The Cocktail Companion
This thorough “guide to cocktail history, culture, trivia, and favorite drinks”, as the subtitle has it, is comprehensive. It’s full of useful and interesting information — maybe too much. It’s a shame that the presentation isn’t as professional as the content.
The Cocktail Companion by Cheryl Charming is laid out as though it was printed from web pages. It’s a larger-sized paperback, and it’s a chore to read. Given the page width, columns would have been preferred to the full-width layout here. I found it easy to lose my place and fatiguing to read the large chunks of text, which could also have had a lot more pictures and section breaks.
Layout matters, in short, and while putting out a book is now easy, it’s attention to these details that determine whether a book is worth buying. What’s here may also be overkill for those only casually interested in the topic, as the author does deep dives into details and obscurities on many of these topics.
It actually takes a while to get to actual cocktails. First, there’s a history (which is immensely fixated, in the modern years, on the Cosmopolitan), a history of alcohol, then the same for Prohibition, vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whisky, liqueurs, absinthe, bitters, wine, beer, garnishes, and even ice.
So, about halfway through the book, we finally start reading about specific famous cocktails, arranged by region of the country or world. There’s a relatively short section of recipes, then profiles of famous bartenders and guides to glassware and tools.
My favorite chapters, given my interests, were those on bar etiquette and media influences. (The publisher provided a review copy.)