It's been a busy couple of months in the Seattle publishing world. Amid the slew of new releases, we'd be remiss not to mention one more: The Cocktail Chronicles, a comprehensive drink-mixing bible from Seattle's own Paul Clarke.
Clarke's been documenting the cocktail renaissance since before it really began over at his blog of the same name, which he created back in 2005 as a drink enthusiast with little formal mixology training. He's since featured more than 200 craft cocktails on the blog, each with a write-up equal parts informative and irreverent. When he realized the 10-year milestone was closing in, Clarke found himself itching to do a book. He envisioned a mixing manual that would include not just recipes, but a reflection on the craft cocktail resurgence he'd witnessed behind the bar and the keyboard.
"My own decade of doing this professionally has overlapped with a particularly vibrant decade in the world of drinks," Clarke says. Indeed, he devotes the first half of the book to the classic cocktails that have thrived during the cocktail renaissance, from juleps to old fashioneds to the "unf*ckuppable" negroni. Some, though, are more apocryphal: The "Don't Give Up The Ship" combines gin, Dubonnet, Fernet-Branca, and curaçao, and is named for the capture of the USS Chesapeake. A damn good drink, Clarke promises.
From there, he delves into the new contemporary cocktails the renaissance has wrought (the signature spirits of the modern cocktail movement? Tequila and mezcal, Clarke argues). Helpful also is the final chapter, a guide to spirit brands, tools, and tips that's authoritative, yet approachable.
As with his blog, each subject gets a substantial write-up, with actual recipes included only as a footnote to Clarke's commentary. His musings on ingredients, spirits, history, and modern cocktail culture are always entertaining, if not hyperorganized (you'll find glassware tips in the introduction but all other gear information at the end of the book, inexplicably).
Though his book's format can be a bit confusing, Clarke's take on cocktails is refreshingly simple. "I used to be the guy who'd give you a hard time if you were making a drink in a way that wasn't exactly correct," Clarke says. "Over the course of doing this I've realized that's a bunch of crap."
Clarke happily offers variations on the drinks often regarded as sacred. Want your old fashioned with reposado tequila? No problem. Prefer a Manhattan with twice the vermouth? You have Clark's blessing.
Therein lies the root of The Cocktail Chronicles' appeal. Alcohol is clearly serious business to Paul Clarke, but even 10 years and a book later, he still remembers that drinking is supposed to be fun.