I am a visual learner, which I discovered the hard way studying for hours without end to memorize words in Arabic script. But there are far more fun things to learn – and at times more impressive – than a foreign language. Cocktails are the perfect example. Why skim your way through endless pages of mixologist formulae when you can laugh your way through ingeniously sketched illustrations and matching witty script to boot? I think there’s no better reason for the existence of Orr Shtuhl and Elizabeth Graeber’s libation collaboration, An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails: 50 Classic Recipes, Tips, and Tales.
I had the pleasure of discovering this gem of a cookbook while browsing Brooklyn Kitchen for gift bag fillers about a month ago. I was drawn in by the sight of boozing penguins and was hooked by the prose that matched the loose, colorful sketches in the book. Each cocktail recipe comes with a bit of historical background and the directions go well beyond stirring or shaking. Among the best, “Turn the lights off and prepare for your friends to be awed.” My favorite part of the book is the cocktail selection – you get the impression that the minds behind the guide are generally more interested in how to tell the tale than how to tease your tastebuds. They’ll readily admit a particular drink is no good, but that the process of making it will be sure to impress. And after all, what would a host love better than to impress her wide-eyed guests? Nothing my friends, nothing. So go out, grab a book and please, don’t burn your house down trying to make the Blue Blazer.