Drinking and Thinking: 5 Books About the History of Booze

When swiveling a craft cocktail in one’s hand, it’s easy to appreciate the mixologist who just made it. What can make the appreciation for the drink all the more pleasant is understanding the history, agriculture, and society behind a particular drink or liquor. These five books dip back in time to the history of drinks, both how they are made and when they were mixed. Cheers! 

Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar, by David Wondrich
When one thinks cocktails and history, the name ‘David Wondrich’ quickly comes to mind. Both a mixologist and a historian, Wondrich is a leader in the field of cocktail history. No booze-shelf is complete without his James Beard Award winning book, Imbibe! Through a snifter glass, the book peers back in time, beginning with “The Archaic Age” of mixology in the United States of the late 1700s, then following developments of punches, juleps, cocktails, and other delights. Wondrich knows how to mix a drink as masterfully as he turns a phrase, which makes the book not only an informative but also a gratifying read.

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks, by Amy Stewart
For those who drink and wonder about the where, when, how, and why a particular liquor was made, The Drunken Botanist has the answers. The bewitching green book looks almost like a spell book, with secrets and lore to share for the curious of mind. Horticulturalist, author, bookstore owner, and blogger for Garden Rant, Amy Stewart dives deep into the plants behind alcohol. (Note: while a lot of plants and herbs that go into booze, they don’t count toward your daily servings of veggies.) The book is part history, part biology, and part chemistry, but even if you don’t know much about those subjects, Stewart presents the information in an easy-to-digest manner.

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them, by Ted Haigh
Looking to travel to the past through a cocktail glass? (Who isn’t?!) This lovely book by cocktail expert and historian Ted Haigh (AKA Dr. Cocktail), dips into drink history by resurfacing long lost beverages. Learn how to make a Knickerbocker à la Monsieur, The Mother-in-Law Cocktail, and many more delicious cocktails with (almost) equally delicious sounding names. Like the title of this book, the content is tons of fun, with engaging fonts, whimsical illustrations, and a charismatic voice that speaks directly to the reader like a friend enjoying a beer—er, cocktail.

Moonshine: A Cultural History of America’s Infamous Liquor, by Jaime Joyce
Moonshine is perhaps one of the more elusive liquors with possibly the best name, and a slew of great nicknames as well (white lightning, choop, mountain dew, etc.). The lore of Moonshine is braided into American history, and this book takes the reader through colonial times, the American Revolution, prohibition, and onto moonshine in the modern era. Writer Jaime Joyce tells an intoxicating tale that mixes anecdotes, folklore, history, and even a few cocktails, like the Moonshine-based take on the Margarita, aptly called the ‘Moon-a-Rita.

Jerry Thomas Bartenders Guide 1862 Reprint: How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion, by Jerry Thomas with an introduction by Ross Bolton 
This book isn’t an alcohol history book, but an historical cocktail recipe book. This collection of recipes was originally published in 1862, and is purported to be the first of its kind. It is written by bartender/professor, Jerry Thomas, whom David Wondrich pays homage to in the title of his book, Imbibe! With vintage recipes like Nectar for the Czar and D’Orsay Punch, this book is a nice addition for the booze book collector.


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