The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails Hardcover – Mar 2 2010
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PRAISE FOR TONY ABOU-GANIM AND THE MODERN MIXOLOGIST: "Tony Abou-Ganim is the poster boy for modern mixology." --Mario Batali "The [Modern Mixologist] unfolds with wonderfully simple step by step logic that will lead the reader to cocktail expertise...Cheers to a triumph!" --Dale DeGroff, author of The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail "One of the top mixologists in the world." --Adam Klappholz, Vanity Fair "The Modern Mixologist: this book is the one to get!" --Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon "A modern classic from an industry legend." --Jim Meehan, GQ "If you've ever had a great--or even a good--cocktail in Las Vegas, one of the people you need to thank is Tony Abou-Ganim." --Liquor.com "[The Modern Mixologist] is both fascinating--from a historical perspective--as well as informational, with all sorts of helpful photos on techniques, tools and other miscellaneous requirements to becoming a better bar chef." --Steve Dolinsky, Adventures in Urban Eating "One of the top 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the past century...[Tony Abou-Ganim's] influenced countless bartenders and has built an empire of modern bartending." --Imbibe magazine "Abou-Ganim is now one of the giants in his industry, yet his new book, The Modern Mixologist, makes cocktails accessible. There is no insider's regalia; there are no navel-gazing anecdotes. Aptly named, The Modern Mixologist is a guide to being just that." --Chicago Tribune "It is a challenge to produce a cocktail book that is unlike all of the others on the market and it is a task that I believe Tony Abou-Ganim has successfully accomplished in his first book, The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails." --Colleen Graham, About.com: Cocktails "Who better to deliver an advanced course in home bartending than the 'Modern Mixologist' himself? Tony Abou-Ganim's new book covers specialized glassware, infusions and seasonal drinks, along with 60 of his best recipes." --The Tasting Table "Tony Abou-Ganim, the legendary 'Modern Mixologist,' is a global leader in the craft cocktail renaissance." --Catherine Stanton Schiff, Cocktails for Everyone "Abou-Ganim is one of the fathers of modern mixology, one of the superstars of the cocktail revival and a mentor to many of the best bartenders in the country." --Anthony Todd, The Chicagoist "The book is beautiful. It's packed with helpful information on glassware and bar basics, and it also provides a guide to mixing drinks with seasonal produce as well as a brief history of cocktails." --YUMsugar "Despite his stature, Abou-Ganim's one of the more humble and passionate successful food people I've met. This comes across in the book. Most refreshingly, he's not judgmental or pedantic. He doesn't vilify vodka or make amateurs feel dumb. His only non-negotiable is the pursuit of quality." --Mike Nagrant, New City magazine "In The Modern Mixologist internationally celebrated cocktail authority Tony Abou-Ganim shares his vast knowledge. This new book combines 60 of Abou-Ganim's very best recipes alongside practical bar tips, cocktail history, as well as quotes from leading authorities and industry personalities." -- Bar & Beverage Magazine "The Modern Mixologist is the definitive twenty-first century cocktail guide." --Nightclub & Bar website "Tony Abou-Ganim wrote the book on Las Vegas mixology...Thanks to his pioneering efforts, talents and tastes, today we're among the nation's most innovative cocktail cities." --Vegan Seven magazine "Leading the cocktail-culture comeback, award-winning master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim revisits the pre- and post-prohibition drinks shaping today's bar menus." --Restaurants & Institutions magazine
About the Author
Tony Abou-Ganim grew up in the bar business, learning the craft from his cousin Helen David at the Brass Rail Bar in Port Huron, Michigan, before going on to develop the cocktail programmes of numerous restaurants in San Francisco (working with Harry Denton) and New York (working with Mario Batali) and at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. He operates his own beverage consulting firm specialising in bar staff training, product education, and cocktail development, and also serves as the national ambassador of the US Bartenders Guild.
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The book unfolds with wonderfully simple step by step logic that will lead the reader to cocktail expertise, and along the way there are plenty of pictures that elicit over and over again the words, "oh...now I get it!". The quotes capture the reader immediately and most will, like I did, page forward in search of them.
Tony has made every classic cocktail his own. We already have too many recipes books to tell us the "right" way or the "correct" recipes for them. The original cocktails are absolutely scrumptious and I admit to an advantage because I have already had the good fortune to taste many. One Tony classic, the Cable Car, is already a "modern classic" and will live on in books and cocktail menus long after our time.
The cocktails are filled with Ferrari parts! Sorry folks you're gonna need a close read to get that one. They are overflowing with freshness in ingredients and ideas and are as welcome as a summer breeze. I gotta quit now and get to the bar and make myself a drink!
Cheers to a triumph
First, it succinctly reviews a lot of the "basics" on how to mix properly, the necessary tools, etc. that serves as a good and quick "refresher" course that clarifies many tricky elements;
Second, each recipe explains why the elements work together ("orange and floral notes compliment each other" for example) that is utterly invaluable for gaining an in-depth understanding to be able to branch out on one's own (in food terms, akin to going from a "cook" to a "chef");
Third, it explains the subtleties of various brands of liquors and specifies particular brands of liquor recommended for each recipe (and why), which again furthers one's understanding of the nuances of the underlying elements. I had already discovered that different gin brands could significantly affect taste but this book will be a great resource for a wide variety of liquors that I don't use frequently; and
Fourth, it has a lot of unusual recipes that you won't find elsewhere, and also a good number of "batch" recipes for parties.
Be aware, however, it will not replace a basic cocktail book as it does not contain the "standard" drinks so if you are going to buy only one recipe book, you should look elsewhere. (Consider Dale DeGroff's "The Craft of the Cocktail.") Also, as another reviewer noted, virtually every recipe in this book calls for at least one exotic or uncommon liquor, so there is a financial commitment to trying each recipe.
This is a wonderful looking book. The pictures are lovely and the layout is quite nice. Multiple indices make navigation easy.
When it comes to bartending basics (technique, tools, etc.) this book gives up nothing to other similar offerings (Dale Degroff's The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, with 500 Recipes comes to mind). The history of cocktails and the descriptions of various spirits are less personal than Degroff's, but perhaps one isn't looking for that in a cocktail book. As far as the basics go, this is a 5 star book.
Abou-Ganim also offers a table of "Selections by Season". This list of fruits and spices, their peak seasons, and spirit pairings is exceptionally useful. Certainly this information is available scattered across the internet, but having it all well-organized and in one place is worth a star on its own.
The recipes range from traditional to highly personalized (see, e.g., "My Martini"). Here, I suppose, is where the book loses steam for me. While Abou-Ganim offers a backstory and personal history for many of the cocktails, he is less open about the reasoning behind his choices. My idiosyncratic expectation is that a cocktail book (especially one presented like this) is a stand in for a conversation, or a 30-minute television show. I can read recipes put together by barely-less accomplished bartenders anywhere on the internet - the reason to read a book by one widely considered to be at the pinnacle of the craft is to understand what makes the difference between the average and the great. I remain unconvinced that this distinction comes down to the cost of the ingredients (at least, not every time). This bleeds over into my next issue with the recipes...
Abou-Ganim does offer an overture about quality in the opening pages, but anyone with a real interest in tending bar is going to know that premium labels and prices do not always mean premium flavor. Nevertheless, nearly every recipe calls for a rare, hard-to-find, or premium ingredient (not always the spirit). There is nothing intrinsically wrong with calling for such ingredients, but this reader would like to know why Abou-Ganim calls for Tanqueray No. Ten in his "Bar Fly" rather than another gin at that price point or lower? That is a random example, but a similar question could be asked for every other cocktail in the book. I don't mind spending the extra coin if there is some justification offered, but one isn't forthcoming here.
Ultimately this might just come down to expectations. I have slowly built up what I consider to be a well-stocked bar. I don't shy away from premium prices when I've been given good reason to spend extra. I also don't mind stocking something that only finds its way into one drink that I make. All that is just to say that I think I'm part of the target audience for this book, but it leaves me less than completely satisfied. The book reads like a one-sided conversation far too often.
The Modern Mixologist has a great deal to offer, and for some readers it may be just right. I would hesitate to give this to a beginner and I would hesitate to recommend it as a first entry into home bartending. But for someone willing to mine these recipes for interesting combinations and insights, this is worth perusing.