Some cocktail books are intended for the casual mixologist, some are intended for the advanced user, and some are a mixture of both. Jim Meehan's The PDT Cocktail Book is an excellent example of the last category, as it's accessible to the inexperienced, yet valuable to the pro as well.
The American Cocktail, a new book put together by the editors of Imbibe Magazine, is definitely in the middle category. Although a novice cocktail fan would probably enjoy flipping through it, the recipes are really intended for those seeking a higher level of mixology.
When putting together this book, the editors did something very smart: they polled 50 of the best bartenders around the country, those men and women who are really dedicated to the craft of high-end cocktails, and asked them to submit a recipe.
The results are fascinating and unique, with a strong emphasis on bold flavors, local ingredients, and drinks that truly capture the essence of the bar/restaurant where they are served. This is cutting-edge mixology that is still, for the most part, accessible.
True, many of the recipes aren't going to be things that you can easily whip up at home. Several of them call for bespoke ingredients, complicated preparations, or obscure spirits, but by no means all of them. Here's an easy recipe that I tried, which made a delicious drink.
by Timothy Victor Faulkner, Sauced (Atlanta)
2 oz Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
1 1/2 oz Red Rock Ginger Ale (or other Spicy Ginger Ale)
1/2 oz Sugarcane Syrup
Combine the bourbon, ginger ale, and syrup in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir gently. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Rub a lime twist around the rim of the glass before dropping it into the cocktail.
Several of the bartenders I admire have drinks featured here, including Todd Thrasher from PX (Alexandria, VA), Jim Meehan from PDT (New York), Robert Heugel from Anvil (Houston), and Jeffrey Morgenthaler from Clyde Common (Portland). Having recipes from such experts makes this collection all the more valuable.
Readers looking for an introduction to cocktails or a list of simple recipes won't find much joy in The American Cocktail. But more experienced mixologists — or those who want to up their game a little — should definitely give this a look.