Best Cocktail Recipe Books: Top 5 Mixology Guides Most Recommended By Experts

The cocktail books of today aren’t your basic recipe guides. They range from deep dives into the history of craft cocktails to easy recipes to attractive coffee table books. There are also variations that specialize in one type of spirit, as well as ones that focus on the ins and outs of distilling. Of them all, we did the research to select the best cocktail recipe books to boost your home bartending skills.

Now that you can become an expert mixologist, let’s consider the perfect pace for drinking. A recent survey finds that a “smart drinker” paces themselves (49%) at about two drinks per hour, and “smart drinkers” choose low-volume alcoholic beverages (27%). Three in five actually prefer drinks with a lower alcohol percentage because it helps them drink at a better pace (61%). According to the survey, “smart drinking” also entails eating a meal before drinking (53%) and being sure not to mix different types of alcohol (45%). From coordinating a safe ride home (52%) to knowing how and why alcohol affects your body (47%) and what ingredients are in your drink (27%), there are plenty of ways to be a “smart drinker.”

Something else to keep in mind about drinking alcohol is that older adults who regularly drink it have a perceived better quality of life. Researchers in Germany found that people over 60 who enjoy drinking experience improved mobility, self-care, and fewer problems undertaking daily activities compared to those who don’t drink or only have an occasional beverage. “Our study finds that older patients with potentially unhealthy alcohol intake report that some aspects of their quality of life are better compared to those who abstain from alcohol or drink at very low levels,” says Vera Guttenthaler from University Hospital Bonn.

Now, it’s time to get mixing! StudyFinds compiled a great combination of the best cocktail recipe books, whether you are a beginner, a veteran, or are just very interested in alcohol’s history, there is a choice for you. Our list is made up of the most commonly recommended recipe manuals across 10 expert websites. Is there a recipe book that you love that isn’t on the list? Please let us know in the comments below! 

Cocktails on a bar
Cocktails on a bar (Photo by M.S. Meeuwesen on Unsplash)

The List: Best Cocktail Recipe Books, According to Mixologists 


1. “The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan

There are a lot of great guides available for intermediate bartenders as well as beginners, but “The Joy of Mixology” is for those aspiring to dig deeper. “Discussing concepts such as mixology theory, drink density, and how to handle angry patrons, this book is a master class that instructs on a granular level from the most basic concepts to advanced ideas. First published in 2003, the revised edition from 2018 overhauls the recipe section and updates its contents to fit even better within this ever-changing cocktail industry,” says Hi Consumption.

"The Joy of Mixology" by Gary Regan
“The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan

Although “The Joy of Mixology” has no photos, it is very thorough. Its chart system is reason enough to read this guide. “It’s a hefty guide to the methods and madness bartenders must adopt to be successful in the business and includes a brief history of the mixed drink, helpful tools and glassware, and most importantly, a breakdown of drink families. Regan’s chart system helps teach how drinks are classified into different categories, which makes it easier to remember how to make certain styles of drink and spin them off into new creations of your own,” states Serious Eats.

The author, Gary Regan, added some interesting changes to their recipes for its 15th Anniversary. They also included information regarding the drink-making revival of the past decade. “The Joy of Mixology makes the cut for our best cocktail recipe books not because it has the most popular cocktails, but because they are some of the tastiest, most thoroughly vetted, and modified recipes around. This is a book by a master of mixology that may be the only cocktail reference you need,” adds Binwise.

2. “Imbibe!” by David Wondrich

“Imbibe!” is interesting because it is one part cocktail book and one part memoir. “It delves into the history of the original celebrity bartender, Jerry Thomas. If you’ve ever wondered about the lineage of some of your favorite drinks, and wondering where the craft cocktail effectively came from, you’ll love this book” says Slightly Pretentious.

"Imbibe!" by David Wondrich
“Imbibe!” by David Wondrich

The new edition added updated tidbits of information, stories, and colorful details to the historical tales. It also includes a set of new recipes, making it a much better investment than the original. “It’s likely that no single individual in America knows as much about the country’s cocktail history than David Wondrich. Here, the historian and writer tackle the entertaining history of the American cocktail via the story of bartender Jerry Thomas. Wondrich’s wit is electric as he digs through dense history, presenting wild and wondrous tales with authority. About 100 recipes litter the chapters, culled from Thomas’ book and modern bartenders alike,” informs Serious Eats.

If you’re a history buff and love the food and beverage industry, this book takes you to a different time and place that illustrates an interesting account of vintage spirits and Prohibition classics. Insider offers their thoughts, “You can’t have a conversation about spirits and cocktail books without talking about David Wondrich. “Affectionately referred to as the Historical Oracle, David stays up way past the last call to research the nitty-gritty of cocktail and spirits history. His seminal work, ‘Imbibe,’ changed the world of cocktail writing in the 21st century and unraveled what is thought to be the original cocktail guide, ‘The Bon Vivant’s Companion’ by Jerry Thomas. His follow-up to ‘Imbibe,’ ‘Punch’, was just as thorough and entertaining.

 3. Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails” by Nick Fauchald and David Kaplan

This book is extensive because it comes with 500 recipes along with a comprehensive history of cocktails. This includes the theory and philosophy behind drink making along with step-by-step instructions for practicing bartending techniques. “If you are looking for a classic cocktail recipe book, you should consider Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails by David Kaplan. The book is based on real recipes from the award-winning bar Death & Co. Death & Co has been an industry award winner several times because it houses some of the best bar staff, which means that it is the birthplace of some of the most iconic drinks in the world,” says Cuisine At Home.

"Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails" by Nick Fauchald and David Kaplan
“Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails” by Nick Fauchald and David Kaplan

Despite being long, Death & Co is not boring because it includes bright and evocative illustrations along with infographics and charts. Slightly Pretentious offers their opinion “I actually picked up Cocktail Codex before I got the original Death and Co book. But after procuring a copy recently, I’m just as impressed with it as I am it’s a newer sibling. There are some fantastic recipes, but it does a good job of educating in it as well. It takes a slightly different approach and is less education focused than Cocktail Codex, but I found some of its ‘formulas’ for creating great cocktails to be incredibly useful – and produce great original cocktails! I also liked the content around the matrix of how they helped patrons find the perfect drink, even without a menu. I truly believe this is one book that should be in every home bartender’s collection, as it has a great mix of recipes that are easier to make, as well as some that will take more preparation and experience.”

Authors David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald have collected more than 500 of the bar’s most innovative and sought-after cocktails. In Death & Co, they use their extensive knowledge and experimentation to also include guidance on buying. “Craft cocktails and innovation go hand-in-hand, and nobody knows that more than New York City‘s famed Death & Co. bar. It includes step-by-step bartending techniques like how to upsell, beautiful photography, infographics, and more. It may one day be considered a definitive guide to cocktails as the market continues to shift away from the classics,” informs Binwise.

4. “Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions” by Nick Fauchald, David Kaplan and Alex Day

“The Cocktail Codex” doesn’t just list down recipes, it tries to teach you the art of bartending by encouraging creativity. Cuisine At Home fills us in, “Cocktail Codex by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan is another one of the most famous cocktails recipe books. This is because it is written by experts who are very experienced in the bartending field. They have adopted a very simple approach by stating that you just need to know the six root recipes, and the rest is just improvisation. This means that instead of learning a range of different recipes, you just need to memorize a few basic ones. Once you understand the science behind each of these recipes, you can understand what you are doing wrong and fix your mistakes easily.”

"Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions" by Nick Fauchald, David Kaplan and Alex Day
“Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions” by Nick Fauchald, David Kaplan and Alex Day

The authors of “Cocktail Codex” encourage trying new things and using your own drinks as well. “For the typical person, this is the absolute best, most well-rounded book I’ve come across. First off, the recipes in the book are spot-on and very good. Other recommendations I used to make for cocktails like the PDT or Canon books have let me down a bit with some of their recipes for the classics. But everything I’ve made from Cocktail Codex? Awesome,boasts Slightly Pretentious.

The Cocktail Codex” educates you on the fundamental construction of the seven most common styles of cocktail: old-fashioned, daiquiri, martini, sidecar, whiskey highball, and flip. The Spruce Eats elaborates, “The Cocktail Codex explains how every other drink is a variation or riff on one of those templates. The book dives deep into each, giving you the tools to understand, execute, and improvise. It’s a bit textbook and a bit cookbook, breaking everything down on a truly elemental level.”

5. “Meehan’s Bartenders Manual” by Jim Meehan

Meehan’s Bartender Manual approaches bartending from an industry perspective. It dives into the hospitality and business side of owning a bar and making drinks. “From mixing techniques to barware to customer service, Jim Meehan’s award-winning guide doesn’t just look great on your bar cart with its memorable green minimalist cover, but it’s a must-have for the biggest cocktail enthusiasts out there,” states Hi Consumption.

"Meehan’s Bartenders Manual" by Jim Meehan
“Meehan’s Bartenders Manual” by Jim Meehan

Meehan’s book impresses readers with its easy-to-navigate format. The recipe book also has a fair mix of classic and modern recipes. “The titular Meehan is Jim, famed bartender and co-founder of P.D.T, the nouveau speakeasy at the heart of the New York City cocktail revival of the 2000s. The pages pull from the experiences of Meehan himself and a range of famous friends in the bar field, and they go way past just recipes. The book opens with a fun history of bars and cocktails, from the golden age of 1800s New Orleans to the drinks doldrums of the 1980s (symbolized by a soda gun). Other chapters cover bar design and tools, the science of how different spirits are made, and the art of service and hospitality,” explains The Spruce Eats.

Each classic drink in the comprehensive cocktail chapter of Meehan’s gets a thorough breakdown explaining what it is, how each ingredient fits in, and how you can use that to riff on it. “‘Meehan’s Manual’ is simply that, a wealth of bar knowledge written by the award-winning bartender himself. It’s more of an anatomy of the bar industry than it is a recipe book, covering bar design to space planning to menu development. In the cocktail section, there are 100 recipes from the vault as well as Meehan’s own walk of life, and each is broken down like a Wikipedia entry: origin, history, hacks, and recipe,” boasts Esquire.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.