As someone who spent many misguided years of my youth drinking poorly-eyeballed gin and tonics out of coffee mugs, I never really understood: How exactly can you make cocktails "well" or "poorly"? Isn't it a simple matter of ratios – of pouring the right amount of the right things into a glass, chucking in an ice cube or two and calling it a day? Where is the mysterious opportunity in that simple process to either mess it up or do it exceptionally well? Jeffrey Morgenthaler's The Bar Book is a masterclass on that very subject.
The Bar Book is not a recipe book. Instead, it is a techniques book. Morgenthaler elevates making cocktails into a craft, focusing on finding the right recipe, using the best ingredients, and executing it all using effective techniques. While the author does include expertly curated recipes for some must-know cocktails, instead of focusing on what to mix (which can always be found with a quick Google of "how to make a Cosmopolitan"), it focuses on how, why, and when to mix it. He gives you a 360-degree education in barcraft, from what shapes cocktail shakers come in and what the differences mean to why the shape and size of your ice is important and how to make it so that it comes out of the tray clear and beautiful. He's a big proponent of making things like mixers, garnishes and even liqueurs from scratch, so the book offers up recipes for making things like flavored syrups, infusions, and even tonic water. Even if you're not the type who relishes taking the time to create something you can easily buy from a store, seeing and understanding the DIY processes behind these ingredients is fascinating and demystifying.
The book is peppered with stories, some steeped in niche-y barcraft history and delightful tradition, some from Morgenthaler's own bartending days. Striking, minimalist photography guides you from the easiest recipes to the most hardcore. A perfect blend of science, theory, philosophy, history, and personality, The Bar Book is a must-read material for anyone who wants a deeper look at what exactly it means to be a good bartender.
– Michelle Kaatz