From the July 2016 Distilleries issue:
“Everyone has their signature drink,” says Emily Timberlake, explaining the rising popularity of cocktail books. Timberlake, a Falls Church native and senior editor at California’s Ten Speed Press, ushers food- and drink-related books from proposal to shelf-ready status. She’s also a cocktail geek: At her wedding she handed out favors of homemade bitters in a range of flavors.
But it’s not just the rise of books with cocktail recipes, or even of specific spirits, like the recently released Whiskey: A Spirited Story With 75 Classic And Original Cocktails by Michael Dietsch, Vermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture by Adam Ford and Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret by Talia Baiocchi, that publishing houses find audiences for.
Today’s “cocktail drinkers and readers are more interested in a deep dive,” says Timberlake, which is why the extreme niche is now in print. These single-subject cocktail books share a few traits: They are usually slim, start with history, lure and the aura surrounding the drink and provide recipes both classic and modern. The design is sharp and spare, though quite charming, especially in Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes by Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau. These books are made to decorate bar carts and reward a gracious host.
Timberlake credits two books out in 2011 with kick-starting the current beverage book craze, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons and The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender’s Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy by Jim Meehan. The current cocktail renaissance, which demonized the sweet, neon drinks of the ’80s and ’90s and welcomed nouveau speakeasies and mixologists with bespoke mustaches, started its ascent at the turn of this century. But it took a decade to wean Carrie fans off cosmos and on to stylish, bitter drinks, celebrated in The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, with Recipes & Lore by Gary Regan. This movement also focused attention on what has been there all along, the preeminent sippers, honored in The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore by Robert Simonson and The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail with Recipes by Philip Greene.
Even tangentially related alcohol books are getting more attention. Released in 2014, Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times by Dietsch is getting rereleased with more recipes this year. Writes Countryman Press publicist Devorah Backman, “the ‘single subject’ book is really popular right now, isn’t it?”