12 Essential Books for Mastering the Craft

12 Essential Books for Mastering the Craft

Learn the best bartending books to improve your skills, from mastering classic cocktails to exploring flavor pairings.

Ever dream of life behind the bar, flipping bottles and crafting creative cocktails? Before you tie on an apron, you must equip yourself with the crucial knowledge and techniques of the best bartending books, revealed by some incredibly knowledgeable bartenders globally.

Forget generic cocktails! Today's bartending scene explores unique ingredients and traditions beyond your local corner pub. As Broken Bartender founder Danil Nevsky notes, more bars are “embracing hyper-local or regional drinking traditions that you wouldn't necessarily encounter in other countries or cities.” 

From the science of flavor to the stories behind classic drinks, we’ve put together the top 12 best bartending books that offer an in-depth look at the craft, which will help you make a mean margarita, connect with customers, and advance your career.

  1. The Bar Book by Jeffrey Morgenthaler
  2. The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan
  3. The Curious Bartender by Tristan Stephenson
  4. The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails by David Wondrich & Noah Rothbaum
  5. The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit
  6. And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis
  7. Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold
  8. The Art and Science of Foodpairing by Peter Coucquyt, Bernard Lahousse, and Johan Langenbick
  9. Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu
  10. Imbibe by David Wondrich
  11. Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
  12. Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

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Why is continuous learning important for bartenders?

Bartending is far more than just mixing up the drink order from memorized recipes. It requires continually building knowledge across various areas – from customer service skills to ingredients expertise to mastering advanced techniques and equipment. Continuous learning enables bartenders to

  • Offer the latest & greatest drinks to cater to evolving customer expectations.
  • Create balanced drinks and make informed recommendations.
  • Improve service & create memorable experiences.
  • Earn high-paying opportunities & open your own bar.
  • Keep work interesting & avoid burnout.
  • Stay enthusiastic about your bartending career.

As Danil Nevsky notes, “The bar industry wants its most famous bartenders to actually be able to dictate to the general public what to drink.” This requires deep wisdom developed over many years from studying great bartending books and following bartending trends.

What is the best bartending book?

Because even the best in the business have more to learn when it comes to slinging a Manhattan, the masters featured in these pages provide the wisdom for continuous self-improvement across the breadth of this complex and high-maintenance craft in their bartending books.

The Classics

These foundational bartending books cover the key aspects of bartending, from craft beer recipes to relationships. Master these texts first for a strong base of knowledge.

The Bar Book by Jeffrey Morgenthaler

 

Dubbed the bartending bible, this book on how to be a bartender efficiently teaches all the basics, from stocking your bar to serving customers. With focus and brevity, The Bar Book by Jeffrey Morgenthaler delivers need-to-know lessons for newbie bartenders in one of the best bartending books. Consider this your boot camp before stepping behind the stick and preparing vodka soda.

The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan

 https://www.amazon.com/Joy-Mixology-Revised-Updated-Consummate/dp/0451499026?&_encoding=UTF8&tag=cocktailcri07-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=876d5097baafd3742ea99618cbff2d4c&camp=1789&creative=9325

Regan takes readers beyond basics into the art of cocktails with chapters on everything from ice to garnishes to reading customers in this great bartending book. With history lessons, family trees organizing drink types, and 350+ recipes, The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan not only enhances your knowledge but also asks if you have the passion to stick with bartending.

The Curious Bartender by Tristan Stephenson

 The Curious Bartender by Tristan Stephenson

The best bartenders don't just know recipes – they understand the methodology of mixing drinks. Stephenson focuses more on the "why" than the "how" of techniques so you can riff on classics rather than just reproduce them in this excellent bartending book. With science experiments that illuminate principles The Curious Bartender by Tristan Stephenson will unlock your creativity. 

While “the importance of knowing your classic cocktails remains,” as Nevsky says, these bartending books teach much more than just recipes for popular drinks. They provide all aspiring bartenders with fundamental knowledge to learn the craft properly.

Flavors and Ingredients

Once you have fundamental skills, it's time to review flavors and ingredients. Understanding taste combinations and various spirits open new dimensions for concocting signature drinks using lessons from these bartending books.

The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails by David Wondrich & Noah Rothbaum

 The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails

This comprehensive reference book is a scholarly and authoritative work that covers nearly every aspect of spirits and cocktails. The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails delves into various topics, from the technical aspects of distillation, such as charcoal filtration and heat exchangers, to the history and origins of various spirits and cocktails.

While some sections may be dense and technical, the book also offers concise and witty profiles of forgotten bartenders, obscure but brilliant bars from the 1930s, neglected writers, and lesser-known spirits worth exploring. The authors have meticulously revised and updated classic cocktail recipes, providing valuable insights and recommendations.

The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit

The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit

Learn which flavors play nicely together and which don't with this basic pairing guide that explains the science behind harmonious and contrasting tastes. The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit helps first-time bartenders avoid flavor trainwrecks and spot surprising combinations. 

And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis

And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis

Swap bourbon for rum by immersing yourself in the history of this classic spirit, from colonial times through Prohibition, in this excellent book for bartenders. And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis also covers rum's intertwined relationship with slavery, making it not just an interesting but also an important read.

Don't be afraid to experiment with “ingredients previously deemed as 'taboo' or too 'old school'...such as Midori, Galliano, or Malibu, were thought to have been left in the past but are appearing on menus more and more in recent times." notes Nevsky. Open your flavor horizons to drinks from America to Europe!

Method and Technique

So, you know your spirits, but do you know the physics and chemistry behind your favorite drinks? Whether it is a Long Island iced tea or an old-fashioned tea, the following top bartending books give insight into state-of-the-art methods for extracting flavors and perfecting the texture of that Jack and Coke.

Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold

Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold

Considered by many the modern bible for scientific bartending techniques Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold focuses on processes and equipment to manipulate temperature, dilution, appearance, and mouthfeel. Dive into the how and why of foams, gels, emulsions, and more mixology magic in one of the best books for bartenders.

The Art and Science of Food Pairing by Peter Coucquyt, Bernard Lahousse, and Johan Langenbick

The Art and Science of Food Pairing

Food pairing is not just about the traditional pairing of wine and food; it is a scientific approach to creating the most delicious culinary combinations possible. The Art and Science of Food Pairing explores the concept of food pairing, based on the idea that humans perceive 80 percent of taste through the nose (via aromatic molecules) and only 20 percent through the tongue.

This book provides access to a database of 10,000 food pairings, which have been discovered through scientific research and are presented in taste wheels and color keys.

Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu

Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu

Science geeks will love this practical guide to DIY ingredients, custom infusions, and homemade bitters full of cocktail knowledge. Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu also includes experiments that test shaking times, chilling methods, and other technique tests for fact-based mixology, making it one of the best books for bartenders.

Nevsky predicts “a new generation of garnishes that are both intentional and pleasing to the eye.” So don't just throw on a tired lemon wedge; learn to craft garnishes from these bartending books that enhance that tequila visually and texturally.

History and Hospitality

Once your cocktail construction improves, focus on the context that surrounds the drinking by understanding bartender heritage and hospitality principles from these bartending books. 

Imbibe by David Wondrich

Imbibe by David Wondrich

Considered the definitive book on cocktail history, Wondrich traces the origins of punches, slings, fizzes, sours, and other drink families while telling stories about famous bartenders who influenced modern mixology in this great bartending book. Imbibe by David Wondrich establishes bartender pride by showing that skills behind the stick stand the test of time.

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

 Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

From the famed restaurateur behind Shake Shack and other popular eateries comes business advice for running a customer-centric operation. Setting the Table by Danny Meyer focuses on hospitality principles like eliminating red tape for staff and prioritizing guest enjoyment over costs to drive success. This is valuable knowledge in this top book for bartenders.

Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

Can you learn hospitality from a world-famous restaurant not focused on drinks? Yes! This part memoir, part management guide, analyzes the motivations, teamwork, and communication that make Michelin-darling Eleven Madison Park a seamless, over-the-top service model. The universal advice will up your bartending game, making Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara a must-read bartending book.

While top bartenders can influence trends, “it's usually consumer behavior and pop-culture themes that tend to lead the charge!” on what people want to drink, Nevsky confirms. So, study hospitality to understand consumers from these great bartending books.

There you have it – a foot-deep dive into foundational bartending across techniques, ingredients, science, and business acumen using the best bartending books on the topic. Immerse yourself in this written wisdom, and you will undoubtedly stir up success behind the bar while preparing that whiskey sour. 

What are you waiting for? Grab a bartending book and start reading your way to becoming the Tom Cruise of cocktails! Just don't practice flipping bottles at home. Leave that for the movie magic.

[What are you waiting for? Grab a bartending book and start reading. Don’t worry; reading won’t make you look outdated behind the bar, especially with Broken Bartender’s clothing and accessories for the modern bartender.]

People Also Ask

What is the golden rule of bartending?

When asking veteran bartenders about the most important principles for success behind the bar, one piece of advice is repeated over and over: put the customer first. So, as much as bartending involves creativity and skill around crafting drinks, the golden rule of bartending is to remember that it's not about the bartender – it's about the people you serve. 

The key to success is consistently treating every guest with equal respect, care, and delight. Master this hospitality golden rule above all else, and your bartending career will shine.

Takeaways

  • Bartending is a dynamic field that requires ongoing education to stay updated with evolving customer preferences and industry trends.
  • Beyond memorizing recipes, understanding the methodology and history behind cocktails enhances a bartender's skill set.
  • Learning about bartender heritage and hospitality principles is essential for creating memorable experiences for customers.
  • Books that focus on the science behind bartending techniques offer insights into manipulating flavors and textures effectively.
  • The golden rule of bartending emphasizes the importance of putting the customer first and treating each guest with respect and care.
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