spirits

BOOK REVIEW: Signature Cocktails by Amanda Schuster

This beautiful Phaidon book is an object to treasure. Covering 200 iconic drinks, Schuster’s interpretation of a signature cocktail is one that has earned its place in mixology canon through association with a certain time, person or place – and above all a contribution to the principles of flavour that marks it out as a timeless classic.

Signature Cocktails by Amanda Schuster

History

This is a real who’s who of the cocktail world. The recipes start back, quite incredibly, in the 15th century. Schuster has painstakingly researched the story of each one and distilled those narratives into succinct but fascinating descriptions of the origins, characters and interrelationships between the drinks that make this an essential guide for cocktail lovers both professional and amateur.

Recipe

It is also a must-have recipe guide, with very easy-to-follow instructions for each drink. While many are simply shaken over ice, those feeling a little more adventurous might enjoy the opportunity to make their own orange blossom bubbles. So plenty for all levels of skill and confidence wrapped up in these pages.

Glass recommendations are included with each beverage and the glossary takes you through all the equipment you might need to approach these drinks in your own home. It is a joy to see a book which really offers the full package for beginners and professionals alike.

Close up on SIgnature Cocktails by Amanda Schuster Phaidon Press

Contemporary

And please don’t think that this book is just a summary of the classics. Schuster has worked hard to bring things right up to date, including the frozen Dole Whip which first debuted in 2021. She describes it as “one of the first Instagram-famous cocktails of the post-COVID-19 pandemic New York City.” And if you can think of a sentence that sums up the world in the early 2020s then I’d like to hear it.

I did rather like that the final cocktail in the book is the Phaidon 100. This 2023 drink is designed by the Director of Mixology at the Connaught, Agostino Perrone, for the 100th anniversary of the Phaidon Press. He coincidentally wrote the foreword to the book too. You can’t blame the publisher for having their own drink placed as a modern classic in waiting though, can you? And it does sound delicious, tbf.

Physicality

The physical book itself is also a beautiful thing. Embossed hard covers with gold inlay (swoon) and quality paper stock. Huge kudos to the beautiful photography of Andy Sewell. He puts each drink front and centre in its own frame, using negative space to highlight and accentuate the details of each cocktail and its serve without distraction.

The book itself is phenomenally well organised too. A simple double-paged spread for each drink, not crammed full but considered and well-spaced. There are a variety of indices which will delight my fellow nerds – organising not just by ingredients, but by bartender or bar, for example.

Summary

I love this book. Can you tell? It’s so rare to find a book in your hands that you simply adore, through and through. But this is the full package. It’s a joy to read cover to cover, and I have no doubt I will be dipping into it regularly as a reference work too. Just a beautiful thing and well worth your time and your money.

I received a complimentary review copy of the book. Please rest assured that my opinions are my genuine response to reading the book and not implanted by Fox News, brainworms or the Great Badger Conspiracy.


Laura

Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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