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The Bar Book

Elements of Cocktail Technique

I have become a fan of the cocktail.  Maybe it’s 6 ½ seasons of watching Mad Men.  Whatever the reason, I am not alone.  Ontario liquor sales have been rising in recent years, Toronto restaurants routinely offer unique and classic cocktails and the days of the “Appletini” are long gone.  And cocktails, for the most part, are doable.   So I decided to review a bartending book for this season of hosting and entertaining.

The Bar Book was recommended by BYOB, a great bartending store located in downtown Toronto.  It was an excellent choice.  The author is Jeffrey Morgenthaler, an architect who transitioned into full time bartending and blogging.  He is located in Portland Oregon, where the focus is on small batch, high quality ingredients.  While perusing the book,  I occasionally felt like I was in an episode of Portlandia.  

The book is organized in the order that drinks are built.  Each chapter contains information about ingredients and techniques, plus a few recipes.  The first chapter is about citrus and ends with a recipe for daiquiri with rum, fresh lime and fresh grapefruit.  

The classics are covered, including the Bellini, old-fashioned, gin and tonic and punch.  The martini is found in the chapter on shaking and stirring, the mojito in muddling and the Spanish coffee on flaming drinks.  For the adventurous there are recipes for homemade ginger beer, tonic and egg nog.  There are simple recipes for fruit syrups, Grenadine and infusions such as Limoncello.  Apparently, all it takes for homemade Limoncello is time (and the investment of a bottle of vodka).

I was tempted to try the Kingston Club, with pineapple, lime, Fernet-Branca (an Italian digestif), angostura bitters and Drambuie.  I was also interested in the Strawberry Mint Shrub, a sweet and sour vinegar and berry syrup.  But these will wait for another day.

The recipes were clear and easy to follow and the proportions worked.  We tried the Jack Rose, which called for homemade Grenadine, lemon juice and applejack.  Unfortunately, applejack is not available at the LCBO so I substituted bourbon.  The drink was a beautiful rose colour and tasted like a bang-up bourbon sour, one of my favourites.   We also used the Grenadine for Shirley Temples.  And we made the Side Car, with cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice.  Another winner.

Our most interesting concoction was the White Lady, with thyme-infused Cointreau, gin, lemon, simple syrup and egg white.  This was woodsy and refreshing, strangely reminiscent of a Fresca, but better.

Recommended?  This was the most fun I’ve had reviewing recipes.  It’s a great book for those interested in learning some new skills, and even those who just want a drink.  Definitely recommended.