Whether you’re an aspiring home bartender who wants to know how to make a dark and stormy that will blow minds away, or a barhopping cocktail lover ready to learn about why great cocktails taste, er, great, here are 10 cocktail books that will help up your game, deepen your knowledge, and definitely make you very, very thirsty. (You’ll want to pair these books with the 10 items every expert home bartender should own.) Our list of cocktail books starts with a little cocktail history, then moves on to bar techniques and inspiration, and finally to a few technique-driven books at the end for consumers who want to step closer to the bartender pro zone. And if paper-and-binding is a bit too old-school for you, check out our guide to the best cocktail apps around. Cheers!
RECOMMENDED: See America’s best cocktails
Cocktail books booze lovers should own
It’s time to go to booze school! Anyone who wants to learn about pre-Prohibition cocktails needs to familiarize him or herself with the father of the American bar, Jerry Thomas. This narrative book is full of stories and history, and recipes too, and the newly updated version includes even more boozy details, plus some fascinating background on the mint julep, the first American drink.
Buy Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar on Amazon
If you want to brush up on your San Francisco cocktail history, this highly personal and educational book by barman Duggan McDonnell is a love letter to the city’s original cocktails, including pisco punch, the mai tai, and Irish coffee. Twenty-five iconic recipes and their backstory, plus 45 more variations and handy batching tips and tricks are contained therein. McDonnell’s vibrant writing style will keep you reading it cover to cover.
Buy Drinking the Devil’s Acre on Amazon
The executive editor of Imbibe magazine (also known for his Cocktail Chronicles blog) naturally has some insight on the contemporary cocktail movement, and the classic cocktails that form the backbone of our modern drinking culture. This accessible reference book has recipes, great stories, techniques, glassware tips and more.
Buy The Cocktail Chronicles on Amazon
While this book may have 10 years on it, that’s the fantastic thing about making great cocktails: it’s timeless. These two esteemed San Francisco barmen (previously of Absinthe) share their seasoned perspective and skilled techniques for making craft cocktails with a slant on extra-fresh ingredients, which includes making syrups, plus classic cocktail recipes with a little history back. Drink it up!
Buy The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics on Amazon
For those who want to keep up on the latest cocktails around the world, there are few better guides than bartender extraordinaire Gary Regan. This is his fourth year assembling the latest and greatest formulas from places as far-flung as Norway and Bahrain.
Buy Gaz Regan’s 101 Best New Cocktails, Volume IV on Amazon
Regan’s seminal cocktail book is another one for your library, and one you’ll find on most bar shelves. It’s an excellent reference book that will help you understand how to categorize drinks into cocktail “families,” like the New Orleans Sour Family, which most of us would like to be adopted by.
Buy The Joy of Mixology on Amazon
Oof, is your liver feeling like it’s time for a break from all these spirits? Or maybe you just need to learn about the right way to kick off the evening: with an aperitivo. This brand-new book will fill you in on the oh-so-hot-right-now Italian spritz, sharing its history, recipes and how to stock your own spritz bar (you’ll be very popular with your friends).
Buy Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes on Amazon
You may have all the right ingredients, but without proper technique, your cocktails won’t shine as brightly as they should. For those ready for the next-level of cocktail-making, this technique-driven book will lead you to proper stirring, shaking, juicing and more through 60-plus recipes and photographs.
Buy The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique on Amazon
Okay, so this one is a little wild card for you. No, it’s not a cocktail book, but it’s a text that is beloved and used by many chefs and bartenders in their craft. Authors Page and Dornenburg give advice and insight in how to create balance, enhance flavor, and make exciting ingredient combinations that work. Meet your flava secret weapon.
Buy The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs on Amazon
Ready to geek out? Strap on your goggles and let Dave Arnold of New York’s high-tech Booker & Dax bar show you how to make crystal clear ice and infuse vodka, and take things to bar science level 10 with liquid nitrogen techniques and more through 120 recipes.
Buy Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail on Amazon
Bonus cocktail books
It seems every high-profile bar has its own cocktail book these days, which is a good thing for those of us who want to learn the recipes, techniques, history and inspiration behind these memorable drinks. Here are a few to consider for your library.
Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki by Martin Cate
The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual: Secret Recipes and Barroom Tales from Two Belfast Boys Who Conquered the Cocktail World by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, et. al.
Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, with More than 500 Recipes by David Kaplan, Alex Day, et. al.
The NoMad Cocktail Book by Leo Robitschek
(Note this is a hidden book tucked inside The NoMad Cookbook.)