Bartenders: It’s Past Time to Expand Your Reading Beyond Cocktail Books

cocktail drink
In the hospitality industry, Mandy Aftel’s salts, teas, chef’s essences and sprays appear in award-winning kitchens and bars. Photo credit: Andrew Donernburg.

Are you a drink professional looking to expand your knowledge and network? Check out our Collective for a community of bartenders, chefs, makers and farmers who want the same. 

There’s an abundance of fine bartending books in the market and last year alone added the likes of Jim Meehan’s eponymous Meehan’s Bartender Manual, Robert Simonson’s testament to simplicity, 3-Ingredient Cocktails, and Amanda Schuster’s locapour-friendly New York Cocktails.

Being an exceptional bartender demands more than making drinks. It requires the confidence to leave your ego at the door, an ability to reduce waste without laying waste to flavor, and a will to stretch your skills.

To expand your knowledge of techniques and flavors though, whether you’re a bartender or just an enthusiast, you should read beyond the bar.

Kitchen Creativity

karen page kitchen creativity
Image courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.

Drawing on decades of culinary connections, Karen Page‘s Kitchen Creativity taps the wisdom of chefs around the globe. Page’s pages roam from Albert Adriá’s Barcelona to Gavin Kayson’s Minneapolis, gathering insights along the way.

There are keys to understanding guests and keen explorations of topics such as fat, texture and piquancy. Seasons, celebrations, creativity, techniques, traditions, regions…nothing that might influence a kitchen’s potential or a patron’s pleasure goes unexplored.

Go geeky and delve into aromatic principles, strike a brain-spark from Andrew Dornenburg’s photographs, or explore ways to put vivid color in a glass. Kitchen Creativity will help you turn your craft into art.

Read more: 10 Essential Cocktail Books—6 Vintage, 4 Modern

The Art of Flavor

At Aftelier Perfumes, Mandy Aftel combines art, science, curiosity, an ability to conduct research and the determination to find rare ingredients and put them to good use. In the world at large, Aftel creates perfumes. In the hospitality industry, her salts, teas, chef’s essences and sprays appear in award-winning kitchens and bars. Spritz a mist of shiso, sarsaparilla or black pepper across a glass, and transform a drink. It’s simple, if all you have to do is spray.

the art of flavor
Image courtesy of Riverhead Books.

Go deeper. In The Art of Flavor, Aftel and Daniel Patterson distill years of experience into eminently readable words.

This is another book fit for diving or dipping.  Drown in history, dip into the alchemy of scent or skim around a flavor compass. Start thinking about flavors in terms of character and shape. Discover seven ways to balance your creations. Just don’t forget to put the book down when it’s time to start your shift.

Turning back to Page: If you have The Flavor Bible behind your bar, you’re working well. Consider purchasing The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. Every bit as good as its older book-sibling, Page’s vegetarian guide is even thicker with ingredients you’re likely to use in drinks.

Break the bar-book habit. Your bar, your career and your patrons will reap rewards.