The 20 Best Cocktail Books & Bartending Guides 2020

cocktail books

Cocktail Books: The 20 essential cocktail recipe books and bartending guides for your library.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

It’s clear to see, that having a selection of cocktail books is like having a treasure trove of knowledge. From asking a panel of experts through our podcast ‘On The Back Bar’ with Christopher Menning, we compiled a list of the best cocktail recipe books and bartender guides for you to delve into. 

We separated this article into three main sections: Classic Cocktail Books and History, The Modern Bartender and specialist cocktail books which are focussed on one spirit or category. 

Classic Cocktail Books & History

These books were the first books for bartenders around and have stood the test of time. Each one goes into detail of what it takes to be a bartender and the history of the craft. 

These books also contain a large number of drinks recipes so you can know your classic cocktails. 

Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender's Craft

The late, great, Gary Regan was instrumental in the American Cocktail renaissance and was very popular through his drink writing as a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and solidified himself as a spirit expert in his radio program “The Happy Hour”. Though he wrote many books, this was his definitive work and for new bartenders, the best cocktail book to start with. 

“A prolific writer on all things cocktails, Gary Regan and his books have been a huge influence on mixologists and bartenders in America. This brand-new edition fills in the gaps since the book first published, incorporating Regan’s special insight on the cocktail revolution from 2000 to the present and a complete overhaul of the recipe section. With Regan’s renowned system for categorizing drinks helps bartenders not only to remember drink recipes but also to invent their own, The Joy of Mixology, Revised and Updated Edition is the original tome for both professionals and amateurs alike.”

– Book Blurb  

Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Think Like a Master

Dale Degroff is another industry titan who inspired a generation of cocktail slingers, including Dean Callan, of The Dean Callan Show. On episode 31 of On The Back Bar, Dean explains this to be his go-to book for any gifts or people who want to learn about cocktails. Degroff, also known as the cocktail king, is another influential figure who helped make the cocktail world what it is today.  

the craft of the cocktail

The Craft of the Cocktail was the first real cookbook for cocktails when it first published in 2002, and it has had a remarkable influence on bartending. With this new edition, the original gets a delicious update, bringing expertise from Dale DeGroff, the father of craft cocktails, to the modern bar for a new generation of cocktail enthusiasts. The beloved histories, culture, tips, and tricks are back but all are newly revised, and DeGroff’s favorite liquor recommendations are included so you know which gin or bourbon will mix just right.”

– Book Blurb  

Imbibe!

David Wondrich. the worlds much-loved cocktail historian explores the life of Jerry Thomas, the pioneer of the American bar. It’s a fascinating story of where our understanding of the cocktail world evolved and comes packed with rare and vintage recipes. A true and fun history lesson into the world of Imbibe! 

imbibe cocktail book

Cocktail writer and historian David Wondrich presents the colorful, little-known history of classic American drinks–and the ultimate mixologist’s guide–in this engaging homage to Jerry Thomas, father of the American bar.

Wondrich reveals never-before-published details and stories about this larger-than-life nineteenth-century figure, along with definitive recipes for more than 100 punches, cocktails, sours, fizzes, toddies, slings, and other essential drinks, along with detailed historical and mixological notes.”

– Book Blurb  

Meehan's Bartender Manual

This book by Jim Meehan is a 101 into the world of a bar operator giving lessons on bar development, cocktail creation, service and more. All from the lessons learned in Meehan’s long career in bartending. For those looking to open your own bar one day. this is the bartender book to guide your way. 

meehans bartender manual cocktail book

Meehan’s Bartender Manual is acclaimed mixologist Jim Meehan’s magnum opus–and the first book to explain the ins and outs of the modern bar industry. This groundbreaking work chronicles Meehan’s storied career in the bar business through practical, enlightening chapters that mix history with professional insight. Meehan’s deep dive covers the essential topics, including the history of cocktails and bartending, service, hospitality, menu development, bar design, spirits production, drink mixing technique, and the tools you’ll need to create a well-stocked bar–all brought to life in over 150 black- and-white illustrations by artist Gianmarco Magnani.”

– Book Blurb  

The Savoy Cocktail Book

A delightful drink recipe book was written by renowned Head Bartender, Harry Craddock. The Savoy hotel is known for being one of the best American bars in the world over the last century and you can find out why, in this exhaustive cocktail book.

Lavish color 1930 reproduction of The Savoy Cocktail Book  by Harry Craddock, bartender of the Savoy Hotel in London.  It features the most popular cocktails of the time in both breadth and depth, with over 700 recipes. No student of libations should be without this historic book.

– Book Blurb  

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On The Back Bar Podcast: Available on iTunes, Spotify and all other podcast providers.

Cocktail Books: The Modern Bartender

Cocktails have changed exponentially over the last decade. Putting a microscope into the science of how booze works and bringing culinary techniques into craft drinks has opened a world of possibilities. These books are the new classics, that take apart the concept of what a cocktail is put it back together in meticulously excellent fashion. All within beautifully illustrated cocktail books. 

Liquid Intelligence

Dave Arnold was one of the first drink scientists to publish a book and set the trend. From in-depth chapters on sugar, ice and using tools such as the rotovap. You will want to put on a lab coat and pour your alcohol into science beakers after this read.

liquid intelligence cocktail book by Dave Arnold

In Dave Arnolds world, the shape of an ice cube, the sugars and acids in an apple, and the bubbles in a bottle of champagne are all ingredients to be measured, tested, and tweaked. With Liquid Intelligence, the creative force at work in Booker & Dax, New York City s high-tech bar, brings readers behind the counter and into the lab. There, Arnold and his collaborators investigate temperature, carbonation, sugar concentration, and acidity in search of ways to enhance classic cocktails and invent new ones that revolutionize your expectations about what a drink can look and taste like. Years of rigorous experimentation and study botched attempts and inspired solutions have yielded the recipes and techniques found in these pages.

– Book Blurb  

Cocktail Codex

The cocktail codex takes a unique look at family of the six main cocktails that help shape all other creations. This book is a perfect template for when creating you own creations. this cocktail recipe book is packed with interesting graphics and complex recipes made simple. 

There are only six cocktails. So say Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan, the visionaries behind the seminal craft cocktail bar Death & Co. In Cocktail Codex, these experts reveal for the first time their surprisingly simple approach to mastering cocktails: the “root recipes,” six easily identifiable (and memorizable!) templates that encompass all cocktails: the old-fashioned, martini, daiquiri, sidecar, whisky highball, and flip. Once you understand the hows and whys of each “family,” you’ll understand why some cocktails work and others don’t, when to shake and when to stir, what you can omit and what you can substitute when you’re missing ingredients, why you like the drinks you do, and what sorts of drinks you should turn to–or invent–if you want to try something new.”

– Book Blurb  

Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails

Death & Co is a highly influential group of cocktail bars across the states, and their namesake book introduces you to the cocktail recipes that got them to international fame. With nearly 500 recipes this is a beautiful book filled with stunning photography and infograhics.

Featuring hundreds of recipes for signature Death & Co creations as well as classic drink formulas, Death & Co is not only a comprehensive collection of the bar’s best, but also a complete cocktail education. With chapters on the theory and philosophy of drink-making; a complete guide to the spirits, tools, and other ingredients needed to make a great bar; and specs for nearly 500 iconic drinks, Death & Co is destined to become the go-to reference on craft cocktails. Filled with beautiful, evocative photography; illustrative charts and infographics; and colorful essays about the characters who fill the bar each night, Death & Co–like its namesake bar–is bold, elegant, and setting the pace for mixologists around the world.”

– Book Blurb  

The Cocktail Guy

Rich Woods is, in my mind, the definition of a cocktail chef. Making is name famous in the London drink scene by his complex ingredient use and distillates, he now lays it all bare in this wonderfully written book. The back of the drinks recipe book is filled with how easy to understand recipes of some complex ingredients.

the cocktail guy book by rich woods

“Meet Rich Woods, a.k.a The Cocktail Guy. At the forefront of the mixology revolution, Rich has been garnering fans and accolades through his creative reinventions of classic cocktails and exciting new drinks, all served with his signature innovative flair.

In this, his first book, Rich unlocks the secrets of making creative cocktails at home, from mastering classic techniques, to flavouring alcohol through simple infusions and more complex distillations and making your own home-made bitters from herbs, spices, fruits and roots. At the centre of Rich s creative process is an understanding and exploration of flavour; from the way it unravels on the palate to new and unique combinations that are designed to surprise and delight.

– Book Blurb  

The Modern Cocktail: Innovation + Flavour

Matt Whiley is another highly creative cocktail chef with an impressive list of foodie cocktails. From drinks like the marmite martini and fermented cucumber syrup, this is a great cocktail book to challenge every novice bartender on using everyday ingredients in a complex manner.

“Matt Whiley, AKA The Talented Mr Fox, traces the evolution of the modern bartender against the backdrop of cocktail history with this stylish cocktail recipe book. With more than 60 recipes made from spirit bases including gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and cognac, alongside expert advice on equipment and glassware, this is the complete kit to modern cocktail making at home! Learn to make delicious and original cocktails such as the Bangkok Penicillin or the Marmite Martini, Pea Wine or the Rok House Bellini Fermented Cucumber Syrup. From highly acclaimed mixologist and drinks consultant Matt Whiley, this unique cocktail recipe book is the perfect inspiration for creating your own modern drinks cabinet and the perfect how to guide to making delicious and highly creative cocktails from scratch.

– Book Blurb  

The Aviary Cocktail Book

The most stunning book on the list, this is a visually exciting and immense look at the culinary program that shaped the award-winning cocktails at the Aviary. This cocktail recipe book is packed with information and beautifully designed. To find out more about this immense book we recommend heading to the Aviary website here.

the aviary cocktail book

“Measuring approximately 12″x10″x2”, and weighing over 8 pounds, this culinary approach to cocktails will be equally at home in your kitchen, your bar, or on your coffee table. Endlessly engaging, this is not a typical Gentleman’s Guide to Cocktails – it’s the definitive word on 21st century cocktails.

– Book Blurb  

Specialist Cocktail books

These cocktail recipe books are more refined on a certain subject. From a masterclass on Amaro to how plants make the spirits we love, these are the perfect way to expand your curricula knowledge of the beverage world. Let this bartender guides shape your career. 

Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails

Shannon Mustipher gives us a unique and refreshing look into the world of Tiki cocktails. Taking a look at how the tiki movement became modern with an array of colourful drink recipes and lessons in execution.

“Tiki is the endless summer, an instant vacation, a sweet and colourful ticket to paradise with no baggage fees. Romanticized since mid-century but too long overlooked as the province of suburban lodges and family resorts, the tiki cocktail is stepping into its moment with sophisticated spirits lovers, skilled mixologists, and intrepid foodies. In Tiki, Brooklyn-based rum expert Shannon Mustipher brings focus on refreshing flavours, fine spirits, and high-impact easy-to-execute presentation. Dozens of easy-to-follow recipes present new versions of classic tiki drinks along with original cocktails using quality rums, infused and fat-washed spirits, liqueurs, fresh fruit juices, and homemade syrups.

– Book Blurb  

The Drunken Botanist

One of our favourite books on the list comes from a botanists journey into how alcohol is made. This well-written book documents the plants, spices and flora that have helped make the worlds much loved spirits, liqueurs and aperitifs. 

the drunken botanist bartending book

“Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, bourbon from corn. Thirsty yet?  In The Drunken Botanist, Amy Stewart explores the dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that humans have, through ingenuity, inspiration, and sheer desperation, contrived to transform into alcohol over the centuries.

Of all the extraordinary and obscure plants that have been fermented and distilled, a few are dangerous, some are downright bizarre, and one is as ancient as dinosaurs—but each represents a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history.

This fascinating concoction of biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology—with more than fifty drink recipes and growing tips for gardeners—will make you the most popular guest at any cocktail party.

– Book Blurb  

Amaro

Often a misunderstood spirit category, BradThomas Parsons dissects the world of the Italian Amaro and how its rise in American popularity came to be. This is the ultimate bartender guide to classics like Averna and Fernet Branca and helps show their place in the cocktail world. 

amaro book by Brad Thomas for bartending

“The European tradition of making bittersweet liqueurs–called amari in Italian–has been around for centuries. But it is only recently that these herbaceous digestifs have moved from the dusty back bar to center stage in the United States, and become a key ingredient on cocktail lists in the country’s best bars and restaurants. Lucky for us, today there is a dizzying range of amaro available–from familiar favorites like Averna and Fernet-Branca, to the growing category of regional, American-made amaro.

– Book Blurb  

Bitters

Brad Thomas does it again with another deep dive but this time into the world of bitters. This is one of those cocktail books that shares the history and inception of a bartender ingredient often overlooked. 

bitters bartending book by Brad Thomas

“Part cookbook, part project guide, part barman’s manifesto, Bitters is a compenduim of more than 100 cocktail recipes, featuring traditional favourites as well as gems from author Brad Thomas Parsons’ own repertoire. In addition to the recipes, Bitters sheds light on the history and mystery of the alcoholic infusion’s origins, profiles artisanal producers, gives step-by-step instructions for making customised blends, and offers a dozen food recipes for bitters-infused dishes.

– Book Blurb  

Spirits of Latin America

Ivy Mix joined us On The Back Bar podcast in episode on episode 19 to discuss the launch of her new book, Spirits of Latin America. Ivy is a guru in the world of agave and sugarcane having spent her younger years travelling South America. You can read about one of the cocktails from her book, the pisco sour on here. 

spirits of Latin America bartending book

“Through its in-depth look at drinking culture throughout Latin America, this gorgeous book offers a rich cultural and historical context for understanding Latin spirits. Ivy Mix has dedicated years to traveling south, getting to know Latin culture, in part through what the locals drink. What she details in this book is the discovery that Latin spirits echo the Latin palate, which echoes Latin life, emphasizing spiciness, vivaciousness, strength, and variation. After digging into tequila and Mexico’s other traditional spirits, Ivy Mix follows the sugar trail through the Caribbean and beyond, winding up in Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, where grape-based spirits like pisco and singani have been made for generations.

– Book Blurb  

The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies

Tristan Stephenson retells his journey through the world’s distilleries and opens us to the wonderful world of whiskies. Packed with in-depth information and his own cocktail recipes, this truly is an odyssey into the world of malt. 

“Tristan explores the origins of whisky, from the extraordinary Chinese distillation pioneers well over 2,000 years ago to the discovery of the medicinal ‘aqua vitae’ (water of life), through to the emergence of what we know as whisky. Explore the magic of malting, the development of flavour and the astonishing barrel-ageing process as you learn about how whisky is made. In the main chapter, Tristan takes us on a journey through 56 distilleries around the world, exploring their remarkable quirks, unique techniques and flavours, featuring all new location photography from the Scottish Highlands to Tennessee. After that, you might choose to make the most of Tristan’s bar skills with some inspirational whisky-based cocktails. This fascinating, comprehensive book is sure to appeal to whisky aficionados and novices alike.

– Book Blurb  

Lets Get Fizzical

Much loved ex Savoy alumni, Pippa Guy showcases her love of everything sparkling in this bartender guide to champagne cocktail recipes. This is the perfect beginner’s book to everything bubble and how it fits into the cocktail world. 

lets get fizzical bartending book

“An inspiring mix of classic cocktail recipes such as bellinis and mimosas, alongside exciting variations and twists, Let’s Get Fizzical offers tips, tricks, presentation ideas, and technical know-how to make your cocktails as sensational for the eye as they are for the palate.

The introductory chapter, A Beginner’s Guide to Bubbles, explains the differences between sparkling wines to help you tell your spumante from your frizzante, or your extra-brut from your demi-sec. Everything you need to know is here, including the low-down on your fizz of choice, whether that’s a budget Cava or a fancy Champagne.

– Book Blurb  

Wine Folly

The wine world has always worked closely alongside the cocktail world. This book is a masterpiece in understanding grapes, vineyards and the idea of terroir in a tome of infographics and easily digestible information.

wine folly book for bartenders

Wine Folly introduced a whole new audience to the world of wine, making it easy for complete beginners to understand the fundamentals thanks to their straightforward advice, simple explanatory graphics and practical wine-tasting tips.

Now they are back with plenty more eye-catching visuals and easy-to-grasp advice that the brand has become known for. Wine Folly Deluxe comes complete with a fresh look, twice as much information on regions, and a profusion of new and alternative wine styles.

– Book Blurb  

The Tequila Ambassador

Jesse Estes joined us on the podcast to tell us about his love of Ocho Tequila. He mentioned his dads book ‘The Tequila Ambassador’ and how he regards it as the ultimate book for agave fans! He does mention the rarity of finding it however which is often why the price is so high. Still, for those wanting to master the way of Tequila, this is your bible. 

the tequila ambassador bartender book

Cocktail Books
Conclusion

What did you think of our cocktail book list? Did we leave anything out?

We constantly look to improve our content so feel free to drop us an email if you think there is a book we should include! Now you have your books ready why not check our guide to the bar tools & equipment every bartender needs

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