Bartender for 18 years and blogger for almost as long, he fills his Playboy columns and Small Screen Network videos with hilarious anecdotes, punctuated with sound advice on how to turn a good drink into an awesome one, that is, when he’s not busy working behind the wood at Clyde Common or at Pepe Le Moko.
Morgenthaler is to American bartending what David Chang is to Korean cuisine: for them, the best results come from tried-and-tested recipes, craftsmanship, authenticity, simplicity and proper execution, not tricks nor spectacle.
That doesn’t mean Morgenthaler isn’t innovative: after all, he’s the guy who came up with the idea of ageing cocktails in oak barrels, something that got him nominated for a James Beard Award, and he taught David Wondrich how to prepare lemon-oil syrup using a vacuüm packer.
Morgenthaler’s focus has always been to constantly improve the ingredients that go into drinks, not creating the craziest cocktails, which is why I was stoked to find out he was finally gathering all his DIY recipes and tips disseminated all over the Internet, and putting them down in a manual, with a little help from his friend, food writer Martha Holmberg. They didn’t fail to deliver: The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, released earlier this year, is one of the best bartending books I’ve ever encountered.
What Makes The Bar Book Important?
Gorgeously illustrated with dozens of photos by Alanna Hale, Bar Book is unique among bartender literature as it contains only a handful of cocktail recipes, and instead covers everything that goes on before making drinks — how to shake or stir a drink, how to muddle fruits versus how to muddle herbs, how and when to make infusions, bitters and tinctures, the pros and cons of different models of fruit juicers, and so on. Readers will find a ton of Morgenthaler’s house recipes, ranging from his tonic syrup and ginger beer, to a some of his signature drinks such as the Autumn Leaves and the Kingston Club Cocktail (See video at bottom)
More than anything, bartenders will find lessons and info that one of the world’s top bartenders learned over decades on how to make drinks that look and taste better.
Knowing what doesn’t work is often just as practical as knowing what does.
Every subject is painstakingly researched, but what makes Morgenthaler’s even more insightful is how he doesn’t shy away from his failures, explaining, for example, how he tried different methods to make crystal-clear ice without succeeding.
What one won’t find are historical notes on different cocktails or information on spirits and liqueurs, which isn’t necessarily an issue since most other cocktail books already approach the subject. Bar Book is a more of a textbook for people who already have some basic bar knowledge and aspiring at improving their skills. On that regard, Bar Book is an essential purchase for anyone who’s serious about craft bartending and mixology, either as a living or as a hobby.
The Kingston Club Cocktail, by Jeffrey Morgenthaler