Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail was another holiday gift this year. Embarrassingly, I was not aware of it despite following Dave Arnold’s work for years.
This is a really important book for several reasons. The first portion of the book sets about explaining how cocktails work. There are a bunch of things folks do when mixing drinks. Some of them are done out of habit, some are best practices, and some are downright stupid. Arnold, for example, spends a lot of time explaining things like how ice works or why certain drinks are stirred versus shaken. There are some great rules that are easy to follow like “clear liquor stir, citrus shake” but the reality turns out that we shake with citrus because it takes citrus to create texture when shaking. Don’t follow? Read the book.
The book moves on from myth-busting to “modern” techniques for cocktail preparation. Some of the details are beyond the reach of most home bars (and even several professional ones), but like Modernist Cuisine, there’s a lot of value in explaining what’s going on and making available the techniques that do not require exotic or exorbitant materials or equipment.
This is not a book full of recipes. While there are a few, the point is explaining the mechanics and the techniques. I’ve found myself rethinking several classic cocktails (prepared traditionally with nothing fancy) and my approach to them but I’ve also explored new avenues such as nitrous-infusing gin with tumeric to make a Glo-Sour.
This may not be the most useful book for the practicing bartender. But, for those interested in understanding the classical and new techniques and the why behind them, this book is invaluable. I would argue in that regard this may be one of the most important books in the genre in a long time.