As I tend to list my favorite cocktail as Whiskey in a Glass, it should come as no surprise that I am not really a cocktail guy. Not because I don’t like cocktails. I like them quite a bit. And not because they are too hard. I love cooking elaborate meals. No I’m not a cocktail guy, because I don’t know what I’m doing. Go beyond a Sazerac, a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned and I’m not sure what to do. There are too many possible ingredients that only seem to come in 750 mL bottles and which you use a teaspoon at a time.
This is why I was looking forward to Michael Dietsch’s new book Whiskey: A Spirited Story with 75 Classic & Original Cocktails. I need help knowing what to make, what types of ingredients I should buy and in what combinations I should use them. Eventually I might be able to get to where I can riff on my own, but for now I’m a relative noob. Plus, I loved his last book on shrubs and even made two or three of them including a Cranberry Apple Shrub that I substituted for the vermouth in a Manhattan for a while.
The first third of the book is a primer on the different types of whiskey. Everything from bourbon to scotch to Japanese whiskey is covered. There is even a separate section for Tennessee whiskey just to make Jack and George fans feel special. The next 20 pages or so are really great for the cocktail noob. Entitled “How to Make a Cocktail” it gives you an overview on equipment, technique, glasses and more.
Then you get into the nitty gritty. The part I wanted to book for. The recipes. The first night I had the book I went through and put flags on the cocktails I wanted to try. Soon I had run out of flags and had to grab a second package. I must have tabbed about half the cocktails in the book. Then it was time for a shopping list. Luckily I was able to buy just a few of ingredients to make a large number of them. Then I got down to research. If I was going to review the book, I wanted to do more than just read it.
There were cocktails in there that I’d always wanted to try, but never had, like the Vieux Carré. There were the standards that are in every book like the Manhattan, etc. But then there were ones I had never heard of as well. Things with exotic names like Algonquin, Bardstown, Lion’s Tail and Fanciulli.
One thing I liked about the book is that along with each recipe you get a little of it’s history. A little information about it. Plus, if you are a history buff like I am, a nice touch was that the recipes are organized by historical period. Feel like having a Prohibition-party? You know what to make. Feel like something modern? Turn to the back.
To say I enjoyed my research would be an understatement. My wife and I spent at least two weeks going through the book and making everything we had the ingredients for and then buying the ingredients to make some of the others. This is a book I can easily recommend to any whiskey fan looking to expand a little beyond Whiskey in a Glass.
Curious about what’s inside? Michael has graciously given permission for me to republish one of my favorite recipes in the book. I really like this one.
2 ounces of bourbon (Bulleit is suggested though I can attest that other fruity, light bourbons work as well)
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Fernet-Banca
- Fill a mixing glass 2/3 full of ice
- Add bourbon, vermouth, and Fernet-Branca, and stir 15 seconds, or until chilled and diluted.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
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