Although the official start of summer has just arrived, the signs of the season abound: air so thick you can slice it with a knife, oppressive sun beating down on our heads, arms slick with sunscreen. Ah, yes, summer is here, all right, and what’s the best antidote to sweating out the minutes until cool autumn? An ice-cold drink in hand.
Fortunately, a new collection of cocktail books will help slake your thirst while teaching you some new tricks to bust out at summer parties. Incidentally, these three books are published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House known for its beverage offerings, offering welcome points of view for better drinking.
“Session Cocktails,” by drinks writer Drew Lazor and editors of Punch, an online beverage magazine (Ten Speed Press, $18.99), dissects the wonders of its subject, “sessionability.” Unfamiliar with the term? Over the past few years, the cocktail world, from writers to mixologists, has been touting lower-proof drinking instead of knocking back highly spirited sips. Session drinking celebrates low-alcohol sipping with friends, the better to keep your wits about you without the threatening scourge of drunkenness or hangovers. In “Session Cocktails,” Lazor introduces readers to easy-drinking riffs on classics such as the margarita and Manhattan, alongside contemporary recipes culled from some of the country’s top drinks professionals, arming you with a few cocktails perfect for last-minute guests or afternoon barbecues.
“Drinking Distilled,” by celebrated bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Ten Speed Press, $16.99), invites curious novices and expert drinkers into his world. Dubbed a “user’s manual,” the book covers such topics as gendered drinking, serving bachelor and bachelorette parties, tipping your bartender and how to stock your home bar. Morgenthaler brings more than two decades of industry expertise to bear, with a congenial, conversational air. This book is as easy to read and enjoy as drinking a cocktail.
Keep it simple with “The One Bottle Cocktail,” by Maggie Hoffman, founding editor of the drinks section of the online Serious Eats (seriouseats.com), (Ten Speed Press, $22). In her book, she effectively tells you to stick to just that: one bottle, whether it be gin or bourbon or agave spirits.
“None of these drinks require bitters, vermouth or liqueurs,” she writes in her introduction. “There’s no amaro, no aperitif wine, no absinthe. Just one bottle of booze — which you might already have in your liquor cabinet or on your mantel — and ingredients you can find at your favorite grocery store.” Over the course of 80 cocktails, Hoffman shows you how to make complex, flavorful drinks with chef-like twists on common ingredients, such as maple syrup, honey, even vinegar. Not a bad skill if you don’t have room for a full bar at home, or if you don’t stray far from your gin-and-tonic routine.