The Best Craft Cocktails, a book review...

April 9, 2014

I've read many cocktail, HOW TO books this year and one of the best so far has been the book named The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair.

Jeremy Leblanc and Christine Dionese wrote this incredibly beautifully photographed book with the amateur mixologist in mind. 

I love the intro, where Jeremy and Christine give the definitive definition of a Craft Cocktail. 

This definition actually taught me what a Craft Cocktail is, and I'm a well-respected mixologist of Craft Cocktails. 

"To us a craft cocktail is one that has been constructed with time and thoughtfulness."    I love that, crisp- succinct and to the point.   Fresh ingredients (fresh juices) is stated right up front as the reason for writing the book.  To exemplify fresh ingredients in a Craft Cocktail is the goal of the mixologist and not lost on Jeremy nor Christine. 

The book begins with the Aperitif: To open the senses.  I like that.  Because opening the senses with liquor is not only to smell refreshment but to stimulate both thirst and hunger.  The historical reason for an aperitif was to get the stomach juices revved up!  I'm thirsty already with drinks like the Sparkling Laura, a salubrious and reviving combination of freshly squeezed (is there any other way?) grapefruit juice, rose' champagne and a touch of the exotic ginger liqueur from Canton.  Stunning is the only word that comes to mind. 

The next chapter, Classics with a twist are drinks such as the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned (served here with seared peaches) and Corpse Reviver.  All gorgeous renditions of the classics, with a twist. 

Follow the Classics closely is the chapter titled Exotic Cocktails, followed by Refreshers, Parties and Punches (my favorite of the group), Syrups, Mixes and Foams- can you say Molecular Mixology?  And then tips and tricks of the trade. 

There are wonderfully creative drinks in this well bound book with a very interesting spine that keeps the book flat on the table instead of on the floor. 

I love the Sidecar Johnny, a succinctly delicious drink comprised of  Cointreau, Cognac, Lemon Peel and a Luxardo (Italian) cured cherry.  The twist is a rim of both sugar and chili powder.  Sweet and hot greets you as you sip this take on the classic Sidecar.  It's a gorgeous rendition. 

Other drinks such as the Maine Root Float is a takeoff of the root beer float with vodka and organic root beer from Maine in the mix.  The addition of Sambuca (one portion for the whipped cream and another for the cocktail adds a bit of mystery to each and every sip.

I love the Carte Blanche, a sumptuous combination of bourbon, cherry bitters and ice.  Simple Simple Simple!!!!


Absinthe is cared for with reverence, showing a gorgeous antique fountain dripping cool water over a sugarcube into a glass of Absinthe.  I'm not from the school of adding sugar, but it is the classic preparation, so I'm sure that's why it's included here.  I believe that great Absinthe doesn't need sugar, but that's just my opinion. 

The Blood Orange French 75 is lush, lip smacking and aromatic.  As much as I love the warmer months of the year, there is no substitute for seasonality in Craft Cocktails.  Blood Oranges only come out in the late winter.  'Tis a shame I'll tell you!  A shame!  Ah, I'll just have to wait until next year to try this drink!

All in all this is a carefully written book that teaches as well as amuses.  There are snippets of history and crisp and clear writing.  To me, it's obvious that the book was written with a smile on the faces of the authors. 

There just isn't any way to frown when writing about such a universally loved subject!

If I were you, I'd go to my Indie bookseller right now and order a copy!


Hat's off to both Jeremy and Christine for writing a book completely without pretentiousness.  This is a book that sits alongside the one from Employees Only and the Joy of Cooking.  It's that rewarding, even if you don't take more than a sip at a time.

Cheers!  Warren