Book Review: Vince Keenan’s “Down the Hatch”

Until he was in his twenties, crime writer Vince Keenan knew
as much about cocktails as your maiden aunt Betty. You know, the one who also
happens to be a nun. But one day Keenan’s wife — clearly the brains of the
outfit — convinced him to try a real drink. That was the beginning of what was
to become a minor, but magnificent, obsession.

Keenan became a regular at the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle,
Washington, where star bartenders like Erik Hakkinen and Murray Stenson plied
their trade. Keenan was an eager learner and a quick study, and he watched
everything the bartenders did, and then went home and tried it out on his own.

Down the Hatch
tells the stories of the cocktails Keenan learned, both the histories and facts
of the drinks themselves, along with his own encounters with them. Naturally,
he also includes the recipes for the drinks so that you can make them at home.
He features the best-known classic cocktails, ranging from the Margarita and
Manhattan, to the Tom Collins and Jack Rose. Unlike the recipes one finds
through Google searches, these are legitimate, tried-and-true recipes that you
can safely follow to create delicious drinks.

Keenan isn’t a bartender or professional spirits taster.
He’s a writer, and not surprisingly, Down
the Hatch
is a well written book. Kennan is a guy like you or me who spent
the time learning how to make cocktails, and now he’s sharing that knowledge
with us. He’s an amateur in the original sense of the word: someone who does
something out of love.

Part recipe book, part history lesson, and part memoir, Down the Hatch makes for a fun,
informative, and very useful read. Be warned, however: just flipping through it
is liable to make you thirsty. If you’re settling in for the long haul — and
you definitely should — you might make sure you have a drink close at hand.

Down the Hatch

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