Top Drinks Books of 2011

by Emily Bell and Jeff Harding
December 2011


An Ideal Wine
David Darlington (Harper Collins)
The PDT Cocktail Book: the Complete Bartender’s Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy
Jim Meehan, illustrations by Chris Gall (Sterling Epicure)
The Drops of God
Tadashi Agi Shu Okimoto (Vertical, Inc.)

Fortunately, choosing the right wine or cocktail reference book isn’t as difficult—or painfully idiosyncratic—as choosing the right wine or cocktail. These few, proud picks from 2011 are easily among the more intriguing, helpful, innovative, and informative books out there. And while we don’t expect our audience to make it through the entirety of PDT’s cocktail curriculum vitae, or immediately implement 100 percent green initiatives in your wine programs, we’re happy to offer the books you’ll need if and when you do update your beverage programs in the coming year.

An Ideal Wine

David Darlington
Harper Collins
May 2011
An Ideal Wine by David Darlington is an in-depth account of the California wine industry and the two conflicting schools of thought in wine making. The book centers on two camps of wine-makers: Randall Grahm, famed winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyards, and Leo McCloskey, the founder of Enologix, a leading consultancy that helps wineries use scientific techniques to make better wines (some say just to get high scores from Robert Parker). The Grahm camp is made up of vintners fighting to be as “natural” and terroir-driven as possible, allowing for the idiosyncrasies (and complexities) of an environment-driven product. Vintners in the opposite camp are prioritize standardization, consulting Enologix for help with consistency and efficiency. With a primer of who’s who in viticulture today, and a good argument for both the science and art camps of wine making, An Ideal Wine is a must read for anyone drinking wine and hoping to understand the business behind it.

The PDT Cocktail Book: the Complete Bartender’s Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy

Sterling Epicure
October 2011
For those who haven’t (and those who have) made it through the phone booth doorway into unassuming cocktail temple PDT, here is a book that distills not only the philosophies and practices of the famed pseudo-speakeasy, but also captures the punk-serious culture of the place, thanks in no small part to Chris Gall’s comic-book-cool illustrations. Whether you’re building a bar from the ground-up, tweaking an existing bar program, or looking to skyrocket your homebound bar skills, The PDT Cocktail Book’s got you covered. It’s the best kind of professional tell-all (like a wide open door into PDT’s secrets,) with Jim Meehan sharing everything from the logic of his floor plans to a detailed list of the tools, techniques, and ingredients central to the bar’s success. And the recipes (book-ended by “Setting Up the Bar” and “Back Bar” sections) span the gamut, from Hugo Ensslin’s original 1916 “Aviation” to PDT collaborator Don Lee’s 2007 ode-to-Arnold, the “Reverend Palmer.” And lest you prepare, and imbibe, too many items from PDT’s vast cocktail catalogue, Meehan has included recipes for some noshable Crif Dog favorites, including the everything-bagel-as-hot-dog “John John Deragon,” cheese and jalapeno-smothered tater tots (the perfect foil to over-boozing), and the fried mayo, modernist hybrid “The Wylie Dog.” In a world brimming with cocktail books, PDT’s is a refreshingly no-nonsense, contemporary offering. Drink up.

The Drops of God

Tadashi Agi Shu Okimoto
Vertical, Inc.
September 2011
You had us at wine adventure comic. This is not your everyday book about wine. A manga comic, originally printed serially in Japan in 2004, and finally translated into English, The Drops of God was placed at number 50 in Decanter Magazine’s 2009 Power List for its ability to affect wine buying decisions in Asia. Nothing less than a phenomenon in its popularity and effect on wine sales, the story revolves around a famous wine critic’s estranged son, competing with his adopted brother for the $18 million wine cellar left by their deceased father. The will stipulates a competition in multiple blind tastings, with wines often poetically compared to songs, paintings, or walking in an orchard covered in red flowers. Not only is it interesting to see the behind-the-scenes of the somm’s experience—and the wine world in Japan in general—the cartoon format challenges us to see things differently. The adventure factor blurs the reality that readers are actually learning something. And even with the slightly corny, unapologetic melodrama of the manga style, the series is worth a read—not just for the wine-and-comic-book-geek crowd—for any wine lover looking to subvert the typical wine education with drama, humanity, and that too rare dose of wine adventure.

Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally

Alice Feiring
Da Capo Press
July 2011
Fearlessly taking on the wine industry in her quest to find and make “natural” wine, Alice Feiring’s casual voice makes an educational tome of a contentious subject seem like a conversation among friends. Even the word “natural” is embattled, as some wines are organic, biodynamic, or somewhere in between. But Feiring lays it out, deriding the use of micro oxygenation, reverse osmosis, and teabags of oak sawdust and instead seeking out winemakers using natural yeasts and truly terroir-ific wines. She explains the groundwork and the groundbreakers at the forefront of “naked” winemaking, helping her reader navigate the murky, provocative subject with clarity of focus and integrity of purpose. A great writer takes you along for the ride, and Feiring’s journey around the world feels like traveling. But keep a (natural) wine bottle handy; her tasting notes will make you thirsty. And have a pen handy—you’ll want to underline a slew of new, naked wines to add to your typically clothed collection.