The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks ($35)
By Dale DeGroff
What's In It: Dale DeGroff, the man who pretty much taught and/or inspired every serious (living) mixologist, discusses the history and recipes behind 100 classic cocktails and their variations. The book is smartly organized by type of drink (sours, punches, etc.) and features full-page color shots of DeGroff's creations, as well as extensive discussions of barware, glassware, and garnishes. I give it 4 unequivocal forks.
Peterson's Holiday Helper: Festive Pick-Me-Ups, Calm-Me-Downs & Handy Hints to Keep You in Good Spirits ($16.95)
By Valerie Peterson
What's In It: Full of retro-kitschy images (photos, barware, ads), this book is more of a stocking stuffer than a cocktail guide. Still, Peterson manages to include 50 recipes and a helpful index organizing drinks by liquor, theme, and name.I give it 2 forks (4 forks for the festive imagery).
Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus ($24.95)
By Scott Beattie
What's In It: Mixologist Beattie shares around 50 recipes and advice inspired and organized by the seasons. Lots of huge, full-page, color photos. Smart mix of classics and originals with funny names like "Hot Indian Date" and "Huck Yu." 3 solid forks with props for the seasonal approach.
Good Drinks for Bad Days ($14.95)
By Kerry Colburn
What's In It: The cute/funny/forced construct has a different drink assigned to every awful experience you can imagine. The problem is, the pairings are purely plays on words: Car broke down? Fix yourself a Greyhound (get it?). Rent hike? Have a Manhattan (ba-dam-bump). And so on for 113 pages. The graphics are lifeless as well. 1 fork especially since they want $15 for this thing.
James Oliver Cury is the executive editor of Epicurious.com and former editor of Time Out New York's Eat Out section. He is a member of the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee and has been a judge at the Culinary Institute of America, the Jack Daniels World Barbecue Championship, and the Food Network's Iron Chef show. When he's not stuffing his face, Cury tries to make sense of pop culture. He's written for dozens of magazines, including Esquire, Playboy, Details, Entertainment Weekly, Maxim, Men's Journal, SPIN, Glamour , US Magazine, Food & Wine, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. His book, The Playboy Guide to Bachelor Parties (Simon & Schuster), came out in 2003.
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