Pros: inventive, mouthwatering cocktails and beautiful photography
Cons: to fully explore this book would require a full bar-many drinks use lesser used beverages
I remember when I was 18 years old, and still too young to legally drink alcohol, I picked up my first copy of "Mr. Boston Bartender's Guide." It was my first introduction to the world of cocktails, beyond the horrid, get-drunk-quick drinks of my college days. That book helped me to survive my first bartending job and has traveled with me from NYC to New Orleans to Chicago and beyond. In fact, I still have my original copy and though tattered and stained I still reference it occasionally. That was why I was excited to see that the "Mr. Boston" brand had put out a book on Summer Cocktails. I knew the drinks, in those pages, would be well tested and perfectly balanced. I expected nothing less from the name.
Having worked in many a bar and having read numerous cocktail books, I've become somewhat jaded and relatively hard to impress. I've seen and made a lot of cocktails but this book impressed me with the creativity of the 100 recipes found between its pages. Sure, not all the cocktails were impressive or knocked my socks off with their creativity, but there were plenty to keep me interested and my mouth watering. Take the "Tequila Massage" for example, a drink that pairs tequila and lime (a standard combination) with honey, grapefruit juice and cucumber to give it that fresh summery flavor that cucumber oftens brings to the table. Or try the "Imperial Basil Mimosa" which takes the Mimosa, that standard of Sunday brunches across the country, and spruces it up with vodka, Angostura Bitters and freshly muddled basil leaves.
"Summer Cocktails" makes sure to cover all the bases so no matter what kind of alcohol strikes your fancy there are, at least, a few recipes in this book for you, whether you like vodka, gin, rum, whiskeys (in all their incarnations), tequila or rum. There is a cocktail here for you. The recipes also rely heavily on fresh fruits and herbs, just the thing you'll find at your local farmer's market throughout the summer and early autumn months.
The only downside to the book is that it also relies heavily on more "out-of-the-way" liquors such as Aperol, Pisco, ginger liqueur, and a variety of other liquors that might be hard to come by if you don't live close to a major city. To fully explore this book would require you to own a full bar considering all the different beverages you would need. I can't really blame the authors though. With so many cocktail books out there and the Internet, it is hard to come up with something new, something that is going to set your book apart and make people want to buy it. But don't worry, there are plenty of recipes included that just require the standards, at least enough to get you started, but I imagine once you get started you'll be wanting to pick up some of those specialty items so that you can further explore.
(reviewer's note: as a die hard Bourbon fan I'm always looking for ways to lighten Bourbon up a bit to make a great summery drink. This cocktail is the perfect late summer drink!)
1 1/2 oz. Fresh Peach Puree
1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters ( had no Angostura at the time so I substituted Orange Bitters to good effect)
2 oz. Bourbon Whiskey
Garnish: Fresh Peach Slice
Build in a Collins glass filled with crushed ice, top with soda water, and swizzle until the glass frosts. Garnish with the peach slice.