Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: The Joy of Mixology

© Gary Regan, 2003
As I've noted before, Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology is one of the books that helped to send me down the path of cocktail nerdery. Though nominally aimed at aspiring bartenders, this is an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand the theory behind cocktail recipes.

The book opens with a condensed history of cocktails, going all the way back to the 18th century when cocktails emerged as a drink form in Colonial America. As Gary points out, the cocktail is one of the few culinary inventions that is entirely unique to America rather than being derived from imported ideas.

In my opinion, the most useful aspect of this book is the way that drinks are broken into families and presented in spreadsheet form to show how changing the base spirit or an ingredient can produce an entirely new drink. For instance, the Margarita and Daiquiri are all in the sours mold of spirit, sour and sweet, with different spirits (tequila vs. rum) and sweeteners (orange liqueur vs. simple syrup). Understanding those foundations allows one to easily swap one ingredient for another to create new drinks. This has led Regan to create new cocktails to fill "holes" in the cocktail canon where there is an obvious and easy swap that for whatever reason had previously not been made.

The Joy of Mixology would be the first book I would tell someone who wants to learn more about cocktails to buy. It contains all the basic recipes you'll need to keep yourself and others happy. There's plenty of technique and recommendations for equipment you'll need. And it will give you a huge leg up on how to making your own cocktail recipes. If it's not on your shelf yet, go out and buy it right now.


  1. Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks was one of the earliest ones to discuss the families of drinks and how to "roll your own." Worth checking out (even if you don't agree with everything Embury says).

  2. Frederic, while I haven't gotten around to reading that one yet (the used copies tend to be a bit on the pricey side), I definitely know that we're seriously in his debt. I'll have to snag a copy one of these days.