This month our booksellers are cooking up a seven course feast to highlight the many new cookbooks hitting our shelves in time for the holidays. Join us as we chronicle our ambitious culinary undertakings here on the BookPeople blog. From cocktails to side dishes to dessert, we’ll share our adventures investigating a wide variety of new cookbooks, all of which will add up to one eclectic meal.
First course: Cocktails.
Julie W. reviews Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, with More Than 500 Recipes by David Kaplan, Alex Day and Nick Fauchald
I haven’t done all the research, but rumor has it there’s a curious new law of physics that states that when someone pulls out a cutting board (in my kitchen), a glass of wine appears of its own volition (or my pouring hand) beside it. We could get Neil deGrasse Tyson to suss it out, but personally, I prefer to let some mysteries of the universe lie and just drink the wine.
This is why I’m the one here to talk cocktails.
A well-poured drink is a fine accompaniment to the creation, consumption and clean up of any meal; this is my motto. (Follow-up motto: The slow sipper saves a finger. Don’t overdo it.) Our ever-growing Wine, Beer & Spirits section is one of my favorite spots in the store to browse, and a hefty new tome there has caught my eye: Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, with More Than 500 Recipes by David Kaplan, Alex Day and Nick Fauchald
In my humble (but experienced) opinion, the best place to find a Sazerac or Aviation in Austin is the Tigress on North Loop. In New York, the place to go for craft cocktails is Death & Co, a bar on the Lower East Side that has won a long list of major awards, including America’s Best Cocktail Bar and Best Cocktail Menu at the Tales of the Cocktail convention. This place is so popular that, when the bar reaches capacity, a host takes names and numbers and directs people to other bars to wait for a seat to open up. Death & Co has established a whole new level of date night dedication.
David Kaplan, founder of Death & Co, and fellow co-owner and former bartender, Alex Day, worked with publisher Nick Fauchald to recreate the experience of a night at the bar in their new book, Death & Co, an oversize, cloth-bound black omnibus of the craft cocktail. Every fancy drink you’ve ever wanted to mix is in here, along with Death & Co’s own recipes. The recipes are only a small part of what this book sets out to accomplish, however. Death & Co is an exhaustive guide that pays tribute to the craft of creating a cocktail by devoting itself, as the bartenders do in real life, to the fine grain details of every aspect of the drink. From swizzle sticks to strainers to a variety of tools used to shape ice, the authors are thorough in their instruction of the what, how and why of creating a Mint Julep, Kew Gardens Cooler, Velvet Warhol, and 497 other unique drinks. They include play-by-play experiences tasting experimental new drinks of their own, strategies for creating and naming drinks, and the definitions and histories of spirits and liqueurs.
Death & Co is also a glimpse into what it takes to maintain the level of service and quality that has made the bar famous. Anyone who has spent a Saturday night crowded against the bar at Tigress or Weather Up watching the bartenders muddle, stir and occasionally ignite complicated drinks have an idea of the tremendous energy and skill required to pull off that kind of show. The book also profiles Death & Co’s regulars, who recommend drinks and tell their stories in their own words, as if you’d pulled up a bar stool beside them.
Kaplan and Day are earnest in their effort to educate readers. Cocktails are serious business and anyone who picks up this book stands to learn a great deal from their first-hand knowledge. Death & Co is a classy way to up the ante of any home bar. Have the patience to read the explanations and instructions and talk to your friendly liquor store clerk about which cocktails are feasible for your personal palate and kitchen.
Looking for more boozy books to get you ready for the season’s cooking? Here are a few more I recommend:
Whisk(e)y Distilled by whiskey sommelier Heather Greene
The Essential Bar Book by Jennifer Fiedler
The Craft Beer Revolution by Steve Hindy
How to Love Wine by Eric Asimov
Viva Tequila! by Lucinda Hutson
All books mentioned in this post are available via bookpeople.com and on the shelves at BookPeople (603 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas).
Next course: Salad!