Recent reading, drinks edition

Drinking Japan, Chris Bunting — Is Japan the best drinking country in the world? Chris Bunting makes a good case for it. The culture benefits from long traditions of native spirits along with a willingness to import the best from around the world. The book includes chapters dedicated to sake, schochu, awamori, beer, whisky, and wine, with extensive guides to the best bars in which to enjoy them. A miscellaneous chapter covers assorted bars such as those specializing in cocktails, an Iranian-owned tequila bar with more than 500 agave spirits, and a bar with more than 40 bottlings of calvados. A final chapter includes advice on buying alcohol in Japan and an appendix provides the basic language needed for communicating in a Japanese bar. I haven’t visited Japan yet, but I’ll absolutely bring this book along when I go.

The Punch Bowl, Dan Searing — Dan Searing is a DC-based bartender who in 2009 hosted a series of punch events called Punch Club. Why were there no events like this when I lived there? This attractive book collects 75 punch recipes made with rum, whiskey, gin, wine, champagne, milk, and tea, along with photos of vintage punch bowls. There’s even a punch made with India Pale Ale that I’ll be trying out this week. David Wondrich’s book on punch is a tough act to follow, but this is a great resource.

Left Coast Libations, Ted Munat — I’ve been remiss in not recommending this sooner. Ted Munat and Michael Lazar collected 100 recipes from 50 of their favorite bartenders from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Canada. (Sorry, Vancouver, Washington. Maybe in the sequel). Some of the recipes are a bit obscure to try at home, calling for ingredients like lime-whey mixture and smoked cider air, but they capture this wonderfully creative moment in West Coast craft bartending. The real joy in this book is in the hilarious and off the wall profiles of the bartenders themselves, and the drink photographs by Jenn Farrington are also gorgeous.

Bourbon: The Evolution of Kentucky Whiskey, Sam K. Cecil — Written by a veteran of the American whiskey industry, this book covers the history of bourbon. The introductory chapters cover some familiar ground, but the heart of this book is the 200 page guide to individual distilleries that operated throughout Kentucky. This is an extensive resource and a wealth of information for anyone looking for an in-depth history of distilling in Kentucky.

Cocktails 2011, Food & Wine — As always, this is a beautifully photographed guide to the year in cocktails. Lots of drinks to try out here.