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The Classic Book on Cocktails
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks
 - David Embury
the first edition was in America in 1948 and Faber and Faber published the first British edition in 1953
Review by David Farmer

Some books give you such pleasure that you always want them nearby. And in my adventures into drinks no book has impressed me as much or given me more pleasure than this masterpiece on the art of making cocktails.

There are dozens of books about making cocktails, rather like there are about food, but few are worth the cover price. None approach the quality of this classic book.

This book launched me into a cocktail addiction that lasted about 20 years. From it I learnt the basic ideas behind the simple art of mixing cocktails, an art that has not been learnt by many bar artists as they try to out do each other to make the bizarre and undrinkable. Only last week I was told a story about a whisky sour that was served blended with an egg. You might get away with an egg white but eggs seldom work as modifying agents in brown spirits.

Making great cocktails is like great cooking, you do not need a recipe if you understand the underlying ideas. This book teaches this. ‘Roll your own’ is his answer but before we get there, here is one of his thoughts from the preface of the second edition printed in 1955.

“Also there are various new drink mixtures, some, in my opinion, decidedly inferior, which have hit the headlines and created at least a temporary furor, and about which my readers might like to know. What is the Moscow Mule, the Waltzing Matilda, the Bloody Mary, the Screwdriver, the Grasshopper?

Perhaps the outstanding example of what I mean is vodka - a wholly characterless, dilute grain alcohol that has streaked across the firmament of mixed drinks like Halley’s Comet. As I said in the first edition, ‘it makes an excellent cocktail base and, having no pronounced flavour of its own, it will blend with anything. On the other hand - and just because it is wholly characterless in itself - it has definite limitations. It is hard to conceive of any worse cocktail monstrosity than the Vodka Martini, the Vodka Old Fashioned, or Vodka on the rocks”.

Well Embury would not be happy with the modern embrace of vodka, and some of those cocktails he spurned have survived. Taste madness is still live and well in many a cocktail bar though some cocktail concoctions that pass as fashionable in bars are simply so absurd that there has been a return to the art form taught in this book in new bar openings in Australia. With that said I recently ordered a Daiquiri to be made with limes, the classic blend, in a new bar on Lygon Street, Carlton and the bartender told me he had not been asked for this for years.

The great cocktails are based on distinctive spirits and they are listed as, the Martini (gin based), the Manhattan (whisky based and be warned this book uses the term for all whiskies and most often this means American rye or bourbon and the term for Scottish whisky is Scotch the use of which in cocktails he disapproves of in any case), the Old Fashioned (whisky based), the Daiquiri (white rum based and sometimes gold rum), the Side Car (Cognac or Armagnac based) and the Jack Rose (apple brandy and in this case Embury means American apple jack which is hard to find so use Calvados instead). Of these the last two are seldom made in Australia and indeed the Jack Rose barely exists in America.

What makes this book special is how you are taught to blend ingredients in a way to enhance the overall result. There is no need to remember or consult a recipe book to tell you what goes in each cocktail; simply ‘roll your own’. A useful formulae I settled on came down to three parts strong, which is the base alcohol, two parts sour which normally means lime or lemon juice plus bitter cordials and one part sweet which is sugar syrup and may include sweet liqueurs. Naturally this is for the range of sour cocktails not Martinis which of course do not require sugar syrup. Then the very simple advice that every ingredient including the glass must be stunningly cold. So a successful cocktail requires you to freeze the glass, the alcohol and have the citrus juice, sugar syrup and any other flavourings ultra cold.

In Australia cocktails fell out of favour several decades ago although they have had sporadic revivals. The first was an attempt to modernize the cocktail with cream based liqueurs that combined sweet with sweet and new blends, often odd, with risqué names such as ‘slow comfortable screw’ or ‘slippery nipple’. Use was also made of new (to us anyway) liqueur styles such as sambucca and the addition of several fruit juice tastes together. The last remind you of mixing several primary paint colours together to see it all go brown. And recently and of far more interest smart new bars have opened that are doing the traditional cocktails reasonably well and have picked up on overseas trends to take the classics and blend in herbs and spices. One of interest is the lemon and basil martini which is lemon flavoured vodka (45ml), Limoncello (15ml), Cinzano Bianco (15mlk), lemon juice (10ml) and sugar syrup (10ml) and flavoured with torn basil leaves. I suspect Embury would approve and the blend has not strayed to far from the three strong, two sour, one sweet idea and at least his hated vodka is flavoured.

There are good descriptions of the basic alcohols and liqueurs but where would you now find; apry, allasch, arrack, Carlshamms Punsch, Certosa, Cherry Heering, C.L.O.C., Crème d’Annas, Crème de Violette, Goldwasser, Falernum, Fiori Alpini, Strega, Parfait Amour, the splendid Peppermint Get, Van der Hum or Vieille Cure. All these we sold back in the 1970’s and now they are just memories. There has been some new additions but how I wish I had a bottle of the failed Liquid Lamington as surely I would be the cocktail king of Australia with a new cocktail called of course ‘stone the crows’.

This is a fine book and towards the end when many have run out of steam Embury is still scathing about the Zombie but then finds peace with lovely descriptions of Tall Drinks or Highballs. He moves through Rickeys, Bucks, Collinses, Fizzes, Daisies and Fixes, Cobblers, Coolers, Slings and Toddies but most importantly tells us how to make the perfect Mint Julep, naturally using the best Kentucky bourbon. It surely is one of the great cocktails ever devised.

There is more, much more in this wonderful record and the book is strongly recommended. You may find a copy in some garage sale or other. And let's end with a great cocktail recipe from page 139. It’s called the Larchmont and was devised by the master himself; and is 6 parts white Cuban rum, 2 parts Grand Marnier, 2 parts lime juice and half a part sugar syrup.


Ten Company Histories and Biographies of Our Wine Pioneers  - *(see note for details)

Review by David Farmer

In the wine business 50 years is too short for reflection while one hundred years spans several generations and covers a wide variety of trading conditions. Companies that are still family owned and trading after 100 years are the rare survivors and it was at this point that most of them commissioned a company history. Many great contributors to the Australian wine history, and to single out one, Alexander Kelly's Tintara, did not survive for long and we know little about them. more...


Bouquet  - G. B. Stern
Alfred A Knoff, New York, Second printing, 1928 (First published June, 1927)
Review by David Farmer

I cannot recall how I got to know about Bouquet. I purchased a copy from a dealer on Amazon for $30.00. I read books like this to gain a better idea of how wine was thought about prior to say 1950-1960, before it exploded in popularity in the English speaking countries and turned perhaps a simpler pleasure into the scientifically studied beverage of today. more...


The House of Mondavi  - Julia Flynn Siler
Gotham Books, June 2007
Review by David Farmer

To build two large businesses in a lifetime is quite a feat but to do it in the wine business where it can take generations to become established requires outstanding talent. more...


What Can You Learn from Seven Centuries of Trade.
Sherry
 - Julian Jeffs
Faber and Faber Limited, London. First Edition, 1961. A revised second edition was published in 1970.
Review by David Farmer

Why would you want to read a book on an unfashionable drink like sherry? What would I find coming back to a book I first read in the mid 1970's? At the time of release it was much praised and subsequent editions came out in 1970 and 1978. more...


Notes on a Cellar Book  - George Saintsbury
Published in 1920 with numerous reprints. Reissued 1978 (Macmillan)
Review by David Farmer

This short book had an enormous impact on wine writing after publication in 1920 and was quoted extensively for the next two decades and was still referred to by wine writers in the 1960's. It may be seen as a forerunner of later books that taught you how to enjoy wine by personal reminiscing about wines and in this way guided readers through the maze of wine types and wine lore. more...


The Heartbreak Grape, A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir  - Marq de Villiers
Harper Collins, 1993, Toronto, Canada
Review by David Farmer

Pinotphiles is the name given to consumers who are dedicated to the mysteries and flavour of pinot noir. No other grape variety has such a band of promoters and to satisfy their needs a dozen or so ‘pinot celebrations’ are held every few years in the old and newly emerging pinot regions. more...


The Romance of Wine  - H. Warner Allen
Ernest Benn Limited, London, 1931
Review by David Farmer

'When the Portuguese are really enjoying themselves, they sing and dance to a noise resembling that of a heavy bombardment, and in a festival in the mountains at Amarante I was completely deafened by the unceasing roar of about sixty sheepskin drums beaten furiously, broken by violent dynamite explosions.'

This is Warner Allen’s picture of the locals in the Douro region who enjoy letting off rockets with sticks of dynamite attached when celebrating. Any book that discovered a tradition like that has something interesting to say. more...


In Search of Wine, A tour of the Vineyards of France  - Charles Walter Berry
Constable and Company, 1935. Republished in 1987 by Sidgwick and Jackson
Review by David Farmer

In late 1934 Charles Walter Berry undertook an eight week tour through the vineyards of France and In Search of Wine is the record of what is considered a ‘famous’ journey. In the introduction to the 1987 reprint by Jancis Robinson, she notes that, ‘Walter made wine trade history by venturing into the cellars of those who supplied him,…in order to understand better the product he was selling and to survey, in unparalleled depth for the time, the French vignoble.’ more...


Ancient Wine, The Search for the Origins of Viniculture  - Patrick E. McGovern
Princeton University Press, 2003
Review by David Farmer

We do not know when humans first began to enjoy fermented wine beverages. Ancient Wine traces the origin of the deliberate making of alcohol back to the early Neolithic, about 7000 years ago. A seasonal or occasional drinking of alcoholic beverages probably goes back much further as many fruits collected in a container would ferment naturally. The current warm cycle of the ice age commenced about 10,000 years ago and this also marked a change, in a region of the Middle East, when humans turned from nomadic hunter gatherers to the first permanent settlements based around the cultivation of cereal crops. It is suggested that the earliest permanent settlements began in Eastern Turkey in the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. more...


In Praise of Wine  - Alec Waugh
1959, (Cassel)
Review by David Farmer

In Praise of Wine is a book of personal reminiscences about wine and follows the style of the educated amateurs who wrote before and immediately after the Second World War. This book though was published in 1959 and has crossed into an era in which wine books were beginning to contain detailed descriptions of wine regions and technical aspects of wine making, the forerunners of today’s large wine publishing industry. This in turn heralded the end of the amateur commentator. more...


Stay Me with Flagons  - Maurice Healy
Michael Joseph, 1949
Review by David Farmer

The English wine trade has given us many things, such as wine and food societies, a great depth of literature covering the descriptive and technical aspects of wine and wine regions, notably on French wine, a sophisticated wine auction system and more recently teaching schools such as the Masters of Wine. more...


The New France
A Complete Guide to Contemporary French Wine
 - Andrew Jefford
Mitchell Beazley 2002
Review by David Farmer

How strange to divide wine writers into a wine left or right. It will help you to enjoy the early chapters of this book if you have a soft left interpretation of the world wine industry, and enjoy railing against the globalisation of wine, the sameness of taste, the industrialisation of wine and a future driven by world wide brands. This book takes the proposition that the true way to make wine comes from those who bond with the ground, who work the vineyard night and day, break their backs, and by so doing achieve in almost a religious sense a bonding with the earth, the place and the wine produced. more...


You Heard It Through The Grapevine - Shattering the myths about the wine business  - Stuart Walton
Aurum Press, London, 2001
Review by David Farmer

There are a great many wine books written each year. The problem is that it is hard to come up with a new perspective to make a book stand out. The wine industry evolves slowly which means most books are derivative. In this case it would seem that the publishers asked for a book that reveals the hidden secrets of a business that some may see as being full of mystery, hence the sub title of this book. more...


The Classic Book on Cocktails
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks
 - David Embury
the first edition was in America in 1948 and Faber and Faber published the first British edition in 1953
Review by David Farmer

Some books give you such pleasure that you always want them nearby. And in my adventures into drinks no book has impressed me as much or given me more pleasure than this masterpiece on the art of making cocktails.

There are dozens of books about making cocktails, rather like there are about food, but few are worth the cover price. None approach the quality of this classic book. more...


Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines  - James Wilson
Mitchell Beazley 1998
Review by David Farmer

Any vineyard owner will tell you that certain areas of their vineyard make better tasting grapes than other areas. Why some areas of vineyards and vineyard districts deliver better grapes and hence better wine is the subject of terroir studies. The Europeans and particularly the French are very interested in this topic. They extend the meaning of the word which we can roughly say is the flavour effects that come from the vineyard location to include cultural ideas which unite man with the soil. more...


Penfolds-The Rewards of Patience  - Andrew Caillard M.W.
(Fifth Edition)
Review by David Farmer

In the simplest term this is a consumers guide to all the Penfolds red and white wines. The tasting notes cover wines made by Penfolds in the 1950's right through to the current releases. There are tasting notes for every wine, apart from the Rawsons Retreat wines, the Koonunga Hill whites and one or two others which I detect the winemakers wish they did not have to make under the Penfolds banner. Others wines such as the Penfolds Old Vine Semillon which were part of edition 4 have been dropped off. more...


Classification of Australian Wines  - Dan Murphy
Macmillan 1974
Review by David Farmer

I’m a bit of a collector of wine books and recently purchased a first edition signed by Dan Murphy and by the great Hunter vigneron Max Lake. It cost $20.00 from the Berkelouw bookstore on Oxford Street, Sydney, where I buy a lot of second-hand wine books. I first read this book in 1975. Back then it was seen as a bold attempt to classify Australian vineyards and wines in a hierarchical system similar to the French appellation classification. It was a very useful book. Thirty years on it acts as a timepiece and is worth reviewing to see how the wine industry has evolved. more...


Real Wine - The Rediscovery of Natural Winemaking  - Patrick Matthews
Mitchell Beazley 2000
Review by David Farmer

This is one of a number of wine books published over the last few years, mostly by English authors, which take the view that there is a correct way to make wine and this is only known and followed by a small number of dedicated winemakers. The core of the argument is that big company winemaking produces ‘industrial’ wines and these lack character, while true wine is made by the artisanal wine maker using tools and methods, often ancient, which reflect the unique character of the site. more...


Ten Company Histories and Biographies of Our Wine Pioneers  - *(see note for details)

Review by David Farmer

In the wine business 50 years is too short for reflection while one hundred years spans several generations and covers a wide variety of trading conditions. Companies that are still family owned and trading after 100 years are the rare survivors and it was at this point that most of them commissioned a company history. Many great contributors to the Australian wine history, and to single out one, Alexander Kelly's Tintara, did not survive for long and we know little about them. more...



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