Having heard all the buzz over Lucy Brennan and her fresh-ingredient cocktails, I was excited to burrow into her book and find all kinds of enlightened blends of unusual flavors.
I was disappointed.
The book is beautiful, unusually well-edited and published for the genre. Brennan has a flair for visual impact. Her recipe principles are simple and well-laid out. But...in the end, too simple: a one-note song.
Practically every cocktail in Lucy's book, it seems, includes some basic spirit, one unusual ingredient (or none), a quarter-ounce of her favorite orange liqueur, and 2 oz of (freshly made, at least) sweet-and-sour. There is no thought to blending, to flavor families; no distinction amongst whether lemon or lime or perhaps some other sour base might better set off a particular ingredient, or whether different amounts of sweetness and sour might bring out particular flavors. It seems that it is enough to simply introduce new ingredients to the bar without pursuing their full potential or investigating their possibilities. Not to imply that her drinks are not good, for what they are: it's just that there are many other cocktail books on the market now that offer far more insight, depth, nuance and complexity, and offer far more reward to the curious cocktailer. The Joy of Mixology (Gary Regan) and The Craft of the Cocktail (Dale Degroff) are higly recommendable in Hip Sips' stead. For those with an interest in adding "kitchen" flavors and creativity to their cocktails, On Food and Cooking (Harold McGee) or Culinary Artistry (Andrew Dornenberg and Karen Page) offer an intense introduction that will have you off and running.
At any rate, I wouldn't turn down a copy of Hip Sips if it were offered to me. But with all the other books recently on the market, it just doesn't stand up to the competition in the areas that matter.