Ask Your Bartender: Cocktail Books

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Hey Bartender

As you stated in your recent post, we can’t possibly be expected to know the full gamut of odd-named and (sometimes) purely awful drinks that tend to get ordered every once and a while. I was wondering, is there one comprehensive (preferably small and inconspicuous-looking) cocktail book that covers a large percentage of these drinks? I just want to know what you would recommend if I wanted to have one book behind the bar for these situations (I know you recommend Harrington’s book, but I simply can’t afford to drop $100 – I’m in the struggling college student bartending camp at the moment). Any advice?


Hey Scott

The reality is that you only need to know how to make a few key drinks really well in order to be a successful bartender. Everything else is bullshit and you can look it up in the book. Look, I’ve got a secret: I don’t know how to make a Purple Hooter.

I’ve made a few of them, but we don’t really get too many requests for Purple Hooters where I work. So, every time someone orders a Purple Hooter, I’ve got to break open something we refer to as the Big Book of Dumb Drinks and remind myself what goes in a Purple Hooter. This usually happens about once every three months.

blackbook.jpgThe book we use is called The Bartender’s Black Book by Stephen Cunningham Kitteredge, but we just refer to it as “The Big Book of Dumb Drinks” since it catalogues every silly, sexually-named, nightclub-oriented, childish, dumb drink you’ll ever get an order for.

It’s wonderful. Really. It’s spiral-bound, so it lays flat. It’s small, so it doesn’t take up much space behind the bar. And it’s actually got a bunch of other useful information.

You can purchase the book here.

5 Replies to “Ask Your Bartender: Cocktail Books”

  • ejbonk says:

    The 20TH Century Cocktail

    So named after the New York Central Railroad’s 20th Century Limited.

    This Drink was first served aboard that famous train in 1939.


    1 1/2ounces(1/3 gill,4.5cl)gin
    3/4 ounce(1/6 gill,2cl) Lillet Blanc
    3/4 ounce(1/6 gill,2cl) light creme de cacao
    3/4 ounce(1/6 gill,2cl) fresh lemon juice


    Shake in an iced cocktail shaker,and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

    This drink was first published in the Cafe Royal Bar Book of 1939. Last known publishment was in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails 2004.

    An interesting drink and a very smooth,cool and mello way to get smashing drunk.

  • alex says:

    Im interesting to learn more about diferent kind of your cocktail receipt.

  • The little black book is essential. I’ve got a very battered copy that I never bartend without. From now on, my copy is rechristened “The Big Book of Dumb Drinks.” It’s really the perfect title.

    I hate when jerks try to stump me with obscure drinks and act like they are some kind of expert on bartending just because they ordered some dumb drink you’ve never heard of.

  • Jimmy says:

    I have the blackbook too. (Don’t tell anyone.)

  • Miles says:

    Good post, I really enjoy reading your thoughts and views on bartending when they pop into my RSS.

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