The Essential Books for Home Bartending

Drink Lists cocktail books
The Essential Books for Home Bartending

Sometimes drinking at home calls for something stronger than a glass of wine, but for those new to bartending, where to start can be overwhelming — and expensive if ill-advised. To ease into mixology, Paste Drink has selected the top three books to get you started while avoiding the pitfalls of too many specialized ingredients, techniques and barware.

Amid the current cocktail revitalization, shaking up a classic or twisting familiar flavors will impress all houseguests. Like any good cocktail, there are three components to becoming a skilled bartender. Each of our selected books specializes in one of those components: stocking the bar, crafting a balanced drink and expanding on the range of recipes.


Stock Up
The 12 Bottle Bar, David and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

Photo: jarmoluk / Pixabay, CC0

The first book in our lineup lends budget-friendly insight to stocking the home bar. The Solmonsons name the bottles to have on hand including seven hard liquors, two vermouths, two bitters and one liqueur. Each selection includes a budget, mid-range and top-shelf recommendation for buyers. In addition to explaining why the spirits were chosen, each chapter pertains to one spirit and its associated cocktails.

Though the book offers advice for beginners, once the shelf is stocked, opting for exotic ingredients and specialty items is a creative way to stem from the basics. While some tips of the craft can be found here, our next pick takes an in-depth look at the science behind cocktails.

The Magic Touch
The Imbible, Micah LeMon

Photo courtesy of Micah LeMon

Our second, vital choice — out October 10th — teaches the science and technique behind crafting balanced cocktails. LeMon, a former chemist and current bar manager at the James Beard Award-nominated Alley Light, set out to understand how to craft tastebud-pleasing cocktails.

The Imbible breaks down the formula of hitting the mixologist’s sweet spot and teaches bartenders not only the classics, but how to riff on them to create their own drinks. From the first chapter on the theory of cocktails, which describes the three components to balanced drinks: spirit, sweet and sour or bitter, to the final chapter featuring a “create-your-own-adventure” chart for new mixes, the book clearly defines the methods and techniques to home bartending.

The Cocktail Encyclopedia
The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, Dale DeGroff

Photo: graindivresse / Pixabay, CC0

To end the self-educated home bartending experience, the third and final book to consult is The Craft of the Cocktail. DeGroff, known as the King of Cocktails, poured his years of experience spanning the breadth of his knowledge and work into his book, which details 500 recipes. Readers will also find the history of the drinks, DeGroff’s characterization of each cocktail and his own asides from his time behind the bar. With a stocked bar and the skills and understanding of cocktail alchemy, anyone can confidently stir up any one of DeGroff’s many concoctions.

1. The 12 Bottle Bar by David and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, $6.99

2. The Imbible by Micah LeMon, $29.95

3. The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender by Dale DeGroff, $20.24

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