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How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well

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Based on the popular feature in the Saturday Wall Street Journal, How's Your Drink illuminates the culture of the cocktail. Cocktails are back after decades of decline, but the literature and lore of the classics has been missing. John F. Kennedy played nuclear brinksmanship with a gin and tonic in his hand. Teddy Roosevelt took the witness stand to testify that six mint j Based on the popular feature in the Saturday Wall Street Journal, How's Your Drink illuminates the culture of the cocktail. Cocktails are back after decades of decline, but the literature and lore of the classics has been missing. John F. Kennedy played nuclear brinksmanship with a gin and tonic in his hand. Teddy Roosevelt took the witness stand to testify that six mint juleps over the course of his presidency did not make him a drunk. Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler both did their part to promote the gimlet. Fighting men mixed drinks with whatever liquor could be scavenged between barrages, raising glasses to celebrate victory and to ease the pain of defeat. Eric Felten tells all of these stories and many more, and also offers exhaustively researched cocktail recipes. How’s Your Drink is an essential addition to the literature of spirits and a fantastic holiday gift for husbands and fathers.


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Based on the popular feature in the Saturday Wall Street Journal, How's Your Drink illuminates the culture of the cocktail. Cocktails are back after decades of decline, but the literature and lore of the classics has been missing. John F. Kennedy played nuclear brinksmanship with a gin and tonic in his hand. Teddy Roosevelt took the witness stand to testify that six mint j Based on the popular feature in the Saturday Wall Street Journal, How's Your Drink illuminates the culture of the cocktail. Cocktails are back after decades of decline, but the literature and lore of the classics has been missing. John F. Kennedy played nuclear brinksmanship with a gin and tonic in his hand. Teddy Roosevelt took the witness stand to testify that six mint juleps over the course of his presidency did not make him a drunk. Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler both did their part to promote the gimlet. Fighting men mixed drinks with whatever liquor could be scavenged between barrages, raising glasses to celebrate victory and to ease the pain of defeat. Eric Felten tells all of these stories and many more, and also offers exhaustively researched cocktail recipes. How’s Your Drink is an essential addition to the literature of spirits and a fantastic holiday gift for husbands and fathers.

30 review for How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    I was excited to read this book, and while it wasn't bad, I agree with the review below, I was expecting more. While talking to a bartender at a local watering hole, he pointed me to a book called "Imbibe" which I promptly ordered from Amazon and started reading yesterday. That book is already exceeding my expectations. If you'd like a seriously academic study of drinking in America, I'd suggest the other book. If you'd like a breezy and entertaining guide to making famous cocktails, buy "How's I was excited to read this book, and while it wasn't bad, I agree with the review below, I was expecting more. While talking to a bartender at a local watering hole, he pointed me to a book called "Imbibe" which I promptly ordered from Amazon and started reading yesterday. That book is already exceeding my expectations. If you'd like a seriously academic study of drinking in America, I'd suggest the other book. If you'd like a breezy and entertaining guide to making famous cocktails, buy "How's Your Drink?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    This book is a birthday present from my brother. And what a great book it is. It combines two of my favorite subjects, history and cocktails, using a style I love, a wry humor with a few jabs here and there. To anyone who'll listen, I'll tell them I have created two drinks in my time. The first is a Fuzzy Redneck. I briefly bar tended in the mid '80's and the Fuzzy Navel was all the rage. A Fuzzy Navel is a screwdriver with peach schnapps. It's a horrible thing, akin to an Appletini in today's cl This book is a birthday present from my brother. And what a great book it is. It combines two of my favorite subjects, history and cocktails, using a style I love, a wry humor with a few jabs here and there. To anyone who'll listen, I'll tell them I have created two drinks in my time. The first is a Fuzzy Redneck. I briefly bar tended in the mid '80's and the Fuzzy Navel was all the rage. A Fuzzy Navel is a screwdriver with peach schnapps. It's a horrible thing, akin to an Appletini in today's clime. I took this drink as a cue to create the joke drink Fuzzy Redneck. A Fuzzy Redneck is a deconstructed drink, it is, a shot of Jack Daniels, a shot of peach schnapps, and a Bud back. Lest you're confused, the shots are not mixed but served in their own glass and lined up in order, Jack, schnapps, Bud. The second drink I created is a real one and it celebrates the south instead of mocking it. Its called a Dixie Daiquiri. This drink is a fine drink. Its easy to make, you substitute a high quality bourbon for rum and instead of bananas or strawberries you use fresh peaches. Living in the south in the summer can be brutal but this drink is the tonic that soothes and comforts. So there are my two drinks, but as I read "How's Your Drink?" I realized that created a third. Midway through the book the author discusses the Pink Lady. The drink uses applejack and in reading that it came back to me. When I was in residence hall at Virginia Commonwealth, I was 21 and could buy liquor, while my fellows were still only 18 or 19. I made a weekly pilgrimage to the ABC store to stock up. I would buy Wild Turkey 101, applejack, and ginger ale. Back at my room I entertained a few lovely women and poured them a highball. The recipe was one part bourbon, one part applejack topped with ginger ale. It was a great drink, that really pushed the party along. At the time I had no name for it other than highball. In retrospect, with my re-found memory of this drink I name it the Rhodes Hall after the residence hall in which it was served. I think if I were to make it today, I would use the best bourbon I could find. Wild Turkey is good but there are other bourbons that are much better. Its important to get real applejack. In the book the author cites Laird's made in New Jersey since the late 1700's. I've never tried Lairds. The name of the applejack I used escapes me but it was a Virginia-made product and was the real thing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    This short read by frequent WSJ Off-Duty contributor Eric Felten is a great blend of history, trivia, and cocktail primers for the well versed or just interested drinker. If you want to make a drink then any bartender's guide will do, but if you want to know why a drink is made the way it is and how it all came about, this book is better. This short read by frequent WSJ Off-Duty contributor Eric Felten is a great blend of history, trivia, and cocktail primers for the well versed or just interested drinker. If you want to make a drink then any bartender's guide will do, but if you want to know why a drink is made the way it is and how it all came about, this book is better.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Audra Jenkins

    This is a fun, funny, and fast read that made me want to overhaul (or at least add to) my liquor cabinet. Great historical and anecdotal tidbits along with classic cocktail recipes. Love the writing which sometimes goes over the top, but feels tongue-in-cheek enough to not be pretentious.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Todd Melby

    Great! Everything you wanted to know about the Bronx and other cocktails, including what drinks literary characters mixed. Example: Babbit was a poor maker of cocktails.

  6. 5 out of 5

    H.

    This book is a delight! Felten is a true wit and accomplished collector of all the best anecdotes, myths, and literary tidbits about drink. While many books in this genre are meant (as often stated in introductions and forwards) to be read erratically, flipped through, referenced from time to time and possibly never truly completed, How's Your Drink? is a smooth journey from cover to cover. Even some of the classic histories are relived here as new, with a master's brevity. There's something abo This book is a delight! Felten is a true wit and accomplished collector of all the best anecdotes, myths, and literary tidbits about drink. While many books in this genre are meant (as often stated in introductions and forwards) to be read erratically, flipped through, referenced from time to time and possibly never truly completed, How's Your Drink? is a smooth journey from cover to cover. Even some of the classic histories are relived here as new, with a master's brevity. There's something about Felten's tone that persuades the reader, even as he reminds that much of the best cocktail lore has a spurious flavor, to determine his accounts as probably the most authentic. Or, at least, the most worth retelling over the next round of drinks. It's as if The Thin Man's Nick Charles, after being quoted here teaching bartenders the proper rhythm in which to shake particular drinks, sits down in a seat next to the reader and becomes the ideal drinking companion.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rob Fisch

    I had higher expectations for this one. At the very least I was hoping to walk away with a greater understanding of the history of certain cocktails and with the curiosity to try a few new ones. Nah, neither really happened. I ended up skipping quite a bit of this book because it didn't hold my interest. Now, if it included a taste-testing cocktail kit, that would have made it much better. :) In fact, if I applied myself more here, I could have made the cocktails myself and read about them while I had higher expectations for this one. At the very least I was hoping to walk away with a greater understanding of the history of certain cocktails and with the curiosity to try a few new ones. Nah, neither really happened. I ended up skipping quite a bit of this book because it didn't hold my interest. Now, if it included a taste-testing cocktail kit, that would have made it much better. :) In fact, if I applied myself more here, I could have made the cocktails myself and read about them while sipping that particular drink. But without a drink at hand, I didn't want to keep this book in hand. It's well-written, but just didn't do it for me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wayne

    Eric Felten is writing more detailed and carefully researched cocktail history than anyone else today -- his Saturday columns in the Wall Street Journal are well worth following. I was really looking forward to this book, and it didn't disappoint. Well, it did a little -- it's a collection of the columns, spliced together somewhat thematically, and the seams often show. I would rather just have had a compendium of columns. But that's a small quibble for getting to reread some great tales of grea Eric Felten is writing more detailed and carefully researched cocktail history than anyone else today -- his Saturday columns in the Wall Street Journal are well worth following. I was really looking forward to this book, and it didn't disappoint. Well, it did a little -- it's a collection of the columns, spliced together somewhat thematically, and the seams often show. I would rather just have had a compendium of columns. But that's a small quibble for getting to reread some great tales of great cocktail and how they came to be.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    #45 - 2010. I always enjoyed reading Eric Felten's weekly cocktail column in the Wall Street Journal and was very sorry when it recently ended. Luckily, this book conveys the interesting combination of history and drink that Felten is so good at writing. With delicious and carefully selected recipes, naturally! I have tried the Raspberry Shrub and found it delicious. #45 - 2010. I always enjoyed reading Eric Felten's weekly cocktail column in the Wall Street Journal and was very sorry when it recently ended. Luckily, this book conveys the interesting combination of history and drink that Felten is so good at writing. With delicious and carefully selected recipes, naturally! I have tried the Raspberry Shrub and found it delicious.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam Shipley

    A wonderful "expanded" compilation of Felten's award-winning columns from the Wall Street Journal. Anyone interested in the history of cocktails would love this book as it touches upon some of the most famous - and not so famous - potables. Aside from the history, Mr. Felten also weaves in stories of colorful characters and episodes that helped to make each drink a legend. A fun read that I would recommend to give as a gift - but read first. A wonderful "expanded" compilation of Felten's award-winning columns from the Wall Street Journal. Anyone interested in the history of cocktails would love this book as it touches upon some of the most famous - and not so famous - potables. Aside from the history, Mr. Felten also weaves in stories of colorful characters and episodes that helped to make each drink a legend. A fun read that I would recommend to give as a gift - but read first.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    An informative, though not overly exciting discussion on the history of certain cocktails. Felt some of his recipes were misguided, or lacking any creativity. I understand he is following an historic approach to the cocktail formulas, but wondered why he had to do so with such rigidity? That being my only complaint. I did enjoy the book thoroughly.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    It's like reading the origins of the super heroes but for cocktails. Also its funny, and not at all like a comic book. This is a fun way to learn about many of the classic cocktails complete with great storytelling and simple but delicious recipes. Looking forward to making some shrub this summer. It's like reading the origins of the super heroes but for cocktails. Also its funny, and not at all like a comic book. This is a fun way to learn about many of the classic cocktails complete with great storytelling and simple but delicious recipes. Looking forward to making some shrub this summer.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Macpherson

    This is so fun a book that I hate returning the borrowed copy I was lent. But I will Ted, I will. The history of cocktails is done so well and informatively, it makes me want to have a drink or three. Well written and funny, hell of a good time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    A wonderful little ode to the cocktail. Playfully written, with selected drink histories and recipes throughout. Felten writes about cocktails not as a detached chronicler but as an enthusiast for a well made drink and the joy of social libation.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Such an amazing read! Thoroughly enjoyed both the historical aspects of the book and the recipes and pure craftsmanship of the cocktails presented. Got a ton of great anecdotes to throw around at get-together's now! Such an amazing read! Thoroughly enjoyed both the historical aspects of the book and the recipes and pure craftsmanship of the cocktails presented. Got a ton of great anecdotes to throw around at get-together's now!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tgaylord

    Loved this book, as I do his columns in the Wall Street Journal from which the book was mined. For a second reading, would like to make/drink each cocktail while reading the relevant chapter.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    Loved it. The book was more then just a collection of random recipes, but quotes and histories to go along with the cocktails. Excellent.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex Jablonski

    A solid light read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tedkane

    Cocktails are endlessly fascinating, at least to hear Felten tell it. Makes me want to stock the old bar and mix away the nights....

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Fascinating trip through the past examining the origins of drinks familiar (martini) and not so familiar.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Grant

    Great little book with anecdotes about the origin of cocktails both well-known and obscure. Plus some decent recipes, to boot. Quick read, worth it for any cocktail enthusiasts.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    Short, fun histories of classic cocktails. I especially like the authors use of references from books and movies.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bedor Assl

    Eeeee

  24. 4 out of 5

    Allison Glass

    This was a fun little read about the history of various cocktails. Would be a great vacation read!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Levina

    I was expecting so much more from this book than I received. There is still so much more that you can go into when discussing drink and relating historical anecdotes. In the end, this felt very underwhelming.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisalou

    Really 3.5. Fun little book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Eric Felten is an elegant boozer. What would you expect from a guy who wrote a cocktail column for the Wall Street Journal and croons lounge standards at the Federalist Society gala? The man is classy and so are his favorite cocktails. He describes a hypothetical "perfect bar" and it sounds like heaven. The lore is fun and educational and the recipes are thoughtful and lean toward the tested and true. A good book for any serious cocktail mixer to have in his bar. Eric Felten is an elegant boozer. What would you expect from a guy who wrote a cocktail column for the Wall Street Journal and croons lounge standards at the Federalist Society gala? The man is classy and so are his favorite cocktails. He describes a hypothetical "perfect bar" and it sounds like heaven. The lore is fun and educational and the recipes are thoughtful and lean toward the tested and true. A good book for any serious cocktail mixer to have in his bar.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    * 65 Books You Need To Read In Your 20s: 61 As my colleague Ray says, “You gotta learn how to drink like a person sooner or later.”

  29. 4 out of 5

    Saib Zada

    constructed from line and imagination- then this is the guy to read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eva

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