Bar Book Review: Mix Shake Stir

Mix Shake Stir: Recipes from Danny Meyer's Acclaimed New York City RestaurantsMix Shake Stir is a compilation of recipes served at Danny Meyer’s New York restaurants including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla (which is now defunct), Blue Smoke, and Jazz Standard, among others. It doesn’t claim an actual author, but it has comments from different bartenders at the different Danny Meyer restaurants, and it has a great blurb about each drink.

There are several things I like about this book:

  • Each drink has its own page. Perhaps two recipes are on a page, but then there is a full-page picture beside it. It’s as if each drink deserves its own page, and I like that.
  • The pictures are really beautiful. The photography is amazing, and the garnishes are unbelievable. I like the way there are pictures of bars and other interesting images from the restaurants themselves, some of which are merely decorative, such as a close-up of something that must be a beautiful ceiling.
  • It contains classics as well as inventive drinks. Many of the standards are represented, and the new drinks look great. 

In other words, these mixologists know what they’re doing. They care about bartending enough to please the cocktail nerds.

But that brings me to the things I don’t like about Mix Shake Stir:

  • Some of the standards are not represented. Although there are drinks that resemble a Martini and a Manhattan, the original recipes are not actually present in the book. If you’re new to bartending, this book should not be your only source. Sure, there’s a Blue Smoke Martini that calls for a splash of peaty Scotch, but if you don’t already know how to make a regular dry Martini, this would be your only source.
  • The recipes are often complicated, requiring almost silly garnishes. I consider myself a bit of a cocktail nerd, for instance, but I will never put rose petals in a drink. Nor will I use dried apples. Nor will I stuff blue cheese into olives. Well, actually, I have done that. So never mind. 
  • The food included is almost exclusively too complicated and requiring very specific ingredients that define the taste. Fennel seeds or grapeseed oil or tamarind paste. Most of us don’t keep those kinds of ingredients in our pantries. Especially those of us who specialize in cocktails. 

I tried a few recipes out of it, including the East Side Negroni, which takes the standard Negroni and adds Grand Marnier and a few dashes of orange water. It’s good. I can’t say it’s better than the original, but the addition of orange works well with the Campari. Here’s what you do. Mix together

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 ox Campari
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3 or 4 drops orange water
  • 1/4 oz Grand Marnier

Shake with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Add an orange twist.

The Negroni is well-served by the additions, and it’s the orange water nose that really shines through. Along with the orange twist, it fools the imbiber into thinking that this drink will be sweet when it’s really quite bitter.

Overall, this is a great book, and for $12, it can’t be beat. In fact, I’m planning an Oscar Awards party this Sunday, and nearly all of my champagne cocktail drinks are coming from Mix Shake Stir. That’s saying something.

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