A pioneer of the cocktail renaissance currently sweeping the country, Robert Hess was an early advocate of vintage cocktails done right. He did most of this advocating on DrinkBoy.com, one of the first cocktail websites and still a popular discussion forum. Fans of the site have been bugging him to write a book for years, but, being a new-media kinda guy, he opted instead to host a video series called the Cocktail Spirit, broadcast online at the Small Screen Network.
Much of that content has ended up in The Essential Bartender’s Guide: How To Create Truly Great Cocktails, Robert’s long-awaited book. In the course of that long awaiting, umpteen other drink experts have published a forest’s worth of cocktail manuals. But even if your bookshelf is sagging under all that weighty advice, Robert’s entry is still a worthy addition.
For one thing, he doesn’t just recycle now-familiar recipes. (How many trees have fallen so that we can look up the same Mojito in 100 different places?) Instead, he’s petitioned some of today’s most forward-thinking bartists for their latest concoctions. Embedded among the usual classic recipes, you’ll find new-school gems like Ryan Margarian’s tequila Manhattan, sweetened with Licor 43 and garnished with a slice of mole-spiced salami; or Jamie Boudreau’s Rubicon, featuring green Chartreuse and a rosemary sprig set aflame, then shaken with gin, maraschino and lemon; or David Nepove’s Sweet Heat, a vanilla-accented Margarita muddled with jalapeño pepper. There’s more where that came from, including several of Robert’s nouveau originals, which incorporate such offbeat ingredients as smoked salmon and an artichoke-based digestif called Cynar.
For another thing, Robert is also an unabashed Tiki fan. The exotic drink recipes he’s included — Zombie, Fog Cutter, Mai Tai, Eastern Sour, Painkiller — are the vetted versions. And in keeping with his mandate to mix old and new, he’s added his own tangy take on Tiki drinks, The Voyager. (Recipe: Shake 2 ounces light rum, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and 1/2 ounce each fresh lime juice, Benedictine, and falernum with ice cubes. Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass and garnish with a lime wedge.) It’s just the thing to sip while paging through Robert’s Guide, a voyage to many an interesting liquid landmark.