Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Whiskey Cocktails, by Warren Bobrow

I enjoy drinking whiskey, and I enjoy making cocktails, so when I heard Warren Bobrow (@WarrenBobrow1) had written a book called Whiskey Cocktails, I figured I would enjoy reading it.

I ordered the Kindle version, which I almost immediately regretted, because now, instead of another book for my cocktail book shelf, I have this:
Sorry, no, you can't borrow it.

This of course provides all the information, but isn't really a thing. E-books make financial and organizational sense, which are pretty much the exact senses whiskey as a hobby doesn't make. The enjoyment of whiskey and cocktails arises from the interplay between the intellect and the physical senses, which -- for me, at least -- extends to the physical senses of touch and sight while paging through a book of cocktail recipes.

But enough about my age.

The subtitle of Whiskey Cocktails is "Rediscovered Classics and Contemporary Craft Drinks Using the World's Most Popular Spirit." The book has eight chapters:
Copy-and-paste table of contents.
Chapter 1 is an introduction to whiskey. Like all introductions to whiskey, it suffers from a subject that's too complex to summarize accurately. Once you get past the tautologies (e.g., Scotch whiksy is made in Scotland) and legalities (bourbon has at least 51% corn in the mashbill), you're left with generalities that almost always have exceptions. Still, it's interesting to see how different writers tackle this obligatory material; Bobrow, for example, says a lot more about French whisky than Canadian whisky, and shifts into hardcore bartender on the subject of ice ("You can also up your ice's wow factor by polishing it with a wet rag that's been soaked in hot water." Dammit, I didn't even know ice had a wow factor, and now I've got to try polishing it.).

Chapters 2 through 7 are the cocktail recipes, sorted by whiskey type:
  • Chapter 2: Tennessee Sipping Whiskey
  • Chapter 3: Craft Whiskey Made from Alternative Grains
  • Chapter 4: White Whiskey
  • Chapter 5: Rye Whiskey
  • Chapter 6: Scotch Whisky
  • Chapter 7: Whiskeys Around the Globe
The final chapter, "Cooking with Whiskey," has recipes for, you know, cooking with whiskey.

We're only up to the table of contents, and there are already surprises. The elephant that's not in the room is bourbon; it's heavily featured in the food recipes, but not in any cocktails. (I checked with the author, who said there wasn't room in the final edit for bourbon cocktails, but he's got recipes planned for future books.) There are several Irish whiskey cocktails in the "Whiskeys Around the Globe" chapter, but Canadian whisky is only mentioned once, in Chapter 1.

On the flip side, entire chapters devoted to white whiskey and alternative grains (including quinoa, wheat, oat, spelt, hopped, millet, and "smoked American whiskey") signals that this isn't just a collection of old standards (though there are a couple of those too).

Even beyond the fanciful cocktail names -- Old Ships of Battle, Professor Meiklejohn's Pinky, Leaves Straining Against Wind (could you guess this one calls for Japanese whisky?) -- the recipes themselves reflect Bobrow's training as a chef. They call for grilled pineapple, Mexican mole bitters, gelato, honey, coconut milk, quince puree ("or store-bought quince paste"). Not all for the same drink, thankfully, but he certainly doesn't limit himself to what's behind the typical bar.

Who is this book for? Professionals, certainly, looking to expand their repertoire or keep an eye on the state of the art. Amateur enthusiasts too, the sort who would say, "I do believe I'll buy [or make!] some curry bitters today." It may be a bit much for the casual drinker who's just looking for a way to kick their Manhattan up a notch or for a new bottle of something to set out for their next party.

Me, I'm somewhere between the casual drinker and the amateur enthusiast, leaning toward the latter. I just might buy some mole bitters, but I don't see me springing for the full Koval line needed to complete Chapter 3 as written.

Still, I have the idea of trying to work through all the whiskey cocktails in Whiskey Cocktails. I don't expect to follow everything to the letter (I'd probably buy a quinoa whiskey before a French whisky), but I'll stick as close to the recipe as reasonable. If nothing else, it will give me something to blog about in 2015.

(I'll probably try a few recipes from Chapter 8 too, because who doesn't like bourbon glaze, but I don't plan to try to try all of them. I might polish an ice cube to see what that's like, but I'm just not a suckling pig cooker.)

No comments:

Post a Comment