What’s the USP? Modern and classic cocktail recipes from the UK cocktail bar group The Alchemist, established by the late and much admired restaurateur Tim Bacon.
Who are the authors? Holly Tudor (Cocktail Development, Bar Specialist and Head Bartender at The Alchemist, Media City in Salford); Felix Crosse (Head of Bars at The Alchemist group) and Jenny McPhee (Head of Brand for The Alchemist). They are not credited on the cover, instead ‘The Alchemist has asserted their right to be indentified as the author of this work’. They are however acknowledged in the note ‘Recipe and content compiled by’ in the book’s front matter, although I had to Google their job titles. I’ve never fully understood publisher’s reluctance to put author’s names on the cover of books of this sort. Of course The Alchemist name is what will catch the reader’s attention and will drive sales, but the book is not just a compilation of content; it hasn’t come from nowhere, someone has sat down in front of a computer and written it, it has been authored and that should get proper recognition. Rant over.
Is it good bedtime reading? No. Just a one page intro and then your into a list of essential cocktail equipment and recipes for basic cocktail elements like L&G, an infusion of sugar and citrus peel. All very useful but more a practical instruction manual than chillaxing reading material.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? There are elements of what used to be referred to as ‘molecular mixology’ in the book so you’ll need to refer to the list of specialist suppliers for sodium alginate powder and calcium lactate powder if you want to use the spherification process to create garnishes like rhubarb caviar for your drinks. You also need to find 24 edible gold sheet flakes to make gold vanilla spheres and garden mint flavour drops to make garden caviar. Unless you are already a cocktail enthusiast, you’ll also need to stock up your home bar with everything from marmalade vodka to coconut rum and crème de pêche liquer to velvet falernum (sugar cane, lime, almond and clove liqueur); the list goes on and on.
What’s the faff factor? Drinks range from the now classic simple and straightforward Cosmopolitan (just shake together vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice and Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City – the TV show that made the drink famous – is your slightly pissed up glamorous aunt) to the Legal One which requires infusing your own cardamom gin, making Tropical vermouth by dehydrating pineapple wedges (you’ve got a dehydrator, right?) and adding them to white vermouth along with some pineapple flavour drops you’ve ordered from your specialist supplier and leaving to infuse for 12 hours before straining. You can then place your dry ice pellets in your bong – no, really – and pour in your shaken gin, vermouth, lime juice, tonic water and pineapple and coconut syrup creation. The recipe screams LEAVE IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS but I suppose someone might give it a go.
How often will I use the book? How much of a raging lush are you? Seriously though, if you are looking for a fun new hobby, this book is a great introduction to the bartender’s art and you might well disappear down an alcohol-infused rabbit hole, discovering new drinks and techniques that are as much about flavour and texture combinations (foams as well as the aforementioned spherified ‘caviars’ are a big thing in the book) as they are getting hammered, although they are about getting hammered, let’s not get too hammered to forget that. It will also come in handy for the more casual drinker looking for something easy to knock up to help welcome in the weekend.
Killer recipes? Tropic Swirl (vodka, passion fruit liqueur and a mix of fruit juices); Hot and Cold Espresso Martini; Porn Star Martini; Paloma; Dead Red Zombie (a mix of rums, Grand Marnier, various juices and a teaspoon of the deadly sounding Zombie Mix made with absenthe and marashino cherry liqueur).
What will I love? With its list of equipment, basic bar tending essentials, foams, spirit batches and infusions, shrubs and syrups, speherificaions and list of specialist suppliers in addition to the recipes, the book has everything a budding modern home mixologist needs. Just add Alka-Seltzer for the morning after.
Should I buy it? If you are looking to shake up your drinks repertoire and are willing to put some time, money and effort into it, you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. But the book is also worth the relatively small investment to have a range of reliable, classic cocktail recipes easily to hand.
Suitable for: Beginners and cocktail enthusiasts
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
The Alchemist Cocktail Book: Master the dark arts of mixology
£16.99, Ebury Press