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Reading Under the Influence.

The revival of the American cocktail has brought us a flood of books, all filled with good intentions, that can be divided into three basic categories: barside encyclopedia, filled with data, descriptions and definitions but little of the charm or lore of the publican's trade; dry, academic contemplation of drinking history or half-baked, fluffy attempts to capture the magic of the Cocktail Revolution.

But now we've got the I real thing, a great read that combines recipes, history, fun and wit, courtesy of Wired, a leading magazine about the computer/internet/technology revolution. Called Cocktail, the Drinks Bible for the 21st Century, Viking/Wired, this may be the handsomest, most pithy and certainly most charming libation book currently available, co-written by former bartender and the host of Wired's cocktail web site, Paul Harrington, also known as The Alchemist.

Harrington and co-author Laura Moorhead start with the basics-about mixers, ice, syrups, drink families, proportions, equipment and serving styles-and explain why they believe some cocktails are better stirred than shaken, and vice versa. They also go into detail about a drink's taste complexity and mixing difficulty, and concise descriptions of beverage categories.

But the fun lies in their drink pages, wherein they pair detailed mini-essays with mixing instructions, serving advice and alternative suggestions. Here's where we learn that the Alchemist invented, among others, The Drink Without a Name (2 oz. vodka, 1/4 oz. Cointreau, 1/8 oz. Chartreuse stirred with cracked ice, strained into a chilled cocktail glass and garnished with an orange twist.) and find out the origins of Pink Gin, Gimlet and Sidecar. This may be the smartest cocktail book of the past year.

Confused by the ebb and flow of the craft brewing business? Thinking about making a beer road trip? Then Ben Myers' Best American Beers might be what you're looking for.

Myers, who was named "Beer Writer of the Year" in 1996 by the North American Guild of Beer Writers, has worked with, among others, brewer Bert Grant and Pyramid Brewing, so he undoubtedly knows his way around beer. But in his lavishly illustrated little chapbook, he's been aided by other well-known beer writers like Stephen Beaumont and Tom Dalldorf in encapsulating the brews and history of about 100 brewers in the U.S. and Canada. He offers recommendations with tasting notes for the top brews from each brewery, as well as a round up of the regional breweries and brewpubs that didn't get the full treatment. It's a good, brief look at the current state of the industry, and perfect for that summer tasting road trip.

Once, champagne was considered a perfectly acceptable cocktail ingredient. Now, like with other things vinous Americans have become far too reverential when it comes adding less formidable ingredients to sparkling grape juice. But after skimming champagne Cocktails, by Anistatia Miller, Jared Brown and Don Gatterdam, (Regan Books), you'll feel more confident putting some sparkle into your libations.

More importantly, the book is chock full of anecdotes about famous champagne lovers, the bubbly's legends, and the kinds of cocktails that once swung a nation. Much has been made of the Champagne Millennium craze, and the purported lack of the stuff, but we bet that by 2000, there will be plenty of sparklers available at good prices. And if you want to expand your champagne cocktail repertoire beyond a Kir Royale, try the Americana (Pour 1 tsp. bourbon and 1 dash Angostura bitters into a champagne flute and slowly add 5 oz. champagne. Garnish with a fresh peach slice); Or the Metro: (Add a splash cranberry juice, a dash of Rose's Lime Juice, a dash of Cointreau and 1 oz. vodka to a flute and top with 4 oz. champagne.)
COPYRIGHT 1999 Bev-AL Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1999
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