The Curious Bartender : The Artistry and Alchemy of Creating the Perfect Cocktail Hardback
Preparing a first-class cocktail relies upon a deep understanding of its ingredients, the delicate alchemy of how they work together.
In The Curious Bartender, Tristan Stephenson explores and experiments with the art of mixing the perfect cocktail, explaining the fascinating modern turns mixology has taken.
Showcasing a selection of classic cocktails, he explains their intriguing origins, introducing the colourful historical characters who inspired or created them.
Moving on, he reinvents each drink from his laboratory, adding contemporary twists to breathe fresh life into these vintage classics.
Stay true to the originals with a Sazerac or a Rob Roy, or experiment with some of his modern variations to create a Green Fairy Sazerac topped with an absinthe 'air' or an Insta-age Rob Roy with the 'age' on the side.
Also included is a reference section detailing all the techniques you will need, making this an essential anthology for the cocktail enthusiast.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 208 pages, 120 col photographs
- Publisher: Ryland, Peters & Small Ltd
- Publication Date: 10/10/2013
- Category: Spirits & cocktails
- ISBN: 9781849754378
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Review by TLCrawford
I was leery of this book, The curious bartender : the artistry and alchemy of creating the perfect cocktail, when I first picked it up. The cover is elaborate, it is printed on heavy, marbled paper, I would almost call it cardstock. Every page has a full color illustration, very often a full page photograph. Overproduced was what I thought and I expected it to be more flash than bang, pretty but shallow. Then I started reading the introduction and the author, Tristan Stephenson, was talking about molecular gastronomy, rotary evaporators, “sous vide”, and other terms that were Greek to me. My expectations plummeted. When I crack open a bottle of spirits I want to find grain or fruit, yeast, heat, oak essence, and centuries of experience. When I mix a cocktail I want simplicity and tradition, fresh fruit juice, spirits, maybe a liqueur or a flavored syrup. I don’t want to have anything to do with a chemistry set. If not for the pictures of delicious looking drinks I might have not bothered to read the book but it was a gift and those pictures did look good. Then he explained that an emulsion is nothing more exotic than meringue on a pie or the foam on top of a Ramos Gin Fizz. So I carried on. The first section covers techniques needed to make traditional and new age drinks. Stephenson writes well and does a good job explaining the techniques. The only problem is that I have no interest in using smoke or dry ice, or dehydrating something to make my guests a drink. Still the parts I was interested in, even something as simple as using ice, the difference between shaking and stirring a drink is explained so clearly that I was surprised at how much I did not know. The second section recipes, it is divided according to type of spirit, gin, vodka, brandy, whiskey, rum, and tequila. He focuses on popular drinks that have been around the block a few times. I appreciated this, I see a book or app full of drink recipes and I have know idea which are popular and which are filler. Stephenson’s years experience behind a bar shows in his selection of drinks. He lists two recipes for each drink, the traditional way and his new age, molecular, distilled, aged, frozen alchemy. How many frozen alcoholic lollipops or daiquiri sherberts do we really need? I was skeptical and I suspect that my lip was curling up in disgust at a few of the renovated drinks. Then we got to the rum drinks and I started to soften. He pointed out, as I have suspected, that the first Cuba Libras had a bit of cocaine in them courtesy of the coke in Coca-Cola. He gives a great “traditional” recipe then uses his wizardry to recreate the original drink. He recreates the original Coke, even concocting a basil-clove infusion to mimic the mouth numbing effects of the cocaine Coke. Then he moves on the the Flip, a century old hot rum drink that originally was made by plunging a red hot poker into the drink to heat it. He explains the evolution away from the hot poker to using an egg for the texture but then he writes, “but there’s no substitution for a hot poker in life” and proceeds to explain how and why to make it the old way. By the time I got to the appendices, a very useful glossary, index and list of suppliers for the standard and exotic tools and ingredients in the book, my opinion had softened. I still think the book paid too much attention to production but there is good solid information for even an unambitious home bartender like me. The modern techniques are not my style but, I have to confess that I would not turn down a chance to try some of them.