The You Do You Bar is based on the idea that building a home bar should be tailored to the builder’s preferences and habits. Not everyone needs St. Germain or even the ubiquitous Campari. Regardless of how you stock your bar, if you’re interested in making excellent cocktails, you need to know the basics and classics. Classic cocktails are classic for a reason. So, in a new series here on H&H, we will be taking a look at some cocktail books and evaluating them from the perspective of the home cocktail maker. Do they deserve a place on your bookshelf? We can’t tell you what to do, but hopefully we can give you some insight to make an informed decision.
If you have ever thought about trying to find a solid standard cocktail book to live on your shelf, look no further. The Craft of the Cocktail by King Cocktail himself, Dale DeGroff, is what you have been seeking.
DeGroff is a big reason we are sitting here talking about cocktails today because, although cocktails were quite the fancy thing from around the 1920s to the mid-1960s, cocktails were not a Good and Delicious Thing for a couple of dark decades. Think Zima.
The master bartender worked at the wonderful Rainbow Room in New York City in the late 1980s and basically reinvented bartending. He reinvented bartending to the point that the man was given a James Beard Award for his impact on the industry.
The Craft of the Cocktail reflects his interest in the history of cocktails and features all the classics that any good host needs to know, or, at least, be able to look up. For those who like knowing a little bit about the background behind their favorite classic cocktails, the book has some very informative sections about how they came to be, the history of the cocktail in general, and interesting cocktail trivia.
In addition to all the classics (and many of their buddies), tons of other recipes are included that usually feature lots of fresh fruit juices and sometimes seem a bit dated when compared to cocktail lists in fancy restaurants and bars today. Nary a fancy bitter or emulsion to be found. However, what this book does not provide in copycat cocktails or crazy flavor combinations it does provide in sheer information and truly solid basics. The cover claims that the book provides “Everything you need to know to be a master bartender, with 500 recipes” and I can’t really say it’s lying.
The last section of the book is full of cocktail resources: a glossary, suppliers, techniques, and a bibliography that makes the researcher in me so very happy. This book would be excellent to have as a reference tool, cozied up nicely next to my Cooks Illustrated cookbook that I turn to when unfamiliar with a technique or basic recipe.
Although DeGroff readily admits to not inventing the Cosmopolitan, he does take credit for helping rocket a definitive recipe to popularity in the late 1990s after adding it to the menu at the Rainbow Room. All it took was a photo of Madonna drinking one and DeGroff was off to the races. Here’s his recipe:
- 1 1/2 oz. citron vodka
- 1/2 oz. Cointreau
- 1/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 oz. cranberry juice
- Flamed orange peel to garnish
Shake all the ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the flamed orange peel.
Now, I must admit that the drink pictured was made with regular Tito’s vodka and a little bit of some homemade limoncello to make up for not having and not wanting to buy citron vodka. I think it’s a bit sweet for my taste and using citron vodka would probably help mitigate that somewhat, but I can certainly see why it was so popular in the not-so-distant past.