lifetime. I'm being realistic, not cynical here. Most bartenders barely use 50-100 recipes with any degree of regularity, much less 1,500. In my opinion, the author could have devoted less room to his own nouveau creations, and more room to including classics he omitted. For instance - pousse cafe was omitted. It's not something a sane person would ever order, nor do most bartenders ever get asked for one at any point in their career ... but it's noteworthy for being the drink with the most layers of any layered drink in print, and thus it's a 'conversation' recipe. It's the Mount Everest of layered drinks. No dice.
· RATINGS: The author wasted a lot of space giving personal (and subjective) ratings for every drink in the book ... space that could have been better used by providing more material. When it comes to cocktails, the only opinions that count are the opinions of those who order the drinks and pay the tab ... not the author of the book.
· TOOLS: For a book about cocktails written by a bartender, I was also surprised to see virtually no space devoted on how to set up a practical home bar, for use for parties of say 40+ people : nothing about a speed rack, nothing about party planning (i.e., what mixers and liquors to stock, and how much, and how to manage rental glassware), nothing about more efficient setups for bulk serving ice. There's also not much information on how to setup for professional bartending - like how to navigate your way around a speed gun. Nadda.
All in all, it's still a good book, despite its flaws, biases and limitations. If all you're looking for is an illustrated compendium of cocktails, this is the book for you.