Word up: the 12 greatest cocktail books

One of the all-time classics, the standard reference for recipes of the 1920s and 30s.

With the ‘Cocktails and the Written Word’ challenge to be met, here’s our pick of the classics that would find a place on the shelf of any top bartender. They’re either groundbreaking, a great reference for drinks of the period, full of invaluable advice – or all three. Plus we’ve listed some great literary works from the same period that pay homage to, or have inspired mixed drinks. It’s the kind of content we love lingering over – so enjoy!

1605 Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes

Considered the world’s first novel, this Spanish classic is set in the region of La Mancha – nowadays full of vineyards rather than windmills – and has inspired the name of a Mexican distillery.

1827 Oxford Night Caps Richard Cook

The first ever published book on mixed drinks, made for the students of Oxford University – hence there’s plenty of Punches, Possets and Cups.

1843 A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens

This classic work hands out plenty of Christmas cheer – eventually – as characters sup the very British ‘Smoking Bishop’ toddy.

1862 How to Mix Drinks Jerry Thomas

Famous for his showmanship that included mixing flaming drinks, Thomas also produced this first US cocktail book, a slim volume that includes the Blue Blazer.

1882 The New and Improved Bartender’s Manual Harry Johnson

The first how-to of bartending, this oft reprinted and coveted guide covers all aspects of running a bar and includes classic cocktail the Marguerite.

1891 American Bartender William T Boothby

Bartender William Boothby gives us this flavour of West Coast bartending just prior to Prohibition, providing a great reference for traditional recipes of the period.

1896 Bariana: Recueil Pratique de Toutes Boissons Américaines et Anglaises Louis Fouquet

Regarded as the first French cocktail book, written by Fouquet when he was head bartender at the Criterion in Paris, it inspired the popularity of mixed drinks after phylloxera struck French vines.

1897 Cyrano de Bergerac Edmond Rostand

A French play written by a man who had a cocktail specially created for him, the Chanticleer (London dry gin, vermouth, orange liqueur and egg white blend).

1912 Death in Venice Thomas Mann

One of the all-time classics of German literature, it has inspired a Campari and Prosecco mixed drink, while the slightly mournful lead character enjoys fresh pomegranate juice.

1917 Recipes for Mixed Drinks Hugo Ensslin

The German-born bartender produced this guide just before Prohibition, and it’s a fine compilation of the drinks and techniques of the early part of the 1910s.

1925 The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald

Gin Rickeys full of ice at parties on Long Island thrown by a mysterious industrialist: this classic work oozes 1920s-era atmosphere and cocktails.

1927 The Barflies and Cocktails Harry McElhone

Harry responded to Prohibition by opening Harry’s in Paris, said to be the birthplace of the French 75, the Monkey Gland and the Bloody Mary – and he still managed to write this classic work.

1931 The Savoy Cocktail Book Harry Craddock

Still in print today, this is one of the all-time classics, the standard reference for recipes of the 1920s and 30s –such as the Corpse Reviver.

1935 Floridita Cocktail Book Constante Ribalaigua Vert

A promotional work by the bar, written by the man believed to have created the Frozen Daiquiri that inspired the craze for Cuba in the US.

1948 The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks David A Embury

After the demise of the professional bartender, this is one of the first – and the finest-ever – cocktail book by a layman, the enthusiast lawyer Embury.

1952 The Old Man And The Sea Ernest Hemingway

A tale inspired by Cuba, unfolding as a paean to simplicity with a description of a sparkling sea, small fishing boats, plus a Daiquiri never far away.

1953 Casino Royale Ian Fleming

Martinis made incorrectly (according to some), but the famous secret agent also enjoys his Americanos and the occasional Scotch and soda as he chases down Cold War villains.

2002 The Craft of the Cocktail Dale DeGroff

Characteristically engaging and blunt, the US bartender dispenses great tips on bar tools and set-up, with the bonus of some great anecdotes tucked in among the recipes.

2014 The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique Jeffrey Morgenthaler

A recent work set to become a classic; this book takes a technical approach by breaking down drinks into their essentials, and then building them back up again.