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The 12 most recommended cocktail books

Never stop learning, that is what the Bols Bartending Academy is all about. The great thing about the profession of bartending is that the bartending and cocktail world is always developing and on the move. We shouldn't forget that the second golden age of bartending has only started 20 years ago, and we learn every day.

New spirits, new techniques, new drinks, new tools and new insights are shared on a daily basis on different blogs, social media channels, in seminars and in books. To be able to ride the tour de France, you need to learn how to ride a bike first. In this blog we take you all the way from your first bike to that professional tour bike 😉. In other words, these are our 12 recommendations for must-read books about bartending. Starting from the basics and ending with the more advanced reading material. 

1. Difford's guide to Cocktails - Simon Difford

The Difford's guide has been around for many many years and many bartender got inspired and enthusiast about cocktails by browsing through Simon Difford's cocktail guide. Over 5000 cocktail recipes in this impressive and massive cocktail book. If you want to learn how to make some of these cocktails, our One Day Bartending course covers many of them. 

2. The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks - David A. Embury (out of print)

Unfortunately, this book is not printed anymore. This classic from 1948 is a definitive book on mixology theory, written by a non-bartender! A great read...if you can get your hands on one! 

3. The Joy of Mixology - Gary Regan

Gary Regan was there at the beginning of the second golden age of the cocktail. His book, The Joy of Mixology changed a lot of bartenders' lives. This book is about more than cocktails, it is about the art of bartending! The move from a sweet and sour mix that was mainly used in the 80's and 90's, to fresh citrus juice and fresh ingredients is partly sparked by this book and Dale DeGroff's masterpiece, Craft of the Cocktail. Many of these fundamental bartending skills are taught in our Advanced Bartending course

4. The Bartender's Guide - Jerry Thomas

Such a great book to read. Why? Well, this is the oldest cocktail book we know to exist, published in 1862. It is the first bartender's guide ever, and it contains original recipes that we still use in our bars today. You might not be able to recreate all drinks due to products that are not produced anymore, and some of the recipes might seem a bit outdated, but if you want to understand the DNA of cocktails, you have to read this book!

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5. Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails - Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh

Are you interested in classic cocktails and some very interesting almost forgotten cocktails? Then this book is a must-have. Ted Haigh is almost single-handedly responsible for bringing back forgotten cocktails such as the alamagoozlum, the last word, and the corpse reviver no.2. This in-depth exploration of extinct and extant liquors and obscure cocktails and their mixology should be part of your cocktail book collection.

6. Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book - A.S Crockett

Another great book on classic cocktails. Journalist and cultural historian Albert Stevens Crockett recorded the classic, old-school cocktails of American bartending, with drinks based largely around vermouth and bitters. With vermouth and bitters getting more and more trendy, this book is worth reading.

7. Imbibe – David Wondrich

Another book that changed the face of bartending at the beginning of the 21st century. In 2006, historian David Wondrich released this iconic book about Jerry Thomas. Before this book, bartenders were making 80's cocktails, mojito's, caipirinhas, and lots of cosmopolitan. Then David Wondrich taught us that there has been a man called Jerry Thomas that wrote the first cocktail book we know of in 1862. It was David Wondrich that taught us the classics, re-introduced the use of bitters in cocktails and made us realize there was a world before the Sex on the Beach. It is interesting to realize that before Wondrich's book Imbibe, there were no orange bitters on the market. It was this book that brought us back to the core of bartending.

8. Bitters, a spirited history of a classic cure - Brad Thomas Parsons

To follow the great book of David Wondrich, this book about cocktail bitters is a must-have for bartenders interested in classic cocktails and the use of cocktail bitters. Brad Thomas Parsons wrote a great snapshot of cocktail bitters, bars and bartender's appreciation of them. A comprehensive coverage of the subject.

9. Punch - David Wondrich

This book focuses on one of the oldest mixed drinks categories we know, the punch. We have not put this earlier in our list, since this historical book is more about the background and development of the Punch, than about recipes and techniques. It is an easy-to-read book though in Dave's inimitable style. After reading this book, you will understand mixed drinks and their development even better. 

10. The Gentleman's Companion or Jigger, Beaker & Glass; Drinking Around The World - Charles H. Baker

A legendary book by a legendary man, the globetrotting Baker combed the world in the late 1940s and 1950s, returning with exotic recipes from all corners of the globe and a wealth of interesting little stories and drinks from every trip he made.

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11. The drunken botanist - Amy Stewart

Now that we have read all these amazing books about the classic cocktails, cocktail recipes and their history, we are slowly stirring away from cocktail focused book and we are focusing more on ingredients. Amy Stewart wrote an impressively detailed collection of back-stories and explanations about the botanical origins of many of the drinks we take for granted. With the knowledge you gain by reading this book, you can start twisting those classics!

12. Liquid Intelligence – Dave Arnold

This is a book for the true mixologist. A must-read for anyone that wants to look beyond the recipe and really try to understand the principles behind things like dilution, shaking vs stirring, acidity and molecular mixology. We put this book at the end of your reading journey, we definitely don't recommend reading this book when you start your bartending career. If you want to put what you have read in liquid intelligence to action, take a look at our Master Bartender course where many of the techniques and ingredients in Dave Arnolds book will be covered. 

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