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In the Spirit: 10 Cocktail Recipe Books for Bartenders

In the Spirit: 10 Cocktail Recipe Books for Bartenders

The art of mixology goes far beyond simply pouring drinks. It requires understanding flavor profiles and techniques and the ability to craft unique experiences for patrons. 

Good cocktail books not only serve as guides to recipes but also offer a wealth of knowledge on service style, menu development, history, culture, and the global influences that shape the cocktail landscape.

Here, we will explore a curated selection of ten cocktail guidebooks that address various aspects of bartending. We delve into the strategies of running a modern bar, understanding the historical foundations and cultural influences of cocktails, discovering the new classics that redefine the craft of drink blending, and embracing the international flavors that enrich the world of bartending. 

Running the Modern Bar

Running a modern bar requires a blend of creativity, business acumen, and a deep understanding of customer preferences. These three essential cocktail books provide invaluable insights into developing a service style and creating a compelling menu that keeps patrons returning for more. 

Meehan's Bartender's Manual by Jim Meehan

Meehan's Bartender's Manual

When running a bar, few resources are as comprehensive and indispensable as Meehan's Bartender's Manual. Authored by renowned mixologist and bar owner Jim Meehan, this book serves as a roadmap for aspiring and seasoned bartenders alike. With a focus on the strategy of creating a service style and developing a menu, Meehan shares his wealth of knowledge and experience, guiding readers through the intricacies of crafting a memorable bar experience.

Meehan gained recognition for his work at the iconic New York City cocktail bar PDT (Please Don't Tell). PDT was recognized as one of the best bars in the world, and Meehan's innovative approach to cocktails contributed to its success.

In 2011, Meehan published the highly acclaimed The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy. This book featured recipes from the PDT menu, along with detailed instructions and insights into the art of cocktail-making. 

So, Meehan's Bartender's Manual wouldn't be complete without its collection of 100 meticulously crafted drinks — each carefully annotated, showcasing the essential bartending skills required to master them. But there is way more to this manual than cocktail recipes. It is an indispensable guide for aspiring cocktail bar owners, illuminating the logistical aspects necessary to bring their dreams to life. From expertly curating a cocktail menu and selecting the finest glassware to envisioning the distinctive ambiance of your establishment and the patrons who will gather and revel within, the focus lies on the operational intricacies of a successful bar rather than simply the drinks it serves.

Meehan includes interviews with prominent experts in various roles within the industry, such as bartenders and distillers, broadening the viewpoint on the field. The book provides floor plans of renowned establishments, helpful advice for resolving issues with tap systems, and a profound appreciation for cocktail historians. 

This manual is a quintessential resource for individuals opening a cocktail bar or those seeking inspiration to elevate an already-established venue to new heights of excellence.

Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold

Liquid Intelligence Book

Liquid Intelligence is a must-read for those seeking to boost their bartending skills with a scientific edge. This book examines the sophisticated, science-based techniques and drinks that push the boundaries of cocktail creation.

Immersed in rigor, precision, and exquisite detail, this book by the host of the popular Cooking Issues podcast and the mastermind behind the now-closed avant-garde cocktail bars Booker & Dax and Existing Conditions, will challenge the very foundations of your knowledge about the art of crafting drinks. 

With an insatiable curiosity, Arnold digs into the scientific aspects of cocktails, exploring the intricacies of ice formation, flavor infusion, clarification techniques, fat washing, carbonation, and a range of other subjects that ignite the imagination of any cocktail aficionado seeking understanding and innovation. This book is for bartenders who want to put on a show for their patrons, going way beyond the familiar.

Arnold's work is a strong resource, not only for its recipes but also for the depth of perception it offers. Alongside his scientific prowess, Arnold infuses the pages with his witty humor, making the journey through the book both enlightening and entertaining.

Good Drinks by Julia Bainbridge

Good Drinks Book

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for non-alcoholic beverages that don't compromise flavor or creativity. 

In her book Good Drinks, James Beard award-nominee and food journalist Julia Bainbridge presents an enticing exploration of some of the most unusual ideas in this growing field. With a focus on flavor profiles, ingredients not part of the standard bar repertoire, and clever techniques, this book offers a refreshing perspective on crafting exceptional beverages.

Good Drinks brings together an impressive array of contributors, including bartenders from beloved neighborhood gems and renowned national hotspots. Esteemed names in the bartending world, such as Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Jim Meehan, and Julia Momosé, lend their expertise. 

The drink names themselves exude the same playful memorability synonymous with alcoholic cocktails, offering a delightful promise of nuanced flavors. For instance, a drink named "Cherry & Smoke" artfully combines Lapsang Souchong tea's complexities with cherry juice's tartness. Another creation, the "Grapefruit Radler," expertly blends non-alcoholic beer with freshly squeezed citrus juice. And for those seeking a tropical treat, "Don't Touch My Car Keys" puts a twist on tradition, featuring a delightful combination of coconut syrup, lime juice, and mint.

This book is an invaluable resource for home kitchens and professional bar programs. Its highly appealing and useful recipes open up a world of possibilities for those exploring the realm of “mocktails.” 

Understanding the History and Culture of Cocktails

Behind many cocktails is history and culture that shaped how we enjoy libations today. To truly master the craft of bartending, it is essential to understand the origins, anecdotes, and traditions that came before.

Imbibe! (2nd Edition) by David Wondrich

Imbibe 2nd Edition Book

Hailed as the definitive history book of cocktails, Imbibe! is an essential reference. This revised and expanded edition of the book is a compelling and comprehensive exploration of the history, culture, and techniques behind classic American cocktails. 

David Wondrich, an esteemed drinks historian and cocktail authority, dives into cocktail lore to unravel the stories behind beloved beverages. With diligent research and engaging storytelling, Wondrich brings the characters, bars, and historical moments that shaped the cocktail landscape to life. 

One of the most exciting aspects of this revised edition is the inclusion of new tales centered around the legendary figure, "Professor" Jerry Thomas. Wondrich weaves captivating narratives around Thomas, shedding further light on his contributions to the world of cocktail craftsmanship and his enduring legacy.

The updated edition introduces over 20 historically and internationally influential cocktails. Among these notable additions are the Singapore Gin Sling, the Caribbean Green Swizzle, the Pisco Sour, and the Argentine-Uruguayan Saint Martin Cocktail. The book also provides a more comprehensive exploration of the Mint Julep, offering further insights into its origins and variations.

With these additions and refinements, the revised edition of Imbibe! offers an even richer and more comprehensive collection of cocktail knowledge that will please anyone interested in where cocktail ingredients came from and how spirit-making techniques evolved.

The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, edited by David Wondrich with Noah Rothbaum

The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails Book

For a comprehensive guide to the world of cocktail artistry, The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails is an indispensable resource. Edited by David Wondrich, this encyclopedic book uncovers the stories behind famous brands, distilleries, and bartenders. 

It provides in-depth information on the different types of spirits, including whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, gin, and many less familiar drinks from around the world. Each entry offers historical context, production methods, tasting notes, and recommended cocktails or serving suggestions.

Beyond its informational value, this book is captivating and draws readers in with its fascinating tales, colorful personalities, and a treasure trove of forgotten brews. From exploring the science behind the use of ice in cocktails to uncovering obscure historical details, every page offers an opportunity for discovery and immersion. With its engaging content, it's easy to get lost within the pages of this glorious book, exploring the captivating world of spirits and cocktails.

The New Classics

The world of cocktails is ever-evolving, with bartenders continuously pushing the boundaries of creativity and reinventing the classics. These two influential books on cocktails showcase the new classics, redefining the landscape of beverage blending.

The New Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff

The New Craft of the Cocktail

Written by the legendary bartender and mixologist Dale DeGroff, The New Craft of the Cocktail is a testament to the artistry and innovation of modern cocktail mixtures. Known as the "King of Cocktails," DeGroff famously created the Cosmopolitan and trained many of the most influential American bartenders working today. 

Initially released in 2002 and revised in 2020, this edition features 100 additional recipes and enhanced insights into the fascinating world of cocktail making. DeGroff, a true luminary in the field, has nurtured and inspired a generation of mixologists during his tenure at renowned establishments like The Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.

His book offers a comprehensive guide to creating contemporary cocktails while paying homage to traditional techniques. Focusing on fresh ingredients, balanced flavors, and exquisite presentation, The New Craft of the Cocktail provides bartenders with a wealth of recipes and insights to craft timeless libations that captivate the senses.

This mixology book caters to the earnest beginner, offering a deeper understanding of what makes a cocktail exceptional rather than focusing solely on ease of preparation. With 500 recipes, spanning reimagined classics from the 1880s to contemporary creations showcasing the latest popular spirits, DeGroff strikes the perfect balance between providing essential information and igniting the reader's curiosity to try new combinations.

Cocktail Codex by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, & David Kaplan

Cocktail Codex

Cocktail Codex takes a unique approach to understanding the fundamentals of cocktail creation. The creative minds behind the award-winning Death & Co. cocktail bars assert that just six foundational cocktails serve as the canvases for the art of drink-making. These iconic cocktails — the old-fashioned, martini, daiquiri, sidecar, whisky highball, and flip — provide the framework for all other creations.

By understanding the principles of these six cocktails — their proper mixing techniques, precise proportions, and the perfect glassware that showcases their essence — readers gain the ability to craft them with perfection. Furthermore, they develop a deep appreciation for the unique characteristics that each cocktail offers to the discerning drinker. Armed with this knowledge, readers can then pursue their own creative flair, bringing a personal touch to their interpretations of these classic beverages.

Throughout the book, the authors go beyond the basics, offering guidance on personalizing cocktails through the use of syrups, infusions, and clarified juices. The authors demonstrate how home carbonation techniques and the artful use of smoke elevate the craft to new levels of creativity. The book also recommends certain spirits and mixers, providing a starting point for readers to embark on their mixological journey.

Cocktail Codex is a valuable resource for bartenders seeking to develop their creativity while grounding their craft in the foundations of mixology.

The International Bar

The world of cocktails is a vast and diverse landscape, with influences from different cultures and regions shaping how we enjoy drinking. To embrace the global spirit of bartending, it is essential to investigate the international bar scene and the unique flavors and techniques it offers.

Tropical Standard by Garret Richard & Ben Schaffer

Tropical Standard Cocktail Book

Garret Richard, the talented cocktail program director at Sunken Harbor Club in Brooklyn, and Ben Schaffer, an acclaimed cocktail writer and founder of The Rum Reader, breathe new life into the tropical cocktail tradition with Tropical Standard

Gone are the days of ordinary daiquiris, mai tais, and piña coladas. Richard and Schaffer set the standard high, infusing these beloved classics with the latest rigor in modern cocktail techniques. 

Drawing inspiration from Dave Arnold's groundbreaking Liquid Intelligence (as recommended above), Tropical Standard combines deep historical exploration with precise advice on all aspects of tropical cocktail creation. This book leaves no stone unturned, from the type of ice required for each drink and its purpose to the perfect ingredient proportions and mixing techniques. Arnold himself has provided the foreword, adding his seal of approval to this great work.

Tropical Standard is a book for bartenders who seek complete control over their craft. Richard and Schaffer recommend specific liquors based on their distinct flavor profiles and provide recipes for creating and standardizing your own unique components. Pore over the benefits of using granulated sugar in frozen blender drinks, the versatility of salty flavor profiles in rum fusions, and the art of sugar-adjusting fruit syrups for balanced sweetness. Learn to acid-adjust juices, craft homemade grenadine, rapidly infuse chocolate bitters, and create passion fruit cordial to elevate your tropical cocktails to new heights.

The book also highlights the intricate garnishes, vibrant glassware, and imaginative serving vessels that elevate tropical cocktails into a sensory experience.

Within the pages of Tropical Standard, you will discover captivating stories, such as the journey to recreate Donn Beach's legendary Don's Mix, resulting not only in a bolder cinnamon-grapefruit flavor but also in a brand new Beachcomber Negroni. 

For anyone passionate about Polynesian cocktail creation, Tropical Standard is an indispensable resource that deserves a place on your bookshelf.

The Spirits of Latin America by Ivy Mix

The Spirits of Latin America

In 2019, Leyenda, the renowned Brooklyn bar created by Ivy Mix, received a coveted James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Bar Program. Set apart from the multitude of outstanding bars in New York City, Leyenda distinguishes itself with its dedicated focus on showcasing drinks from diverse regions across Latin America.

In Mix's book, aptly titled The Spirits of Latin America, readers are treated to a compilation of enticing recipes and immersed in the diversity of drinking traditions across this vast region. Mix offers a spellbinding exploration of Latin America's unique flavors and cultural nuances, with sections dedicated to spirits derived from agave, sugarcane, and grapes. 

From the smoky mezcal of Mexico to the complex rum of the Caribbean, Mix analyzes the cultural significance and traditional production methods behind these spirits, providing bartenders with a deeper understanding of their unique flavors and possibilities. 

But Spirits of Latin America goes beyond mere recipes, providing readers with an awareness that the drinking experience in Guatemala differs greatly from that of Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Peru. This book serves as a compelling guide, shedding light on the diverse spirits and drinking customs that shape Latin American culture.

Mix's book is a harmonious blend of traditional libations and contemporary creations, each meticulously crafted to highlight the distinctive qualities of a particular liquor. It's important to note that this collection is not limited to simple three-ingredient cocktails; instead, it invites readers to indulge in the allure of potions and elixirs with intriguing names such as Ghost Coast, Desde Siempre, and Spicy Llama.

The Way of the Cocktail:  Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes by Julia Momosé and Emma Janzen

The Way of the Cocktail Book

And last but certainly not least, uncover the artistry and precision of Japanese cocktails with The Way of the Cocktail. This book reveals the elegant and meticulous approach to bartending that has made Japanese mixology renowned worldwide. 

Written by Julia Momosé, an acclaimed mixologist known for her work at renowned bars like Kumiko in Chicago and the Michelin-starred Oriole, and Emma Janzen, a respected cocktail writer, this book combines expert knowledge and engaging storytelling to unveil the secrets of Japanese cocktail making. 

From the precise attention to detail in every step of the process to the careful craftsmanship in creating harmonious flavor profiles, Japanese cocktails are a true testament to cocktail artistry. The Way of the Cocktail introduces bartenders to the techniques, ingredients, and philosophy behind Japanese cocktail mixing, allowing them to incorporate these refined principles into custom creations.

It examines the art of crafting homemade syrups, tinctures, and infusions using traditional Japanese ingredients, such as yuzu, matcha, and sake. The authors also provide an array of authentic Japanese cocktail recipes that showcase the delicate balance and nuanced flavors that define the Japanese approach.

Whether you are an experienced bartender seeking to expand your repertoire or a cocktail enthusiast curious about Japanese cocktail artistry, this book offers a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. With its beautifully illustrated pages, informative narratives, and meticulously crafted recipes, The Way of the Cocktail is an excellent resource for anyone seeking to master the Japanese approach to cocktail making.

Cheers to the Art of Bartending

Cocktail books provide recipes and a glimpse into industry experts' minds, sharing their wisdom, experiences, and insights. They empower bartenders to push the boundaries of creativity, develop a unique style, and create unforgettable drinking experiences for their patrons. These books serve as mentors, inspiring bartenders to continuously learn, experiment, and refine their techniques.

As you embark on your bartending journey, remember that the true essence of mixology lies not only in the drinks themselves but also in the connections made, the stories shared, and the experiences created. Cocktail and mixology books can guide you through the vast world of spirits and mixers, encouraging you to blend flavors, push boundaries, and create magical moments for those who gather at your bar. 

Explore our extensive collection of beverage books available online. From cocktails and liqueurs to wines and beers, we have plenty of tipples to read about. If you don’t see what you’re looking for on the website, contact us at, and one of our expert team will find the perfect book for you.
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