The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes
By Tony Conigliaro
(Ten Speed Press, 2013)
The Chemistry of Cocktails
When it comes to instructional books, we often hear the word “art” thrown around — the art of filleting a fish, the art of screenwriting, the art of whittling — but not many are quite as literal as molecular mixology master Tony Conigliaro’s The Cocktail Lab. Not only is the book’s presentation an aesthetic delight, from the retro cover with metallic accents to the clean layout of text and illustration, but each photo is a still-life portrait of the featured cocktail, making it almost as delicious to consume visually.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Conigliaro is a former art student and became a bartender just to finance his studio work. It seems wrong to call Conigliaro a bartender, though. “Liquid chef” would be more suitable, as he takes the worlds of food and drink to new heights. Now a legend in modernist mixology, Conigliaro has compiled his “cocktail cookbook” for any skill group — from knowledgeable industry professionals to passionate home bartenders.
The 223-page tome is a comprehensive guide to crafting the perfect concoction, with stories behind each drink, illustrations of the flavor and aroma “journeys” for select cocktails and chapters dedicated to glassware, equipment and techniques. The recipes cover ingredients for more than just the 60+ recipes, down to the juices, cordials, liqueurs, tinctures, essences and foams. Conigliaro even includes a “Miscellaneous” chapter, which features instructions for making homemade lipstick, lemon sorbet, green tea incense and more.
Novices can breathe a sigh of relief, as not all the recipes require a chemistry lab and a PhD, such as The Silver Gin Fizz, Sazerac and Egg Nog. Conigliaro’s more inventive creations, some influenced by perfumes and some under the intimidating titles of “Culinary Skills” and “Concept Drinks,” include the Marshmallow Milkshake, his famous Prairie Oyster (containing cherry tomatoes and shallots and served in an oyster shell) and Cosmo Popcorn, which requires the use of liquid nitrogen.
Reviewed by Cara Trump