I like my copy of the Savoy Cocktail Book for its recipes, but I always wished it gave more advice on cocktail making theory and had a decent index. Recently my boyfriend and I inherited David A. Embury’s book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks from his late, wonderful martini-mixing grandfather. And it’s everything I was looking for in a cocktail book.
Embury’s style is great: conversational, funny, opinionated, and, most importantly, highly informative. The book has a hefty chapter titled “Roll Your Own” dedicated to cocktail theory, and the functions different components (base spirit, modifier, and special flavoring or coloring agents) play in drink creation. It’s a great starting point for learning to create your own drinks, with plenty of tips.
There is also a ton of info on different types of spirits, liqueurs, and other ingredients in cocktail making (some is out of date, but interesting none the less). And of course recipes. Last night I wanted to figure out something to make with Bénédictine, so I looked it up in Embury’s book and came across a drink called “the bourbon.” The cocktail was one part Bénédictine, one part Curaçao (didn’t have it, so I used some Triple Sec), two parts lemon juice, and six parts bourbon, shaken with cracked ice, and topped off with a dash of angostura bitters. It came out so balanced, it was dangerous: way too easy to drink and way too delicious.
The paperback version appears to be out of print, but you can still get it in hardback.
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, by David A. Embury, $39.95.