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Cocktails with Bompas and Parr Hardcover – 2 Sep 2011
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"[Cocktails with Bompas & Parr] will make you smart, able to comprehend the cocktail long before you reach for a shaker, and primed to mix a fine drink once you do." --"The New York Times"
"The ultimate guide to some show stopping tricks and fascinating concoctions." --"Chilled Magazine "
"This is a delightful to read book, and is a wonderful inexpensive education in creating a perfect party with intriguing food and paired cocktails, with easy to follow instructions and great photo art." -- Monsters and Critics.com
"Possibly my favorite book of the year...another essential bar book that will appeal to everyone." -- About.com Cocktails
About the Author
Since founding their company in 2007 Bompas & Parr have flooded a Grade-I listed building with four tonnes of alcoholic punch, created a breathable cloud of gin and tonic and charted the complete history of food. Blurring the boundaries between art and food they have exhibited at the Barbican, SFMOMA and Salone Del Mobile, designed jellies with some of the world's leading architects and invented the world's first flavour changing chewing gum. They have featured on TV shows around the world and regularly in the national and international press.
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As one would expect, the vast bulk of the book is made up of recipes. This is organised fairly logically, beginning with variants of the tried-and-tested cocktails which have stood the test of time, including sections on cocktails made of Gin, Whisky, Rum, Vodka, Tequila, Brandy and Champagne. Each of these sections has many of the favourites, so in the Gin section we see a classic Martini, Gin and Tonic, Negroni, Pink Gin and a Gimlet. This pattern is repeated thoughout this section of the book.
The next section of the book details some of B&P's favourites. This section is especially intriging since it contains a recipe for an ether cocktail, something very popular with the English occultist Aleister Crowley in the 1920s and 1930s. I didnt actually realise that ether is still legal (but hard to obtain) in the UK, sadly the (otherwise comprehensive) list of sources in the back doesnt give a source for ether so it is down to my making internet searches in order to source that essential ingredient. Absinthe is covered though in enough detail to enable the dedicated Bohemian to chase the Green Fairy with a reasonably high expectation of success.
The next section looks at some of more obscure (and expensive to made) recipes including the Royal Usquebaugh which is described as "blisteringly expensive" in B&P's own words. I wont of course reproduce the recipe, but it is basically an exotic mulled cognac mixed with a sweet white wine containing gold leaf. One of the most unusual ingredients here is ambergris which is basically whale vomit. My girlfriend has a bottle of the essential oil of ambergris and it has an unusally heady aroma; I am sure adding a lot to an exotic drink. Sadly I am not allowed to use this in my pursuit of the ultimate drink.
The next section details punches and party drinks and some of these are even non-alcoholic although the majority do contain some booze which is naturally the proper way to do things. Remember that a bottle of wine is the size it is as the correct amount for an adult to drink in the evening (based upon my own research) and Paracelsus (who gave us the word "alcohol") viewed wine as a tonic. the French Paradox shows that medical opinion does not know everything about food and drink although of course people should all drink responsibly.
The book includes several other important sections; that of hangover cures, all of which are of the "hair of the dog" variety; speaking from experience hair-of-the-dog is the best way to remove a nasty although only on weekends of course! The next section discussed glasses and techniques such as how to make a foam, how to infuse flavour into booze etc. Some of these techniques touch on molecular mixology and will be of interest to the scientific bartender* mixologist* boozer* (* delete as approporate). Finally there is a section on snacks which are of prime importance after a few drinks.
The book is well researched and entertainingly written, touching on some interesting historical drink-related anecdotes such as "Pickled Nelson" and Mrs Beaton's endorsement of giving alcoholic punch to children. This book is definitely a 90% proof quality liquer that is full of great recipes and ideas. Highly recommended.
Bompass and Parr's selection of cocktails is an unusual and personal one. Rubbing shoulders with old favourites and bar standards (such as Mojitos, Pink Gins, French 75s and Margaritas) there are more eccentric offerings - homemade Buckfast tonic, a cocktail that uses ambergris and alcoholic drinks that our forebears recommended for children. Some of these less usual additions to the cocktail repertoire are definite winners - the Poor Man's Champagne Cocktail is an excellent cider variation on a standard, whilst the Futurist cocktail is one I look forward to trying.
Rather than simply listing every type of cocktail by ingredient, as many cocktail books do, Bompass and Parr start by telling us about different styles (sours, Martinis (including Manhattans and the like), old fashioneds, punches and highballs). It is a much more useful way of thinking about drinks - helping us to see how the drinks work, regardless of the alcohol involved, and encouraging the amateur mixer to think more freely about their own variations.
It is beautifully and stylishly put together. Too many cocktail books tend towards either the dull or an image of slightly naff 80s inspired cocktail bars. This does neither. Glossy photographs with a hint of old world opulence illustrate the drinks - from pheasants beside drinks to the authors in some disheveled takes on white tie evening wear - to the odd and fun - a false eye floats in a Sazerac.
Few books kick off with the authors top ten booze related stories from history (the London Beer flood of 1814 takes top spot) and that is a shame. Few cocktails guides split up their recipes into categories that include 'Our Favourites' or explain so fully or wittily why vodka cocktails might be looked down on by serious mixologists.
It is an essential part of what makes this book worth recommending, however, that this one does: it has in abundance what too few cocktail books have, a sense of fun.
I definitely learnt a lot more about techniques such as foaming from this book, and I may get around to trying a few of the more accessible recipes, but a lot of the text seems to be filled with the boys showing off about their past adventures. It just reminds me of being back at university when one person just talks about old parties you weren't at, and what great quantities of alcohol they consumed.
I just want to say to Bompass and Parr: "I don't care about the parties you've organised or how much alcohol you served, I just want a really fantastic recipe for a white lady". They didn't satisfy my needs.
Still, all that said, I'd much rather have this than your standard '100 Classic Cocktails' books.
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