Dry January is almost over (thank God), so to get you primed for a proper season of drinking we thought we’d dig into some of the best books for drinkers. Some of these are cocktail recipe books, others are cocktail histories and some are novels that hinge on booze. All of them should be on your book shelf if you consider yourself a cocktail enthusiast.
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The Craft of the Cocktail
If you want just one book that will transform you from a neophyte to a practiced artisan, The Craft of the Cocktail is your tome. You get tons of recipes and instructions on how to make them, but also stories that unravel the history of the drinks and the personalities behind them.
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The Sun Also Rises
Really, just about anything that Hemingway wrote could fit in this list; his characters are rarely far from a drink. But this book seems to be about drinking above all other things as it follows a group of ex-pats as they eat and drink throughout Paris and Europe, coping with the war in the process. They drank a lot of brandy, a lot more Champagne, beer…and the drinking gets heavier and heavier as the narrative progresses.
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To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion
Part history lesson, part cocktail book, cocktail historian takes a look at Hemingway's life and his favorite drinks, so you can recreate some of the concoctions that filled the pages of one of America's greatest writers.
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The Drunken Botanist
I know what you're thinking. A book about plants? Let's have more Hemingway on this list. But Amy Stewart isn't just writing about plants. She's writing about plants that people have turned into the booze we love today. Haven't you ever wondered how someone saw barley and thought, "I wonder if I can turn that grain into a drink that will make me funnier and more attractive? I think I'll call it Scotch."
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The Rum Diary
Hunter S. Thompson
This is Hunter S. Thompson's first book, and it gives us a glimpse of a literary genius before he was considered a genius. It's far more traditional than his later works, but it's a hell of a good time, as the plot follows a young Thompson working as a journalist in a vastly corrupt world. Set in Puerto Rico, all 200 pages of this book are thoroughly rum-soaked, and you get to see a little bit of how this man became a myth.
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Wondrich is the country's foremost cocktail historian, and Imbibe! is his masterpiece. If you've ever wondered where the hell the Mint Julep came from, this is your book. Also, there are a bunch of great recipes too, so it's more than just fodder for cocktail parties.
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The Joy of Drinking
If you've been looking for a book to help justify your booze habit, this might be the ticket. In this historical romp, Holland takes a look at the role of alcohol throughout time. Spoiler alert: booze has always been pretty important. Or as Holland puts it, booze is "the social glue of the human race." Word.
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Tender is the Night
F. Scott Fitzgerald
I spent most of my college and graduate school years obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and in my humble opinion, this is his best book. Set in France, the story shows a fantastic couple in the midst of a fantastic unraveling. Booze plays a pretty big role in the relationship's demise, but I'll be damned if it isn't a beautiful death.
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Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails
David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald
This is a recipe book, yes, but it's also an homage to one of the great modern bars. Death and Company helped usher in the modern cocktail in New York City. This book, by two of its bartenders and one of its regulars, details the drinks that made that bar so famous, punctuated with beautiful photos of the establishment and fun illustrations. It's as if the authors were able to capture a moment in time, which is really a feat that drinkers are often trying to do themselves.