Wednesday 30 December 2015

Book review – Classic Cocktails and Cuban Cocktails

Note – I won these books in an online draw courtesy of the ever-excellent Floating Rum Shack and Sterling Epicure publishers.

Two books dropped though my letterbox just before Christmas and while quite different in their styles both are written by people who truly care about a good cocktail and have a quite staggering array of experience to call on. 

Classic cocktails by Salvatore Calabrese

This is a pleasingly hefty new edition of Calabrese’s 1997 tome, a veteran of various legendary London venues such as the Lanesborough Hotel and Dukes Hotel Calabrese is clearly passionate about his drinks. 

An engaged and clearly passionate writer Calabrese takes his time discussing the history of the cocktail, glassware, ice-handling and even famous bartenders and drinkers of the past before diving into a chapter devoted to the Martini. The book is gorgeously illustrated with photography so the cocktails juxtaposed with old and rare bottles of the spirits concerned, drawing the reader into the notion that these are drinks that have been around for decades and we drinkers are another part of that history.

There are another 200+ cocktails detailed within the book, all being at the more refined end of the spectrum, as you’d expect from the title, with little titbits about their history here and there.  At the end is a sections of “Calabrese Classics”, drinks he has created over the years for family members, celebrities and special occasions including the wonderful Breakfast Martini.

I only have one small quibble with the book, while Calabrese is clearly a very enthusiastic and passionate man the exclamation point is deployed much too often for my tastes and it did begin to grate a little after a while. That is, admittedly, a very minor point and a question of personal taste more than anything else.

Currently at £14.94 on Amazon this is an interesting read, with some delicious sounding cocktails I look forward to trying out myself.

Cuban Cocktails by Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger & Alla Lapushchik

Reflecting a generational difference to Calabrese this is a more rrelaxed, informal feeling book.  The writers have cocktail CV’s including some of the legendary US venues such as Death & Co, PDT and Cienfuegos, the Cuban rum bar that inspired this book.

Now, there’s one rather obvious problem with a book on Cuban cocktails from the US, they can’t actually use any Cuban ingredients thanks to that pesky embargo (naughty, naughty communists). This being said once you accept that it’s an enjoyable book to dip into with some delicious sounding recipes that are more Caribbean-inspired than strictly Cuban in a lot of cases e.g a mint julep with Barbancourt rum from Haiti it’s very enjoyable. 

The book shows some serious knowledge and it’s worn lightly with a conversational writing style that’s relaxed and friendly with a section covering the history of Cuba before an introductory section covering the essential techniques, ingredients and so on.

The recipes themselves are divided into four sections covering colonial times, citrus drinks such as the daiquiri, Tiki drinks and modern interpretations.  

The photography mixes street scenes from Cuba with shots of the cocktails themselves, both are evocative and enticing, making me simultaneously crave a Daiquiri and to start pricing flights to Havana.

At £17.99 on Amazon this is a well-presented and gorgeously photographed book, albeit it feels more like a book to leaf through on an idle Sunday afternoon than one I’d pick up and start trying to make the drinks mentioned, delicious though they do sound.  

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