The first book from bars, spirits, and cocktail expert Holly Graham, Managing Editor (International) of DRiNk Magazine, is a collection of cocktail recipes from some of the best and most influential bars from across Asia. As an academy chair of the World’s 50 Best Bars and Asia’s 50 Best Bars, Holly leverages her insight about the beverage industry to craft a book that serves as a definitive documentation of some of the most important cocktails to come out of the Asian bar scene.
It is very easy for a book about cocktails to turn into a list of recipes, a simple collection of curious concoctions sitting on a page waiting to be discovered. It is however rather unusual to find a cocktail book that reads like a ‘book’.
With Cocktails of Asia, Holly Graham manages to break free from the confines of a recipe list and enters the realm of cocktail chronicles. The book covers the stories behind the cocktails, the bars and cities they inhabit, and the bartenders that craft them. What comes through the 256 pages is the author’s love for the beverage industry as she transports the reader from region to region, visiting the bars she wants to talk about.
Voyaging its way through the Asian bar scene, the collection of 61 cocktails in the book covers many dimensions, from the tech-driven world of centrifuges, sous vide, and rotary evaporators to simple shakes and stirs. Each entry in the book, nose dives into the history of the bar and bartender, giving historical and geographical context and providing a seldom-seen glimpse of the beverage philosophy behind the cocktail.
My only grievance with the book is a minuscule one, which I would be remiss not to mention. It takes you on a journey through the Asian cocktail scene, moving quickly from country to country, style to style. This structure though at times gives the reader a small sense of disconnect between the recipes and philosophies as you move from Hong Kong to Manilla to Singapore in a span of nine pages.
While deeply entrenched in the beverage world, the book manages to be open and approachable for connoisseurs and casual readers alike. There are helpful breaks to cover lesser-known liquids like Batavia Arrack and Makgeolli while providing insights into the art of Japanese bartending from pioneers and legends of the industry like Hidatsa Ueno, Kazuo Uyeda, Shingo Golan, and others. The book also contains a section devoted to the various aromas of Baijiu.
As a member of the local beverage community writing this review, it is common to feel hard done by when reading a recipe book of Asian cocktails and seeing the creativity coming out of Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and the like, with no mention of any bars from India. That fear gets buried quickly as Delhi’s Sidecar, Mumbai’s The Bombay Canteen, and Goa’s Bar Tesouro fill sections in the book and give the Indian bar community the representation it deserves.
Images: Man Mo Media