FOR THE WINO Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay — Secrets of the Sommeliers, a new book from local SF treasures (sommelier extraordinaire Rajat Parr and drink writer Jordan Mackay is the best wine book to come across my desk in awhile. Stories from a range of the world’s best somms and winemakers stand alongside insights on tasting, purchasing, storing, pairing, ordering and serving wine. Sections “Thinking Like A Sommelier” and “The Wine List” deliver a true insider’s perspective and expertise. This intelligent, understated book is a must for any wine lover, budding or educated.
FOR THE TIKI FANATIC Beachbum Berry Remixed by Jeff Berry — Whether a retro tiki fanatic or one who prefers drinks reminiscent of an island getaway, this book from modern-day master of tropical cocktails, Jeff Berry (aka Beachbum Berry), satiates. Colorful vintage photos and graphics illumine mid-century history and tiki culture. I’ve tried out a number of the recipes on friends, some from top bartenders, many classic, never-before-published or “lost” exotic drink recipes. I have not run across one yet that is less than crowd-pleasing. Remixed combines Berry’s first two books, Grog Log and Intoxica!, adding 107 recipes for one comprehensive collection.
FOR THE CONSCIENTIOUS COOK Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights: Recipes for Every Season, Mood, and Appetite by Sophie Dahl — A cookbook by a famous model is among the last places I’d look to as a cooking inspiration (I’m skeptical enough of ultra-skinny cooks like Giada). But Dahl is no typical model, having written three books and as a self-professed, avid eater. She’s the daughter of brilliant writer Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal. Her oft-discussed weight, modeling at real world sizes (like 10), convinces me she understands “voluptuous”. Her recipes may not be the most challenging on the shelf, rather they are approachable as the book’s layout is charming. Dahl she does not eat red meat: there’s plenty here for a vegetarian. Whether you’re making brown rice risotto with pumpkin or something as simple as flapjacks, Dahl’s personable approach draws you in while her seasonal recipes comfort.
FOR THE DRINK AFICIONADO Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson — Though Boozehound by Washington Post’s spirits columnist Jason Wilson contains over 50 drink recipes, it is more a study on a range of spirits, history mixed with personal experience. His journeys to distilleries around the globe play as engaging travelogue, with breakthrough moments sipping an unusual liqueur or uncovering hype around others. It’s like reading a food memoir but with drink as the backdrop and instigator. The chapter “Bitter is Bella” made me miss Italy’s fabulously bitter palate; I began craving aquavit and bacalao reading Water of Life. His stories of researching tequila in Jalisco, Mexico, or chatting with Borje Karlsson (Karlsson’s Gold Vodka) rekindle my own memories. He explores sips as far-ranging as bianco vermouth, sloe gin, Barolo Chinato and pisco. There is education here, certainly, but via a pleasurable, relaxing read. Like a fine drink, at its finish, I found myself thirsty for more.
FOR THE COCKTAILIAN Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Re-Imagined by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric – An elegant book from bartenders behind Employees Only (http://www.employeesonlynyc.com/) in NYC’s West Village, this book lists a range of recipes from classics (e.g. the Martinez) to new drinks that play like classics, such as the Provencal. We have seen compendiums of classic recipes before, but this one ups the game with thoughtful directions and NY flair. Four sections cover categories like aperitifs, punches, cordials and homemade syrups. Inspired by Prohibition-era speakeasies, these two were doing “speakeasy” long before it became a trend. As they state in the section Mastering the Perfect Cocktail: “Every Cocktail Has A Story.” Speakeasy helps you tell stories through the preparation of a drink.
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