A Look at Fall 2015’s Best Drink Books

From the newly updated Oxford Companion to Wine to cocktail books from The NoMad and The Dead Rabbit, behold the best drink books the fall/winter 2015 season has to offer.

The year 2014 felt like a massive season for drinks books of all stripes and inclinations, from Death & Co.’s massive collection of more than 500 “modern classic” recipes to Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence to Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book to Robert Simonson’s The Old-Fashioned to our very own Talia Baiocchi’s Sherry and so many more. At first glance, 2015, particularly this fall/winter season, appeared to be catching the publishing community exhaling from last year’s big uphill push—but on closer inspection, it may prove to be something of a sleeper. From a cocktail book hidden within a cookbook from one of the most esteemed hotel bars in the world to a newly updated Oxford Companion to Wine, here is a list of this season’s most exciting books, compiled by our editors.




oxford companion to wine

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding
Oxford University Press | Oct. 1
A new Oxford is out, assembled by Robinson, Harding and an army of contributors. Given the title’s canonical status, the real question is: In this era of instant information, is it still canonical enough? The answer is yes, happily, with all the basics covered but also a good amount of new, current detail, perhaps aided by the team’s epic recent work on Wine Grapes. What it lacks in romance—Oxford was never about that—it makes up for in detail. [Purchase]


champagne guide

Champagne Guide 2016-2017

Tyson Stelzer
Hardie Grant | Nov. 3
Stelzer’s effort has become a nearly annual endeavor, and though it doesn’t exactly need the frequent refreshes, it finds the right balance—neither ignoring the basics of Champagne nor lingering in the shallows. Small growers are treated with as much reverence as large houses, even if Stelzer endorses a perhaps too-rosy view of the relations between the two. If his selection of producers is imperfect (Vazart-Coquart but not Cédric Bouchard?), it is thoughtful, and detailed. Crucially, he portrays the region as it currently is—a place of individuality—rather than perpetuating corporate-spun fairy tales of the past. [Purchase]



Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines

Suzanne Mustacich
Henry Holt | Nov. 10
China’s thirst for wine is often discussed in vague terms, but Mustacich, who contributes to Wine Spectator, among others, serves up exceptional detail about Bordeaux’s efforts to engage (and build) the newborn Chinese wine market. The title reveals just half the story, though, because the Chinese are equally ambitious in trying to plant vineyards and make wine themselves. The two cultures—both opportunistic—seem tailored for one another, and threaded into the detail is a precise and cutting portrait of Bordeaux’s ruthless economics. [Purchase]




nomad cocktail book

The NoMad Cocktail Book

Leo Robitschek
Ten Speed Press | Oct. 13
Tucked into a hidden back compartment within Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s The NoMad Cookbook, head bartender Leo Robitschek’s cocktail book is a tiny primer to the place that has ushered in a new era of the grand hotel bar—and whose drinks, in form and presentation, have made it one of the most innovative cocktail programs in New York. Structured much like the bar’s menu—Apéritifs, Light Spirited, Dark Spirited, Classics and Soft Cocktails—it includes roughly 200 drinks and covers the requisite guide to tools and technique. Look closely, however, and you’ll find the many tricks and valuable idiosyncrasies that offer an introduction to the studied attention to detail that has allowed the NoMad Bar to function with unmatched consistency at crushing volume. Though a great majority of the recipes are anything but simple, there are enough drinks, coded by flavor profile, to make this a functional reference for the home bartender and upper-level nerd alike. [Purchase]


the dead rabbit cocktail book

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual: Secret Recipes and Barroom Tales from Two Belfast Boys Who Conquered the Cocktail World

Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry and Ben Schaffer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | Oct. 13
While fans of The Dead Rabbit may long for a book that better reflects the aesthetic sensibilities of the bar and its worn leather-bound compendium of recipes, the meat of the book—the recipes—is every bit as impressive as one might hope. Original in its quest to document, update and riff on history’s forgotten B-side classics—particularly punches of all walks, along with “bishops,” “possets,” “nogs” and “flips”—the book carves out new territory backed up by extensive research. In the expert hands of McGarry and Muldoon, drinks that conjure a pre-historic era for the cocktail have become new again. [Purchase]


devil's acre cocktail book

Drinking the Devil’s Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and her Cocktails

Duggan McDonnell
Chronicle Books | Sept. 15
There are few cities that have been as influential as San Francisco when it comes to the craft of the cocktail, yet it has long been overshadowed by New York’s star on the Walk of Fame. No more. Duggan McDonnell’s Devil’s Acre is a compelling look at San Francisco as a drinking city, from the days of the Gold Rush and the seedy degenerate Barbary Coast taverns—and the Devil’s Acre, the debauched bar-filled block for which the book is named—to the shiny cocktail bars of today’s city. From Pisco Punch to the rise of the “west-coast style” of cocktailing, McDonnell offers a well-researched, well-written account of the culture and original drinks that were born from one of the greatest drinking cities the world has ever known. [Purchase]


divided spirits book tequila mezcal

Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production

Sarah Bowen
University of California Press | Sept. 6
This is far from a breezy read, and that’s exactly the point. In today’s spirits landscape, where a new celebrity tequila brand seems to launch each month and mezcal has gone viral, it’s rare that we pause to consider the consequences of our adoration. Mexico’s two most storied spirits and the people who make them have, more often than not, been on the losing side of growth—routinely at the mercy of economic structures and corporate interests that do not favor them or their traditions. Divided Spirits offers an exhaustively researched, academic look at the forces that threaten these two great spirits that should be essential reading for anyone with an interest in protecting all that makes them great. [Purchase]


scratch and sniff

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All

Richard Betts, Crystal English Sacca and Wendy MacNaughton
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | Oct. 6
Coming on the heels of the bestselling The Scratch and Sniff Guide to Wine, Richard Betts’ sophomore effort is arguably more useful for the non-beginner crowd. This is largely thanks to a more functional revision of the flavor wheel at the back of the book, which also doubles as an easy-to-navigate buying guide. As before, Betts strikes the inclusive balance of straight-up fun and smarts in a package that makes for a no-brainer gift for the brown-spirit inclined. [Purchase]


cuban cocktail book

Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern Drinks

Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger and Alla Lapuschik
Sterling Epicure | Oct. 6
Part love letter to Cuba, part bar memoir, this timely book from the team behind East Village bar Cienfuegos is a repository of rum drinks with a special emphasis on punches. Following the country’s complex history, recipes range from colonial flips to post-modern tiki drinks, with plenty of daiquiris to boot. [Purchase]





The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution

Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith
Ten Speed Press | Sept. 22
In tracing the history of beer, Back East Brewing Company’s Mike Smith and author Jonathan Hennessey do a convincing job of linking it to every important development in human history, from the dawn of agriculture through both world wars. The graphic format proves ideal for distilling centuries’ worth of detail into one easy-to-digest package. [Purchase]


beer bites book

Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Brew Lovers

Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker
Chronicle Books | Oct. 13
More than just a cocktail-party cookbook (though recipes like tamarind-fish sauce wings and fried burrata sandwiches would be welcome in any of our homes), brewer and beer writer Christian DeBenedetti’s Beer Bites provides a brilliantly useful guide to the many flavor profiles of the world of craft beer. [Purchase]