CLEVELAND, Ohio – Sixteen books on beer, wine, spirits and cocktails cover a range of topics from recipes, helpful tips, interesting history and more.
Books on drinks – like ones on food – have evolved to be very specific in their focus.
Here’s a look at what might make holiday fodder for your pals who like to sip as they read:
MIXED DRINKS: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails
By Ted Haigh, Quarry, 364 pages, $24.99
The author – “Dr. Cocktail” is out with a spiral-bound book on 1920s drinks, with a breezy historical overview and great photographs and art. It covers forays into American history, the origins of ‘bootleg’ and the impact of Andrew Volstead. Brief vignettes or references on origins of drinks are found in the recipe section.
By Hugh Johnson, Octopus Books, 336 pages, $16.99
Our usual disclaimer with this comprehensive annual updated book is get your cheaters or magnifying glass out. But it really packs a lot in its format; the ‘how to use this book’ section is important. Quick reviews on wineries aid the reader, and an index on the 10 best things about wine right now is practical. Note: This is the end of the line for Johnson, as he is transitioning the book to his editor, Margaret Rand.
SPIRITS: Rare Whisky
By Patrick Mahe, Conran Octopus, 240 pages, $55
This tome – roughly 10 inches by 13 inches – is meant for a coffee table and comes complete with its own pocket sleeve. The full-bottle photography works well on the black pages. The book focuses on its title and is not an historical overview of all things whiskey. It summarizes high-priced whiskies in readable vignettes. Definitely a gift for the whiskey lover to pour him- or herself a glass of their favorite as they read about the nuances and flavors found in some old and high-priced bottles ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
BEER: The Dogfish Head Book
By Sam Calagione, Mariah Calagione and Andrew C. Greeley; Wiley, 380 pages, $35
The book on the Delaware brewery is mostly composed of approximately one-page summaries of its beers, with a bit of history tossed in. The stories of the beers (and assorted co-worker profiles) help tell the story of the well-regarded brewery, which has been around more than a quarter century.
MIXED DRINKS: Peaky Blinders Cocktail Book
By assorted editors, White Lion Publishing, 109 pages, $18
For those who are not familiar with “Peaky Blinders,” the gang and Netflix show of the same name started in 2014 and focuses on an Irish gang beginning right after World War I. The call for “Irish or English?” is heard often. From the Billy Kimber to the Inspector Campbell, the reader/ fan of the show will take in 40 drink recipes, most requiring no more than 5 minutes prep time, interspersed with photos of the drinks and characters. (Related coverage: ‘Peaky Blinders’ vs. ‘Sons of Anarchy’: 17 similarities)
WINE: On California
By multiple contributors, Academie du Vin Library, 271 pages, $45
This is a unique approach, drawing on the expertise of multiple writers, each contributing to some aspect of California’s wines. Chapters include mini biographies on lesser-known figures affecting the wine industry to the 1976 California-vs.-France tasting to a first-person account of working in a vineyard. The book launched in the United States on Oct. 5, which would have been Steven Spurrier’s 80th birthday. Spurrier, of the famed “Judgment in Paris” challenge, founded Academie du Vin Library publishing.
DRINKS: The Thinking Drinkers Almanac
By Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, Octopus Books, 272 pages, $12.99
Subtitled “Adventurous drinks and eccentric tales for every day of the year,” this a fun datebook that offers erudite, readable snippets that quickly educate the reader. The book is brightly written, a fun amalgamation of literature and historical figures. Sept. 13, for instance is Roald Dahl Day, which offers Chateau de Beauregard for the writer’s birthday: “An enthusiastic collector of wine,” Dahl even installed a chute for his vino, the writers say. “The chute reminds us of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ when that fatso Augustus Gloop is sucked out of the chocolate river. And Violet Beauregard is actually named after Bordeaux’s Chateau Beauregard, one of the largest Pomerol estates and producer of prestigious wines like Cheval Blanc and Petrus.”
BEER: World Atlas of Beer
By Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont, Mitchell Beazley, 272 pages, $39.99
The third edition is all things beer – its history, a how-to-brew primer and a comprehensive guide by countries. From tips on storing to serving, this is a one-stop shop for those interested in an overall look at suds.
By Eric Zandona, Mitchell Beazley, 224 pages, $19.99
The book covers eight states and two regions, giving an overview of who’s serving what by state. Each distillery’s synopsis ends with “If you try one …” and wonderful tasting notes, like this for Wood Hat Spirits Bloody Dapper: “Initially there are some resinous, almost pine notes that soften it into a light woody character mixed with caramel, almost like licking residual vanilla ice cream from an ice lolly.”
By Heather Sandy Hebert and Chase Reynolds Ewald, Gibbs Smith, 239 pages, $50
This book, on the architecture and design of homes in California’s wine country, focuses on the exquisite designs and varying architectural styles of homes, interior and exterior, with vineyards serving as an overall backdrop. Don’t expect a wine book per se, though it’s easy to picture ourselves sipping a glass from one of the living rooms shown here, gazing at a valley or vines.
By Jim McEwan and Udo Sonntag, Plassen Verlag, 485 pages, $80 approximately
The life of the Scotsman, whose name is synonymous with distilling, is here for whiskey lovers. McEwan is an award-winning distiller whose career has spanned more than half a century. One of the more colorful stories involves a fisherman catching an actual yellow submarine, which became the name of a single-malt Scotch Whiskey. For the whiskey anoraks who like a deep dive into biographical subjects.
By Stacey Kwong and Beyah del Mundo, Rock Point, 143 pages, $19.99
Boba – also known as bubble tea – is tapioca balls nestled at the bottom of your cup. The authors founded Milk+T and offer 50 recipes, all variations with types of milk, tea, fruit and more. You don’t have to relegate your hankerings for this non-alcoholic drink until you are out and about; you can make it at home.
MIXED DRINKS: Fever-Tree Easy Mixing
By multiple authors, Mitchell Beazley, 224 pages, $19.99
The book covers 150 recipes for mixed drinks and cocktails broken by six categories (highballs and oddballs, no and low alcohol, soda and spritzes, etc.) Plenty of photographs are included, and a techniques and equipment primer is helpful. Several recipes have informative factoids.
By Luke Whittall, TouchWood, 138 pages, $20
This might be the most geographic-centric drinks book that crossed our desk this year. BC as in British Columbia. It includes price, body, sweetness level and attitude – the latter offering a brief descriptor like “in your face,” “introverted,” “lustful” and others. One-page summaries include a full-bottle shot of each entry, and sections are broken by sparkling, rose, white, red and dessert wines.
DRINKS: How to Drink Like a Writer
By Apollo Publishers, Apollo Publishers, 296 pages, $19.99
If you ever wondered where a writer gets his or her inspiration, this book might offer some ideas. Each recipe is a writer’s favorite. Scribes from all eras, from Shakespeare to Rowling, are represented here, with quick precedes before recipes. A fun read for those who like books and an occasional sip. Turns out Agatha Christie liked Pink Gin, Raymond Carver opted for a Heart Stopper Bloody Mary, and J.K. Rowling prefers “a classic from the muggle world,” gin and tonic.
COCKTAILS: Pantry Cocktails
By Katherine Cobbs, Tiller Press, 166 pages, $19.99
This is all about being creative with what it’s in your pantry – for drinks and nibbles. Beautiful watercolor art accompanies the recipes. Recipes are divvied into sections: Fridge, garden, cupboard and basics. If you fancy yourself a “kitchen MacGyver,” this book is for you.
Local bookstores are worth checking out, for sales, author visits and other events. Here are a few in Northeast Ohio:
• Learned Owl Book Shop, 204 N. Main St., Hudson
• Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland
• Mac’s Backs, 1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights
• Visible Voice, 2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland
I am on cleveland.com’s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning. And tune in at 7 a.m. Wednesdays for “Beer with Bona and Much, Much More” with Munch Bishop on 1350-AM The Gambler. Twitter: @mbona30.
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