There's not much that's nicer than curling up with a book—except, perhaps curling up with a book and a glass of something delicious in your hand. Looking for something new to read? Here are our thoughts on a few recently published books on drinking, from coffee to whiskey to cider to wine.
The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining
This new book is a comprehensive guide on whiskey's history, current state, and production—great for any amateur whiskey enthusiast, not just those that want to make spirits themselves. It tells the story of how the men went from fly-by-night moonshiners to legitimate, licensed craft whiskey producers, and boldly describes how to do the same. The information is presented in an entertaining, quickly-readable manner with clean, beautiful graphics, and includes recipes for not just the moonshine itself, but also for cocktails and food items to make with it. The moonshining world is notoriously full of orally-perpetuated misinformation and the legitimate whiskey industry is full of marketing lies and half-truths; Spoelman and Haskell have thankfully defied those traditions and released an educational book of honesty and transparency.
The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert
We love the idea of this book: Master Sommelier Richard Betts created this picture book about wine, employing scratch & sniff technology (and wonderful illustrations from Wendy MacNaughton) to introduce readers a bit to the many scents they might encounter in a glass of vino. What's the difference between red fruit and black fruit? What does oak smell like? What do we mean when we say a wine is earthy? It's pretty awesome to be able to illustrate these scents with...actual scents. But we found ourselves wanting more: it would be awesome if the book included the scent of cork taint, for example, since so many people aren't sure how to detect it in a wine, and we wondered if there was any way to make some of the scents a little more accurate (the fruit ones fared better than, say, grass or dill.)
This book would make a fun gift for anyone who's just starting to dip a toe into the wine world, but it's not for those who already consider themselves wine experts.
Fizz: How Soda Shook Up The World
This book is full of the kind of fun historical tidbits that you find yourself reading aloud. Did you know that Coke and Pepsi both designed crazy space-safe soda cans so their sodas could be launched into orbit on the Challenger? Did you know that Jean Jacob Schweppe was a jewelry maker who engineered a carbonation system for making fizzy water way back in the 1780s? Even if you're not a huge pop fan, you'll likely find something of interest in this account of how soda came to be, and how it got to be so popular.
World's Best Ciders: Taste, Tradition, Terroir
You've probably seen more and more locally-produced ciders popping up on the shelves or your local grocery store or bottle shop, and perhaps you're curious about the cider boom. This book takes a global approach, briefly discussing cider's history and how it's made, then covering the cider tradition (with bottle recommendations) for Spain, France, Germay, Austria, the UK, Ireland, and the rest of Europe, plus shorter sections on Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and beyond, with gorgeous photos from Bill Bradshaw. There's a bit about what's going on in the US—including an interesting essay about why cider's on the rise in the Pacific Northwest, but the book is much more of a broad general overview than a report on the current American cider revolution.
Brown and Bradshaw recommend 244 bottles to try if you're cider-hopping around the world—it's hard to imagine having to choose, say, 31 ciders from France or 40 from all of the US. The book includes profiles of cider makers and apple-growers, innovators in the cider scene, and there's a short final section on the principles of pairing cider with food.
Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry
A semi-academic text full of end notes; anecdotes about the history and trajectory of specialty coffee; and plenty of info about farming, sourcing, roasting, and selling beans, this book's a worthwhile read for a professional looking to expand his or her caffeinated horizons, but would perhaps be lost on (or at least very boring to) the average coffee drinker.
While much of the information is edifying to those of us behind the counters, filters, roasters, and pulpers of the industry—including some very exciting new research and several illuminating opinions from notable coffee people of all stripes—if you're looking for a pop-cultural exploration of your favorite morning drink, I'm not sure this will fit the bill. (If you do tackle it, however, keep a highlighter nearby: A Comprehensive Guide is like an immersion course in coffee college, and might manage to fast-track you into a life of geeky pursuit of coffee perfection.)