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A few new wine and cocktail books have hit the market, just in time for holiday gift giving–or, you know, serving as the gift you buy yourself when shopping for others. But unless you’re a sommelier student or burgeoning professional in the biz, you’ll find that these seemingly spirited topics often make for lengthy, academic, dull reading. Recent publications, however, offer a fresh spin on their subjects with humor, levity, and practical insights. Today’s review: Storied Sips, by local New Yorker Erica Duecy.
Other than luxury real estate catalogs that stir-up serious home-envy, I can’t recall reading another book that so made me want to immediately sell my “cozy, charming” apartment and buy a damn house. Why? I need kitchen cabinet space to collect the vintage barware and vessels in which the drinks in this book deserve to be served.
Duecy, a first time author and deputy editor of Fodor’s Travel website, recaptures the glamour of classic cocktails by succinctly sharing the exotic, historical origin of each drink, seducing you to immediately take stock of your liquor cabinet and make a grocery list of what’s missing.
Duecy opens with a brief history of cocktails, informing readers on how bitters were once thought to have curative effects, which, naturally, were best consumed with booze. Any number of remedies could be taken during the day, including “eye-opening” breakfast drinks like the Corpse Reviver #2 (gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, lemon juice, and absinthe), which became popular in the early 19th century. One also had the option of medicating with a “midmorning bracer, lunchtime fortifier, afternoon reviver, evening aperitif, and necessary nightcap,” proving our ancestors were a bunch of boozehounds.
The book covers forty drinks and their recipes, most of them time-tested classics like the mojito, sazerac, and negroni, plus a few obscurities like the Jack Rose and last word. The story of each concoction’s birth brings newfound respect for the drink, particularly ones that have otherwise been bastardized by bad booze culture in the States.
Consider the margarita–a mess of tart-and-sweet pre-fab mix might come to mind. But the original margarita requires three simple ingredients–tequila, lime, and Cointreau (or sweetener)–and was born out of necessity, or at least the desire to drink legally, during Prohibition. Mexico was the closest place to do so, regularly receiving stars and socialites like Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable to the then posh Tijuana. Rumor has it the drink got its name from a beautiful, young dancer who later became famous in the States–Margarita Cansino. Her stage name? Rita Hayworth.
The only downfall to the book is its beauty. Adorned in a white cover, with clever, vintage-inspired collages by Poul Lange to complement the tales, the last thing you’ll want to do is stain it with lemon-and-gin soaked fingers while flipping back to a recipe page. That being said, what good is a cocktail book if you don’t use it? And this one will have you in your kitchen in no time, prepping that restorative eye-opener your great-grandmother always swore by.