Posts Tagged ‘ Book Review ’

{Book Review} Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric

For the Master Mixologist in You.

I have never had a drink at the Employee’s Only Bar in New York, but I have read about and talked to those who have, and I hear only good things.  Employee’s Only appears to be one of the new wave of cocktail bars truly dedicated to not just respecting the cherished history of the cocktail but also moving things forward and I think that is evident in their cocktail recipe book “Speakeasy”.

I say that they look to the past and the future because of the way they have structured the book.  Going through the pages you will find recipes for classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Martinez, Sidecar, and Negroni and on the following page you will find an Employee’s Only version that either ups the complexity or takes the drink in an exciting new direction.  So not only do you get the great classic recipes, but you also get a new version to try or even inspire your own experiments.

Most recipes do refer to the spirit ingredients by brand name, but almost all of the brand names mentioned are fairly easy to find.  In the re-invented cocktails there is the healthy use of homemade or infused ingredients, thankfully there is an appendix in the back of the book with directions for the production of such ingredients.

So while making some of these cocktails may require a bit of work to get the required ingredients together or produced I have found that I am almost always rewarded by something complex, tasty, and smooth.

In conclusion I guess I would say that if you are a serious drinker and you like real cocktails and you are willing to work for them then this is a great book for you.  Produced by people whom I would consider true mixologists, this book gives you an idea on how they think and approach their craft by adjusting classic recipes and creating new ones.  I have enjoyed this book and I hope you will too.

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{Book Review} A Taste for Absinthe by R. Winston Guthrie

I was really looking forward to this book “A Taste For Absinthe, 65 Recipes for Classic & Contemporary Cocktails” by R. Winston Guthrie with James F. Thompson; but this book didn’t really knock my socks off, but was still a solid effort.  Allow me to elaborate:

I would venture to say the book itself is organized into seven major sections; an absinthe primer, classic absinthe recipes, fruit & citrus related absinthe recipes, whiskey & gin related absinthe recipes, liqueurs & bitters related absinthe recipes, modern classics & cutting edge absinthe recipes and an absinthe buying guide.

I will move from back to front.

I found the Absinthe Buying Guide to be a bit inadequate, while they do list 18 different absinthes; there were some omissions that surprised me (La Muse Verte, St. George, etc.).  And instead of giving recommendations (As I would think a buying guide should) instead you are given a website, the name of importer, style, ABV, distillery name, a vague price indicator and a short description.  For what was described as a buying guide, I was a bit disappointed.

Overall when looking at all the recipes in the book I have neither great praise nor complaint.  The recipes vary from relatively simple to complex.  In the ingredient lists for most recipes the products are called for by name brand name.  Normally I wouldn’t consider this a big deal, but when your average bottle of absinthe runs from $45 to $85 it seems a little silly.  There are several recipes however that just call for just absinthe or blanche absinthe.

I am however happy to report that the majority of the recipes were new to me, of course I was familiar to most of the classic recipes listed in the same named section.  So if you are looking for a good collection of new absinthe related cocktail recipes then this book may work out for you.  Also peppered throughout the book are one page “A Moment In Absinthe History” essays.  I found these to be sometimes interesting little snippets of absinthe history that I may or may not have already known.

The absinthe primer at the beginning of the book is probably the best conceived and executed section of the book.  While very little of the information was new to me, I felt it was a well-organized and well laid out introduction to the spirit.  I would easily recommend reading this section for anyone who wanted to learn the basics about absinthe and its production and range or types.

So to conclude, while I would not considered this a new classic cocktail book is still a very solid effort towards collecting and compiling the best of the absinthe related recipes out there right now.  For a non-absinthe fan you would probably want to skip this book, but if you have a passion of love for the green fairy then this belongs on your bookshelf.

{Book Review} Boozehound by Jason Wilson

By Jason WilsonFun, Informative, and about Booze!

I think if I died and was reincarnated I would want to come back as Jason Wilson.  That man has a job of traveling to drink and write about various distilled spirits, what a gig!  The nice thing is that author realizes he is pretty lucky to be a “Lifestyle Journalist” and he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

This book “Boozehound,” comes off as part memoir, part travel log, part spirits review and part cocktail recipe book.  And in all those things it makes for a fun read.  Wilson takes on a trip through his past while commenting on learning to taste and understand the flavors in spirits.  He discusses cocktail snobs, searching for lost spirits and liqueurs, the great stories (True or not) behind many beloved alcohol brands, the world of Italian bitter drinks, a whole chapter on aquavit, terroir and its effect on spirits, and much more.

At the end of each chapter the author always gives out a handful of cocktail recipes, which are neither recipes that you have seen a hundred times before or amazingly complex examples of molecular mixology.  They are just straightforward recipes that use the ingredients discussed in the proceeding chapter and out of the ones I have made they have been pretty good.

So while this book seems to cross many genres, part cocktail history book, alcoholic travel log, spirit critique and tasting notes, humor, and personal history I found it an enjoyable read; I learned a lot and had a great time reading it.  If you are interested in this kind of stuff then you will like the book too, and if you have a friend or family member who enjoys the history and stories behind different spirits, then I think they may like this book to.  I recommend it.

Book Review: WAR by Sebastian Junger

Taking you inside the American soldier’s mind in Afghanistan

I have read several books and accounts of both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and I feel secure is saying that Junger does a better job of taking you inside the mind of a soldier then anything else I have read, even solders’ own personal accounts of the war.

The author spent time with the same group of soldiers in remote Afghanistan off and on over a period of 15 months.  During this time he went out on patrols with them, was with them during firefights, and endured endless hours of boredom.  And he was really able to translate what it was like to be there with them and what those men were going through.

Junger broke down his book into three themes/parts: Fear, Killing and Love.  And each part of the book sort of focused on that theme in the soldiers daily life from fear of dying or failing fellow soldiers, to killing enemies, and the love soldiers had for each other and for fighting.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book.  It can be a little tough to follow at times unless you can get a mental picture of the geography of the land Junger talks about.  As the action takes place in an area of hills and valleys in Afghanistan.  Also the author has a tendency to flash forward and flash back a little bit when telling a story and that can disrupt the narrative a little bit, but other than those two minor quibbles I found the book to be very engrossing, intriguing, informative and overall entertaining.  If you are interested in books about on the ground modern warfare I think you will enjoy this book.

Book Review: California Tenants’ Rights by Janet Portman

California Tenants' Rights

Front Cover

Now, I have been a renter/tenant all my adult life and there are multiple times I can think of, when I wished I had this book.  The information would have saved me a lot of time looking through the legal codes online or just getting bad advice from friends.

So let me just say this book is great, as it is particular to California State Law and whenever something is mentioned or quoted from the law they give you a legal reference so you can look up the law yourself to prove it to your landlord or whoever it is you are talking to .

Just about everything is covered, from getting your lease, including inspections, repairs, sub-leasing, getting your security deposit back, even when the landlord can enter your dwelling, plus a whole lot more. And another great feature is there are a bunch of useful standardized forms in the back that you can either pullout or make copies of to use for various things like maintenance requests, setting up sub-leases and other useful stuff.

My only real disappointment with the book and the only section that was not covered that I really would have liked was dealing with bad neighbors/next-door tenants etc.. But I suppose the law doesn’t say much about the people below your apartment blaring music at 2am.  I just wish they could of given some direction as to how to deal with these people and what rights you have to not be disturbed by noise and late night parties.

However on another good note this book also gives some helpful advice as to how a judge would view your case if you took your landlord to court over various objections and problems, which I find quite helpful, especially since the book is honest enough to tell you that even though legally you may be right, a judge probably won’t do anything for you.

So if you are looking for a useful and well organized resource for the laws and rights of a tenant in the state of California then I highly recommend this book, as I said before I really wish I had access to this info in the past as it would have saved me a lot of time and grief. If you have any questions feel free to leave and comment and I will try to get back to you with a response.

{Book Review} Chasing the White Dog By: Max Watman

A Fun Look At Moonshine But With Faults

In this book journalist Max Watman takes you all around the world of American distilling and moonshining.  We learn of his own (Mis)adventures in fermenting and distilling in his kitchen and basement.  We learn the history of distilling and in our nation’s past, and we get an overview of the major events that shaped alcohol production in the country (Whiskey Rebellion, Prohibition, Etc.).  We also get a tour of many of the new startup micro-distillers that have began around the country.  Finally Max takes you on a great tour of moonshining in Virginia, South Carolina and much of the rest of the South and even visits with the law enforcement officers who are charged with shutting it down.

The topics are not all in this order; rather the author tends to jump around from subject to subject as he changes chapters.  His writing about his own experience making moonshine, visiting micro-distillers and moonshiners is quite interesting and I as a reader was able to connect with the people he was interviewing and talking about.  However his leaps into American moonshining and distilling history were far too chaotic for me to follow, characters came and went so fast that by the end of a chapter I felt like I didn’t learn too much and it all spread by in a blur.

Other than the occasional falter when he ventures into history, Watman does a great job telling you about real people who practice this art of distilling spirits, both legally and illegally.  And as far as books go on the subject, his is one of the freshest and is obviously one of the most current, so despite its faults I recommend the book if this subject interests you at all.

{Book Review} prayerfulness by Robert J. Wickes

Not a book about prayer but still worth reading.

At first glance you might think this is a book about prayer but instead it lies in the vein of books that talk about praying without ceasing or practicing the presence of God.  In this book the author Wilkes focuses on practices/mindsets and activities that will develop a sense of spiritual mindfulness or awareness.  Topics include “Creating simple rituals”, “Softening the soul”, and “Befriending anger and other negative emotions”.  From the titles of those chapters I think you can get an idea of the direction of this book.  The book is more about finding a way of connecting with God via small actions and changes in mindset that allow for a life of “Prayerfulness”.

The book is not heavy on the use of scripture, but instead pulls regularly from life experiences of the author.  Also Wickes’ views Christianity from a Catholic perspective while not being overtly catholic in his recommendations or practices.

I found some of the recommendations and thoughts in this book to be useful and interesting; and I have been challenged in my thinking on dealing with some of my emotions and thoughts about my relationship with God.  If you are open to this style of spiritual writing then I think you may be able to get something out of this book.  However, if are looking for principles firmly based in scripture and consistent references to the Bible and reformed theology this book is definitely not for you.  Decide on getting this book with that in mind.