Book Cart, Drink Cart

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Book Cart, Drink Cart

Spiked Titles with a Twist

Yes, it’s true: the craft cocktail revolution is over and won and people can have complex and balanced stiff drinks wherever they find themselves.  And yet, this continuing, decade-long interest in fancy drinks speaks to the intersection of history, locavorism, performance art, craftsmanship, and science.  There’s much to write about, an alchemy that puts books on the drink cart and drinks on the book cart.  (Disclaimer: all recipes featured herein are for the 21-and-over set.)

"Every drink starts with a great plant."  So writes Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks (2013), a cool book about the chemistry and botany that turn plants into alcohol and flavoring agents.  Readers will discover the horticulture of drinking: how the plants are grown and harvested, as well as how the chemical components are extracted and used.  Stewart lists the plants by type: grains, fruit, flowers, and herbs, so readers explore plants from wheat and rye to bison grass and savanna bamboo.  The Drunken Botanist includes recipes and techniques for infusing at home.

Bartender Matthew Biancaniello works at Los Angeles's Library Bar and takes a farmer's market approach to mixology in his book Eat Your Drink: Culinary Cocktails (2016).  Complex recipes are organized by course, so an adventurous reader can create a full meal in a glass.  There are lots of savory drink options for the liquid chef, including an oyster cocktail.  All the drinks featured are perhaps garnished a bit too well, but Biancaniello's maximalist approach has a solid basis - he says that a successful drink must make four impressions: name, look, smell, and taste.

Gregory and Nicole Priebe wrote the incredibly well-researched and fascinating local history book Forgotten Maryland Cocktails: A History of Drinking in the Free State (2015).  This is clearly a project of love that fully conveys that "drinking in Maryland is about a lot more than 'Kosher Bohs' and hubcap margaritas."  Forgotten Maryland Cocktails takes readers from colonial times, through the "dark age of the cocktail" in the late twentieth century, to the modern craft cocktail renaissance. Full-color illustrations show the work of local mixologists as well as tips to locate bars that serve Maryland-born drinks like the Southside and the Diamondback.  Historical Maryland recipes are included, like Edgar Allen Poe's family eggnog and "Jane Grant Howard's Apple Toddy" from 1873. 

Philip Greene, a founding member of the Museum of the American Cocktail, is a DC-area author who wrote To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion (2012).  Greene is both a cocktail historian and a Hemingway aficionado, and readers benefit from his deep well of expertise.  The book is arranged alphabetically, starting with the legendary green absinthe.  Greene notes that Hemingway is a great subject for this project because his depictions of drinks and drinking are highly specific and always served a purpose in plot or characterization.  
Each substantial entry describes how a beverage fits into Hemingway's work, recipes for home bartenders, and images of locations, advertisements, and other cultural artifacts.   

Finally, I want to mention two books that are fun to browse: Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist (2013) by Tim Federle and Cocktails of the Movies: An Illustrated Guide to Cinematic Mixology (2015) by Will Francis and Stacey Marsh.  Cocktails of the Movies explores the idea that drinks that are depicted in movies hold a lot of significance.  They say something about the time period, class, and personalities of the characters that drink them.  Notable entries include the raw-egg-and-Tabasco-infused Amber Moon, drunk by John Gielgud in 1974's adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express and (of course!) The Dude's signature White Russian from The Big Lebowski (1998).  Tequila Mockingbird is a charming, light gift book filled with recipes for pun-named drinks based on literature.  There are savory drinks like the "Prawn Quixote", sweet drinks like "Ethan Pom," dessert drinks like "Love in the Time of Kahlua," and literary bar bites like the "Fear of Frying" kale chips.  Surreal, sepia illustrations incorporate serving suggestions into representative scenes from the stories.