Book Review – The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion
Cocktail books seem to fall into one of two categories; ‘serious’ cocktail books that appeal to the hardened cocktail enthusiast but that are probably rarely read by the average casual imbiber, and ‘silly’ cocktail books that are designed to fill stockings and clutter the shelves of many a home, but provide little by way of any useful information. The Perfect Drink might at first glance seem like an obvious contender for the latter category, but perhaps a light-hearted approach and recipes for every occasion, sprinkled with a mix of humour and handy tips is just what the market is looking for.
Written by Duane Swierczynski, The Perfect Drink claims to offer an opportunity to “avoid having to learn the hard way” about drink in the same way the author did. I can’t help but think that if you find learning about drink “hard” then you are either doing something very wrong, or you probably shouldn’t even be trying. Nevertheless, the promise to offer a solution to virtually any social situation is a proposition that many will like the sound of.
First up inside is a handy little section entitled “the perfect set up”, with basic information on each of the main spirits categories, the types of ‘hardware’ you will need, and techniques to use. Whilst none of it hits the high notes on the cocktail geek-ometer, it certainly offers an approachable introduction into spirits and cocktails for those who are just starting out in their learning. Generally I like the light-hearted and amusing style of writing, although feel that some aspects of the advice, for example the bit that states jiggers are for, “losers and bartenders at T.G.I. Fridays only”, are included simply to appeal to a certain market rather than offer any genuine or meaningful information. That’s a shame because these sort of approachable books can play an important role in educating people that might otherwise not be avid cocktailians.
The majority of the book is devoted to offering recipes to match different situations; for example the perfect drink to “bust up a gallstone”, “impress your retro hipster friends”, or “get a woman to have sex with you”. Each page includes a little bit of history/information on the drink or topic at hand and the recipe. Whilst the topics might be a bit gimmicky, I can’t help but quite like the concept. I’ve lost count of the number of times I just can’t decide what to drink, and perhaps this book might give me a bit of inspiration. Unfortunately many of the drinks are typical of such styles of books, with such nonsense as the ‘dirty diaper (vodka, amaretto, Southern Comfort, Midori, Chambord, ornage juice) making an appearance. However, there are also classics such as the rob roy, old fashioned, daiquiri, and pegu club cocktails; all with ‘proper’ recipes accompanying them. The problem is that those who aren’t well versed in the different cocktail types will find it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, and with some parts of the book being just plain wrong (a daiquiri should not be “sickly sweet”), I’m not sure this book lives up to its early claims.
Would I Buy It?: For myself, no, but as a gift for the ‘right’ person, absolutely. This is not a book to get a hardened cocktail enthusiast excited, but it does contain a nice mix of light-hearted easy-reading banter, and some decent cocktail recipes. It would be a lot better if the nonsense was cut out (is there really a need to include a recipe for a shot of tequila with a cigarette?), but it’s not trying to be the next Savoy cocktail book so perhaps I’ll forgive it that one.