Once upon a time, cocktail hour was an occasion. A sacred space.
When the work day ended, you visited your favourite bar to put a little distance between the office and home.
This was not excess; it was ritual. A quiet moment of reflection.
I love classic cocktails, and I make a habit of seeking out historic bars and pubs whenever I travel.
The only thing that comes close to sipping an ice cold classic is reading about the role that the spirit world has played in western culture through history, literature and film.
The books in the photo above are four of my favourites on this topic.
Most cocktail books focus on recipes. The School of Sophisticated Drinking focuses on the fascinating stories behind these drinks. It’s based on the ongoing lecture series of the same name which takes place each winter at my favourite Berlin cocktail establishment: the legendary Victoria Bar.
Classic Cocktails by Mark Kingwell is a collection of the University of Toronto Philosophy professor’s columns from a now-defunct Canadian men’s magazine called Toro. I love it because he captures that cool film noir writing style so well.
Eric Felten’s book includes stories too, and he covers important ground that the other books miss, including The Clipper Cocktail, signature drink on the Pan Am flying boat service between Miami and Havana. That’s a drink every travel enthusiast will want to try.
Each of these belongs on any serious drinker’s shelf.
Let them serve as a starting point for your explorations.
There’s a vast new boozy world waiting out there for you. Take your time, and mix your drinks carefully and well.