A home bar is a man’s best friend, and many times his greatest accomplishment. It’s a place to gather with your compadres, complain in a manful way about your spouses and work, discuss dropping a new engine in that old T-Top Camaro, and get sloppy over arguments about the Steelers. It is meant to be a place to gather, but it is also a place to learn. During parties, and even your own sessions of experimental drink mixing, you need books in your bar to help you out, so that you can figure out when to use Cointreau, and when Triple-Sec is fine.
In choosing books for your bar, the best advice is always to go with what you like. If you’re a rum drinker, focus on that. If you prefer wines, then that’s going to be the way to go. Since we can’t tell you what to like, we’ve found an arrangement of books that cover both the mixing of drinks, along with some history, some anecdotes, and some entertainment, so that even when you’re working behind your bar, you’re going to get a little amusement out of it. Now, onto the 15 best books for your home bar.
The 12 Bottle Bar
Begin Again: If you’re an old hand behind the mahogany, or if you’re just trying to get a basic home bar off the ground, The 12 Bottle Bar has recipes for you alongside tips and tricks for keeping costs down while simultaneously maximizing the potential of a small, inexpensive garage or basement pub.
Atilla the Pun: Have a Pitcher of Dorian Grey or maybe indulge your senses with a Love in the Time of Kahlúa. Packed to the gills with groan-inducing recipes, Tequila Mockingbird also bears jokes, bar games, and clever anecdotes that are easy enough to understand them, even when you have a serious buzz.
Get Comfortable: Most drinking takes place in the summer, where ice cold beers and frozen margaritas are the order of the day. In Winter Cocktails, summer holds no sway as all the comforting, warming, and delightful cocktails of the frozen months take center stage.
Shake: A New Perspective On Cocktails
Booze & Business: From Eric Prum and Josh Williams – cocktail scientists of tomorrow and the people who determined how to make a Mason jar into a cocktail shaker – “Shake” is a book about two friends who wanted to imitate bar drinks, and make their own, at a place where they didn’t cost 12 dollars each: Their home.
The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual
From The Emerald Isle: People in Ireland have literally forgotten more about drinking than anyone else in the world. Coming from two Belfast writers, this is a Drinks Manual penned by men who were in the trenches and know what’s good and what’s garbage. From the founders of The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in Manhattan, it’s a look at making drinks that are good enough for the most refined city in the world. And New York.
Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All
Specialist: Bitters is a bar book full of recipes with one thing in common: The strange mixture known to serious drinkers as Bitters. Inside you’ll find a few mixtures, but you’ll stick around to learn the strange tale of alcohol as it relates to Bitters: The concoction that nearly went extinct.
American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye
Land of the Free: Most nationalities can point to a spirit that is truly theirs. While the Irish started whiskey, Americans altered it with variations, and those are about as close to domestically invented as most quality liquor gets. This book uses an inside baseball approach to teach you more about making, mixing, and drinking, the American way.
The PDT Cocktail Book
The Legend: PDT is a New York City bar that has been around since the dark days of Prohibition. Their meticulous recipes – and their ability to hide the flavor of some of the foulest bathtub gin – has made them a classic among the bar book crowd. From Jim Meehan, the first name in true barmen, this belongs in any home bar, even if it’s little more than a trolly.
The North American Whiskey Guide from Behind the Bar
Straight Up: You can find a few recipes, but mostly this book is about what whiskeys you should be drinking. It’s a celebration of all things barley and rye, with a little wheat thrown in for good measure. There’s reviews listed for more than 250 whiskeys, so you always know what to expect.
The Craft of the Cocktail
Nuts & Bolts: From 2002, this is still considered a classic cocktail book. Delving into more than just recipes, you’ll also learn all the facets to bartending, get more information about the tools, and prime your excitement for your bar. The Craft is the way to give a beginner bartender a start.
Proof: The Science of Booze
The Perfect Buzz: While alcohol has been around for ages, the actual effects it has on a person, and the way it alters the chemistry of the human body is still largely a mystery to medical science. Proof looks at the investigation of neurologists into the perfect buzz, and the chemistry of how to get more out of your drinks without just adding hooch.
The Bar Book
Survival Guide: It takes stones to call a book “The Bar Book,” but Jeffrey Morgenthaler is enough of an expert in the spirit world that he managed to pull it off. The Bar Book teaches technique more than anything, and can make your mixing smoother and more savory with every pour.
Double Meaning: This is a very intelligent book that explores the science behind some of the greatest cocktails in the world and explains why they work, how to make them better, and what can enhance their presentation. Then, it teaches you how to make some of these drinks and utterly liquify any intellect you may have had. By knowing the fundamentals, you’ll learn not just how to mix, but how to invent a cocktail.
Art of The Drink: The taste of food and drink is changed in our minds depending on whether or not it is presented well. Craft Cocktails is about making drinks that look as good as they taste, and can entice a crowd with ingenuity. It also explores cocktails as a form of artistic expression, with recipes to help you get your creative juices flowing.
Collector’s Piece: It’s impossible to pinpoint where the American bar began, but this work from alcohol historian David Wondrich takes a look back at all the toughest years of barman Jerry Thomas, the growth of bar culture, and more than a few cocktails that will put hair on your…chest.