Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Cocktail book

Review: Gin Tonica

David T. Smith is an internationally recognized gin expert, he is the author of four books on gin, and writes the gin blog Summer Fruit Cup. Smith also serves as a lead judge for the International Wine and Spirits Competition, and as the lead steward for the ADI Judging of Craft Spirits. Most recently Smith has helped create the world's first independent gin bottler, That Boutique-y Gin Company, which works with gin distillers around the world to offer unique and creative expressions of gin not seen before. His latest book, Gin Tonica: 40 Recipes for Spanish-style Gin and Tonic Cocktails is a brief and informative guide to the incredible creativity and wide ranges of flavors possible in Spanish-style gin and tonics.

While the gin and tonic is most closely associated with England and the former British Empire in India, the G&T has be warmly embraced in Spain and transformed into a unique and tantalizing drinking experience. From Spain, it the Gin Tonica returned to the UK and more recently has started to pop up around the United States. As in introduction to this novel way of preparing and serving a gin and tonic, Smith breaks the book down into four basic sections. Sections one and two are separated based on the style of gin being used, either classic or contemporary gin. And, sections tree and four are differentiated by types of garnish that can be use, which Smith describes as experimental and seasonal.

While it is common for a distiller to promote his or her gin by serving it in a gin and tonic, the Gin Tonica provides an interesting alternative. Take for example Smith's Late Breakfast Gin Tonica. This cocktail features FEW Spirits' Breakfast Gin which includes bergamot and Earl Grey tea in the botanical mix. Smith includes a teaspoon of marmalade and a dried orange slice to garnish the drink which adds sweetness and plays well with the signature botanicals. Rather than offering a regular G&T, gin distillers can expand their creativity beyond their botanical mix and think about ways to highlight any unique or signature botanicals used in their gin by offering Gin Tonicas that use complementary and colorful garnishes. Gins that standout can sometimes make it harder for your average consumer to know how to use the spirit. Gin Tonicas, like those demonstrated in Smith's book offer a new way to present gins to the drinking public that are enticing and designed to complement the base spirit.

David T. Smith, Gin Tonica: 40 Recipes for Spanish-style Gin and Tonic Cocktails, (London: Ryland Peters & Small, 2017), 95 pages, $12.95. ISBN: 9781849758536

Review: Smuggler's Cove Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki

Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate, Smuggler's Cove: Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016), 352 pages, $30.00. ISBN: 9781607747321

Martin Cate has long been a champion of rum, exotic cocktails and the tiki community as well as a proprietor of several award-winning drinking establishments, including Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco), Whitechapel (San Francisco), False Idol (San Diego), Hale Pele (Portland) and Lost Lake (Chicago). Along with his wife, Rebecca, Cate has created a comprehensive guide to tiki culture; it’s history, techniques and, most of all, the drinks— Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki.

Smuggler’s Cove is a fantastic achievement and a beautiful monument to the influence of tiki, rum and exotic cocktails on American culture, and it is a fun read, told with Cate’s impish sense of humor. Part one of the book tells the engaging story of the birth, rise, decline and revival of Polynesian Pop. In part
two, the Cates tell their own story of how Martin and Rebecca became captivated by tiki and built one of the country’s preeminent bars for rum and exotic cocktails. Part three describes the history of rum, how it is made and the various styles and categories that define it. For distillers who want to better understand how bartenders use different styles of rum to create exotic cocktails, this is a must-read. Part four covers the nuts and bolts of what goes into making the cocktails. And in part five, how to deck out your home and wardrobe for your new found (or long-held) love of tiki aesthetic is covered.

Smuggler’s Cove is a wonderful book in terms of its prose, humor, completeness and graphic design. The story of the rise,fall and rebirth of tiki culture is fascinating, and numerous photos connect readers to the people and places that made Polynesian Pop and exotica nationwide phenomena. The Cates intersperse more than 100 drink recipes within the book and close each chapter with a smattering of cocktails that match the narrative. Smuggler’s Cove allows the audience to not only read the history of exotic cocktails but also to drink that history, if they choose.

First appeared in Distiller. (Summer 2017): 167

Review: Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari

Mark Bitterman, Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari: 500 Bitter, 50 Amari, 123 Recipes for Cocktails, Food & Homemade Bitters, (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015), 216 pages, $25.00. ISBN: 9781449470692

Mark Bitterman is the author of Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari: 500 Bitter, 50 Amari, 123 Recipes for Cocktails, Food & Homemade Bitters and the owner of two bitters emporiums called the The Meadow in Portland, Oregon and New York City. Bitterman has lectured at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. He has has also written two other books, Salted (2010), which won a James Beard Award, and Salt Block Cooking (2013). Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari is organized into six chapters. The introduction covers some of the basics of bitters, including their history. The second chapter covers the basics how bitters are created, and Bitterman describes in good detail the bittering and flavor characteristics of over 50 botanicals. In the second half of chapter two, Bitterman offers 13 sample recipes for homemade bitters that run the gamut from traditional to exotic. Chapters three and four include recipes for bitters-forward cocktails and recipes that incorporate bitters into cooking. Bitterman concludes the book with descriptions and tasting notes for hundreds of non-potable bitters and more than 50 amari.

Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters and Amari is a very well-written and beautifully photographed book. While the book was clearly written with the home cocktail enthusiast in mind, it is an excellent resource for professional distillers interested in creating their own concoctions. The recipes included map out the building blocks for creating well-structured and creative bitters. The tasting notes in chapters five and six create a framework on how to think about and describe these products. Distillers interested in entering this segment of the market can ask themselves: How bitter, sweet, or aromatic should this bitter or amari be and what flavors or colors should stand out? A small number of distilleries have successfully started making bitters as a compliment to their spirits portfolio. Producing bitters and amari offers inspiration to be creative and can jump-start collaborations with bartenders and chefs, who often have great senses for how flavors commingle.

Originally published in Distiller Magazine (Fall 2016):  145

Two New Spirit Book Reviews


Spirit writer, Michael Dietsch has written a great book on the long and complex history of a category of drinks called shrubs. While shrubs can have many variations, the most common is a cocktail made for spirits, sugar, water and some sort of fruit vinegar. When executed well, the result is a slightly tart, slightly sweet and completely refreshing drink. My review can be read in the Summer 2015 issue of Distiller Magazine

The book, Shurbs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, can be purchased on Amazon

How the Gringos Stole Tequila

How the Gringos Stole Tequila is a bit like Waiting for Godot, not in its literary excellence but in how the main subject of the title (almost) never shows up. While Chantal Martineau does eventually address the idea of how US consumer influence has affected tequila, it comes at the end of a well written and well researched book on the history and production of tequila. In the end it is a good book that would be better served by a less provocative title. My review can be read in the Summer 2015 issue of Distiller Magazine

The book, How the Gringos Stole Tequila: The Modern Age of Mexico's Most Traditional Spirit, can be purchased on Amazon