I have met David Wondrich a couple of times, but most of my interaction with him has been via email. Wondrich is an excellent mixologist, a very good researcher and a fine writer. We were both friends with the late Gary Regan, and Gary did an email introduction to Wondrich. I was able to help Wondrich find a source he was looking for and I have had emails from him every now and then when he has a similar question. He is a very good researcher. His book, Imbibe!, is my go-to book for cocktail history. I don’t often quote him because I try to add my own twist to the story, but I do look at what Wondrich has written. He knows more about cocktail history than anyone else alive today.

Imbibe!, David Wondrich, New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2007,Contents, Forward, Introduction, Biographical Note, Index, Illustrations, 363 pp.

David Wondrich has written a book that not only contains recipes for cocktails, but also a history and evolution of the cocktail. The first chapters all deal with the history of the cocktail, mixology and 19th/20th century bartending practices. These subjects cover different spirits used in the cocktails and the implements used to make the cocktails such as the glassware and strainers. The following chapters discuss types of cocktails such as punches, toddies or slings. The variety of cocktails includes the classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned or Manhattan cocktails, but also discusses more modern drinks from Japan, Indonesia and other places with a vibrant cocktail culture. A typical cocktail will include a paragraph or more on the history of that particular drink, the recipe, notes on the ingredients and notes on the execution of making the drink. All of this is not only interesting, but very useful to both the rookie bartender and the seasoned mixologist. 

The book is very well-designed. It is well-indexed so recipes are easy to find. There are illustrations, but they are black and white drawings – usually from a historic cocktail book. There are no photographs of the finished cocktail. This does not bother me in that there are plenty of books with pretty pictures of cocktails. I am more interested in how to achieve the final results, which Wondrich covers very well, than looking at a picture of the drink. 

Imbibe! Is a book that should be part of any spirits library. If you need to find the history of a particular cocktail, you will find not only information on that drink, but its ingredients and construction. The book covers different spirits, garnishes and other ingredients and their history. Bartenders will consider this book a must-read. It is interesting and informative. One of the few cocktail books everyone should add to their spirits library.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller