Thursday, November 16, 2023

Good Drinks - Ambrose Heath

I thought this book was out of print, but apparently it isn't and I highly recommend getting a copy. I have a decent selection of cocktail books that I really like, and though this one might not technically be the best of them it's definitely my favorite. I love the Edward Bawden illustrations, the mix of hot, cold, hard, and soft drinks, the inclusion of punches and cups, and most of all Ambrose Heath's writing.

A good drinks book is an extremely useful thing to have around as Christmas approaches, there's a strong argument for saying that a single cocktail is better than opening a bottle of wine, and even stronger argument in favour of soft drinks. Punches and cups are not as fashionable as they should be, but they're easy to scale up or down, and to keep relatively light on alcohol as desired - so the perfect party drink. They're also easy to adapt so that you end up with your own signature drink which is also a fun thing.

After years in the wine trade, one thing that frustrates me about bookselling is how resistant my customers are to buying good cocktail books - they buy the gimmicky ones, or the cheap ones, or the over complicated ones, and as a bookseller that's none of my business so I have to hold back on the lecture each and every time.

The lecture is this: if you're making drinks at home keep it simple, buy good quality but not over-expensive ingredients - pay attention to the ABV, it matters, get the balance of ingredients right and you're all good. Once you've got the basics you can start adding little twists - Alice Lascelles The Cocktail Edit is excellent for this. Or keep it really simple with something like Sipsmith's Sip - 100 gin cocktails with only 3 ingredients in each. Richard Godwin's The Spirits is another excellent and underappreciated book, and so is Kate Hawkings Aperitif - all are full of classics and good advice for making them perfectly. 

I couldn't say any of them have quite the wit of Ambrose Heath though, and if not all his drinks are drinkable - do not under any circumstances be tempted to make the Mahogany, it's a hellish combination of gin and treacle that I found absolutely unpalatable - most of them are. The number of hot drinks and soft drinks is also a bonus that most modern guides don't have - unless you buy a specifically alcohol free cocktail guide, and there are a lot more of those around. 

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, I once saw a secondhand copy for $700 (~350 quid) here, so happy to know there are other options!!