Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined Hardcover – 1 Nov 2010
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This book is the product of much of their hard-won wisdom. On the good side, the book is a reasonably extensive how-to list for making dozens of different cocktails. Each cocktail receives its own write-up on a single page that has plenty of room for margin notes and recipe tweaks - and to their credit the authors encourage the reader to experiment. The authors know that while there are certain mechanics and rules to making good cocktails, mixing a good drink is an art that takes on the personality of the creator. And so we are encouraged to create variations off of these recipes.
Also on the good side - the book contains instructions for how to make your own mixes at home rather than buying the off-the-shelf stuff at the liquor store. This is a sterling addition to the book. Consider - if you're having a Mexican feast over at a friend's house, would you prefer it is he or she made his or own picante sauce or if instead you were handed a bottle of Pace? The same should hold true for such things as simple syrup, grenadine, and the like. True - if you take this book too seriously you're going to be spending an awful lot of time preparing your libations, but such is the price to pay for quality.
The book also provides some lessons on the bartending craft. The first few pages of the book include instructions for how to stir and shake cocktails as well as a primer on essential bar-ware. I would have liked to read about how to build the liquor portion of a home bar - what do these guys consider to be the essential building blocks of a good home bar and what should be left to the fringes? (This is one of the better tidbits that you can find in "Boozehound," for example.)
Unfortunately, "Speakeasy" is a bit on the pretentious side. The writers tell you that to properly stir a cocktail, you must keep the back of the spoon against the edge of the glass - really? Also, recipes can call for pretty ridiculous steps - such as "stir 40 times." Why 40 is a magic number is never explained. And the book is also laden with a self-satisfied tone that can be tedious after a while. It's interesting that when describing the birth of a certain drink, the authors credit some "obnoxious cocktail geeks" who entered the bar one night to challenge the bartenders - that description could equally apply to the authors themselves.
But that's fine - I don't want to hang out with these people - I just want to know their thoughts on making a good drink. And "Speakeasy" has plenty of those. Sure, there are omissions - there is not much at all in here about tequila. But let us not quibble - this is a good book that promises many happy toasts and groggy mornings.
Perfect for budding amateur bartenders, "Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined" is a quality cocktail recipe book that (mostly) hits all the right notes, with a few caveats.
Within the book, you will find a classy, smart selection of alcoholic drink recipes that you may or may not be familiar with (e.g. Manhattans, cosmopolitans, sangrias, sidecars, whiskey sours, punches, gimlets, spritzes, Bloody Marys, etc.). Besides classic cocktails, there are recipes for aperitifs, long drinks, pick-me-ups, cordials, infusions, sangrias, punches, homemade syrups and other drink accompaniments.
Most of the timeless drinks included in this book (more than eighty of them) have been reworked with a modern spin, and mostly to good effect. The reworkings are generally respectful and smart, as they honor and (usually) enhance the included classic drink recipes, rather than distort them.
The prose of the book is simple, eloquent and lovingly written (admittedly, I did find the writing to be a bit pretentious at times, but endearingly so). There are lots of intriguing historical tidbits peppered throughout the book; in fact, every recipe in the book is accompanied by a passage that includes background info and other helpful descriptive notes specific to each drink. There is also an informative section in the book that gives helpful preparation tips on how to create the "perfect" cocktail, including general mixing techniques and proper choice of tools.
There are plenty of illustrations and photos contained within the book, always a plus with recipe books of any kind. Unfortunately, my advance review copy contained poorly-printed black and white photos; I am assuming that the final text will contain higher-quality photos, preferably in color.
Also on the debit side, the organization of the book is somewhat messy. Recipes are placed within sections designated by type, but within those sections, drink recipes are confusingly placed, unnecessarily making the search for specific recipes a minor chore. An alphabetized ordering, or at least an index of some kind, would definitely be helpful. Once again, I am presuming that this is an issue which will be corrected in the final text.
That being said, if you're in the market for a classy, fun and informative drink recipe book, this is well worth snapping up. Recommended.
Old school cocktails are very much in vogue right now and I enjoy them very much. However, my local liquor store was missing several of the key ingredients for the cocktails that I wanted to try out. I would take a guess that the average consumer would have not have many of the key ingredients in stock. With that being said the drinks are creative and the few I tried were very tasty. As for as drink books go this one was very detailed and had nice pictures and the overall quality was much higher than I would have expected. My disappointment was that the ingredients were not easily available.
If you are the type of person who reads Gourment Magazine than you will love the book, however if you are the kind of person who gets their ideas from Rachel Ray magazine the Speakeasy may be out of your comfort level.