Sure, we might live in a golden age of Cocktails (and for that we can all be grateful) but it doesn’t take much time on Amazon to realise that we also live in a golden age of Cocktail books.
Whether you are looking for a how-to guide to create the drinks, a bible on the various spirits that those drinks contain or even just a cheeky look at the cats that seem to hang around (and have a job) in just about every distillery on the planet, there’s a book for you.
But if you’re looking for something that will give you pause, then you don’t need to look much further than The Aviary Cocktail Book.
How It Came About
The book is the collaboration of Chef Grant Achatz, his business partner Nick Kokonas and Micah Melton, beverage manager for the Alinea Group, as well as visual effects artists and authors Allen and Sarah Hemberger.
While Achatz and Kokonas had frequently been approached to do an Aviary book, both thought that the style of bar books that were on the market were kind of small. It was only once they met the Hembergers that the concept for the book started to come to life.
Allen Hemberger was a great admirer of Achatz’s initial Alinea cookbook and started in true Julia Powell-style a project to cook all 400 recipes in the book. The couple then documented his experience in a book called The Alinea Project, which they self-published.
It was once he received a copy of this book, that Achatz knew they had found the creatives with whom to create a cocktail book; a couple that truly understood his ideology and way of thinking.
The first thing that strikes you about the Aviary Cocktail Book is that it’s big. It’s a big, fat, cookbook-sized cocktail book.
As someone who was put in the unfortunate position of having to carry it back from the post office, with shopping in one hand and the dog in the other, this is definitely no thin, whispy, pocket guide to cocktails.
Basically, Achatz wanted to publish a book that did justice and represented his cocktail creations in the same way as cookbooks have done for food.
Like everything else Achatz and Kokonas have created, when it came to crafting a cocktail book, they wanted to do things differently and disrupt the status quo of traditional publishing.
It has a similar feel to a good cookbook.
Now if you’ve ever spent time with a chef, you know that the evolution of a recipe is never done. They are constantly tweaking and revising, and the Aviary book does that too, by exploring the evolution of the drink recipes.
Aside from the beautiful photos, there are sidebars throughout explaining decisions or variations. At first glance, you might describe it as a book that brings molecular mixology into the home but it doesn’t take long to realise they have done this in a very approachable way.
It’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
While there is a large selection of recipes in the book that are really aimed at the ‘home cook’ type of bartenders, there are also some really easy recipes as well.
If you like going down the rabbit hole of preparation, they certainly provide one but the joy of this book is really in the options that it presents. Sure some recipes require a smoking gun but just as many that only require what a standard home bar would possess.
The book goes out of its way to present variations – if there’s both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic version, they put it in; if a single cocktail recipe can be batched, they include it; if it can be turned into a punch, well, they’ll give you that recipe as well.
Most of all though, the main point about this book, is the enthusiasm that pours from every page. These are people who not only love what they do but they want you to love and understand it as well.
It’s not just beautiful photos and adaptable recipes, it’s an invitation to explore and get involved. Sure, it might take months or even years to fully make your way through everything this book has to offer but it doesn’t take long for you to realise that you want to take the journey.
Whether you’re a novice home mixologist or fairly experienced, this is a book that will not only make you want to think about how you do this but will ultimately make you want to do better and realise that cocktails are not just liquid in a glass.