The Best Drink Books of Fall/Winter 2016

From an expert look at the cocktail renaissance to the definitive guide to amari to the first and only book from the late Sasha Petraske, here are the best new drink books being released this fall and winter.

This season offers up a wealth of drink-focused books covering a broad swath of categories, from history to recipes to psychology to technical guides.

This kind of diversity in the drink category is not exactly new. But what sets the season apart is the number of new books that already feel iconic—from Robert Simonson’s expertly reported narrative history of the cocktail renaissance, A Proper Drink, to the late Sasha Petraske’s posthumous Regarding Cocktails, which is as much about the man as it is about his contributions to the cocktail world.

There are others, too, like Brad Thomas Parsons’ stunningly photographed Amaro and Jancis Robinson’s The 24-Hour Wine Expert that help demystify two worlds that are famously opaque, giving us two works that are sure to be bookshelf staples in the process. And this is to say nothing of a handful of other books that, taken together, make for one of the most substantial seasons for drink publishing in years.

Here, without further ado, our picks for the best books of the coming seasons:


A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World
by Robert Simonson

Perhaps the best narrative book on cocktails and their attendant culture since William Grimes’ forward-looking 1993 book, Straight Up or On the Rocks, this is firstly, drinks aside, simply a great story—an exhaustively researched tale of how we got from sour mix to the neo-speakeasy, all propped up by Simonson’s obvious narrative gifts. It’s also true to its reporting, relying on the facts and seeking the truth about a story of rebirth that has been told in myriad ways since we attached the word “renaissance” to “cocktail.” Simonson brings to life the characters—and they are characters—and circumstances that yanked our drinks out of the dark ages, allowing us to properly give thanks. This is a tale relevant to anyone who’s enjoyed a perfect Manhattan in their neighborhood bar and wondered, even casually, how it got there. September 20, $27 | Ten Speed Press [Buy]

Regarding Cocktails
by Sasha Petraske with Georgette Moger-Petraske

What began as a cocktail book became a portrait of a tremendous, singular human being who just so happened to change the way we drink forever. The late Petraske never had a chance to finish his long-awaited cocktail book, but his friends and the countless people he mentored and influenced—alongside his wife, Georgette Moger-Petraske—finished what he started, turning the collection of 85 recipes into a deeply personal tribute. A perfectionist, a gentleman and a man with an idiosyncratic sense of humor (see his short essay, “Regarding Cocktails for Your Cat,” alongside many other welcome asides, in the back of the book for proof), Petraske’s legacy as both visionary and friend is on full display here.

The recipes, organized by just fives styles of cocktail (Petraske believed all cocktails were born from one of the five), are not accompanied by photos, but instead are represented by a series of symbols, which are layered together to help the reader understand the cocktail by its parts. This approach highlights the incredible simplicity of the drinks Petraske both made and inspired. Stripping away the baroque proclivities of modern cocktailing, what Petraske has given us is the true foundation of modern cocktails, reminding us that they are not just for professional use—they are for the rest of as well. October 31, $29.95 | Phaidon [Buy]

Amaro Fall 2016 Drink Books

Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs
by Brad Thomas Parsons

The man who might as well change his middle name to “bitter” is back with a follow-up to his award-winning Bitters. Beautifully photographed by Ed Anderson, Amaro is as much a desperately needed guide to the opaque and ill-defined world of bitter herbal liqueurs as it is a visual love letter to Italy. It’s part guidebook to the many distillers making these elixirs, part DIY and part recipe book, all stitched together via a narrative that seeks to explain the unique exchange between Italy and America that has made these amari unlikely staples of the modern bar. Parsons once again shows why he’s become one of the drink world’s most reliable voices. October 11, $26 | Ten Speed Press [Buy]

The Canon Cocktail Book: Recipes from the Award Winning Bar
by Jamie Boudreau and James O. Fraioli

In his debut book, acclaimed bartender and Canon founder Jamie Boudreau compiles 100 cocktail recipes ranging in complexity for both the home enthusiast and industry professional. From spins on the classics like the Cobbler’s Dream and the Bohemian French 75 to tiki staples (Jungle Bird, Zombie) to house originals such as the Truffled Old Fashioned and the Canon Cocktail, the recipe list is rich in both its breadth and historical underpinnings. With personal and historical anecdotes scattered throughout (many of which are gleaned from Boudreau’s personal collection of over 1,000 bar books) the overall tone, as noted in the book’s dedication page, reads less like a bar manual and more like a love letter to this suite of drinks. November 1, $28 | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt [Buy]

Shake Stir Sip Fall 2016 Books

Shake. Stir. Sip.: More than 50 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts
by Kara Newman

With its slew of incarnations, the Negroni is, without a doubt, the stalwart of equal parts drinks. Here, Kara Newman proves that there’s more to this wholly approachable category by offering dozens of recipes for two, three, four and five part drinks—all in equal measure. With recipes from today’s top bartenders—Abigail Gullo, Joaquín Simó and Phil Ward, among them—plus tips, techniques and a guide to spirits and liqueurs, Newman crafts an ode to this historically versatile category. But it’s the more unorthodox riffs, like Lynnette Marrero’s Toffee Negroni, made with rum and amontillado sherry, and Morgan Schick’s root beer and amaro highball, that help Shake. Stir. Sip. reach beyond the expected to become a practical, and inspiring, library addition. September 20, $16.95 | Chronicle Books [Buy]

Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History
by Steven Grasse

In the opening chapter of his almanac of American drinking, Steven Grasse likens the U.S. to a bar: “open to everyone, available to whoever can afford it, and apparently quite difficult to get kicked out of.” It’s a hyperbolic comparison, perhaps, but throughout the pages of Colonial Spirits, Grasse convincingly situates the tavern and the instincts to ferment, brew and distill as central to colonial America—and fundamental to the nation that later developed. With humor, he presents an endearing portrait of our drunken history, even offering dozens of updated recipes for colonial drinks, from George Washington’s 1757 beer to Philadelphia’s 1873 Fish House Punch. September 13, $24.95 | Abrams Image [Buy]


The 24-Hour Wine Expert
by Jancis Robinson

Jancis Robinson has penned enough books and offered enough advice over the years to have kept this latest both breezy and substantial, a very good entry map to wine. We might quibble on some details (is Beaujolais really so obvious that new-wave Chilean wine is the preferable alternate?) but crucially, she leaves her opinions on display with the unquestionable authority she can deliver. And that separates 24-Hour from a littered field of failed similar efforts, penned by those who either lack authority or botch the details. Robinson has built a four-decade career on avoiding both pitfalls, and is no different here. September 6, $12.95 | Abrams Image [Buy]

But First Champagne Fall 2016 Books

But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine
by David White 

Champagne is one of wine’s most misunderstood topics, not helped by the preponderance of philosophically rusty books on the topic. Enter David White’s sleek effort. It may not be deep enough to satisfy serious bubbleheads, but it covers Champagne 101 deftly and in detail, mostly because White made the effort to capture Champagne as it exists in 2016—a region in revolution against its old ways. He does the service of acknowledging how grower Champagnes transformed the market, then goes beyond that, summarizing in simple, clear terms why Champagnes today are so different from the wines of the past and demonstrating it through a savvy, contemporary selection of featured producers. October 18, $29.99 | Skyhorse Publishing [Buy]

I Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine
by Jamie Goode

Caveat: This is an incredibly cerebral read. But for a full-on exploration of the organoleptic properties of wine (or a supply of nearly useless dinner party trivia), Jamie Goode pens a very thorough guide to the science of wine tasting. From a section on the chemistry of wine, to double-blind studies of how sight can inaccurately color your perceptions of flavor, to artificial intelligence, this book is an exhaustive survey of objective science in an otherwise very subjective field. September 27, $29.95 | University of California Press [Buy]

American Rhône: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink
by Patrick Comiskey

While cabernet and pinot noir have long received the lion’s share of attention from American wine reviewers, what wine writer Patrick Comiskey so ably illustrates in this book is that the real iconoclasts of American wine have often been those who spend their time making it from Rhône varieties. What is now taken as truth—that the U.S. can produce Rhône varietal wines that measure up to, if not exceed, their French counterparts—was proven over the course of the last 40 years thanks to the renegades, like Bob Betz and Bob Linquist, among many others. Comiskey offers a colorful, insightful and wonderfully well-researched story about how exactly the “American Rhône” came to be. October 11, $35 | University of California Press [Buy]


Brew: The Foolproof Guide to Making World-Class Beers at Home
by James Morton

It’s not all that surprising that a man who is not only a doctor, but has both a bread and über-geeky baking book under his belt should have a firm grasp on the science behind fermentation. Morton’s newest how-to, Brew, takes nascent brewers from smart tips to using brewing kits and builds up to a more advanced level of crafting beers like sours and lagers. Perhaps the most indispensable section of the book is one that troubleshoots problems that might arise in brewing, based on aroma and flavor cues, as well as his recipes for everything from English bitters and ales to recipes for American, German and more esoteric styles. September 6, $24.95 | Quadrille Publishing [Buy]


Distilled Knowledge: The Science Behind Drinking’s Greatest Myths, Legends, and Unanswered Questions
by Brian D. Hoefling
October 4, $21.95 | Abbeville Press [Buy]

Fifty Places to Drink Beer Before You Die
by Chris Santella
September 20, $24.95 | Abrams Image [Buy]

Drinking in America: Our Secret History 
by Suzanne Cheever
October 11, $15.99 | Twelve [Buy]