“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss.
Unfortunately, none of us are born with knowledge, wisdom, and skill. We learn and develop these things over time with consistent study & practice. And one of the best and most easily accessible ways to learn about almost anything is to read.
Books have withstood the test of time and they’re still just as useful today as they were 200 years ago.
Reading allows you to take responsibility for your own education, growth, and progression in anything you choose to pursue. Including your career in bartending.
That’s why I love reading and that’s why you should read too. Because no matter what it is you want to learn about or improve on, you can find it in a book.
Whether that’s learning about the fundamentals of mixology, bartending techniques, wine, beer, liquor, service, etc. It’s all in books.
And that’s what this list is about. I wanted to compile a list of the best books written in the industry relevant to bartenders. So that you can quickly learn everything you could possibly want to know about and become the best bartender you can be.
Let’s get to it.
1) The Bartender’s Field Manual – Tom Blake
Our official bartender’s guide, ‘The Bartender’s Field Manual‘ is a complete & practical guide for anyone who wants to land their first bartending job and become a better bartender, faster.
It starts by giving the reader a powerful step-by-step job hunting system so that landing a bartending job becomes simple, even if you have no experience. The system is also useful for more experienced bartenders who want to switch jobs and it’s ideal for travelling bartenders, who are constantly moving around looking for new work.
It’s the exact system I’ve used to work & travel around Europe, Australia & Asia for the past 5 years!
Then, you’ll learn all the fundamental skills you need to lead a successful career in bartending. From the theory of alcohol, liquor, beer & wine, to the finer complexities of crafting delicious cocktails & providing outstanding customer service. Plus, you’ll get over 100 proven cocktail & shot recipes to dig your teeth into.
Littered with entertaining bartending & travelling stories throughout, if you’re new to the industry, the field manual is the perfect head start. It’s ideal for beginners and intermediate bartenders alike. On the other hand, if you’ve been bartending professionally for a while and have dedicated time to studying the craft, it’s probably not what you’re looking for.
So read on!
Why you should read this book: Land your first bartending job and learn all the fundamental skills for a successful career in bartending.
2) The Joy of Mixology – Gary Regan
This is the first book I ever read on bartending and I loved it. It’s responsible for who I am today as a bartender because if I’d never read this book, I would have never have fallen in love with the complex & fascinating skill of bartending.
It’s educational, entertaining, and inspiring. And Gary Regan is a fantastic storyteller so it’s easy to read.
If you’re new to bartending, this is the first book I’d recommend you read. It’s an (almost) complete bartender’s guide and it will give a solid foundation for everything else that’s to come.
It covers the history of cocktails, bartending etiquette, techniques, tools, an ingenious system for categorizing (and memorizing) cocktails, and over 300 cocktail recipes you can play around with…
This book is sure to keep you busy for a while!
Why you should read this book: To get a great introductory overview of bartending, mixology, and cocktails. As well as an ingenious system for categorizing (& memorizing) cocktails and an extensive recipe list.
3) The Bar Book – Jeffrey Morgenthaler
According to Jeffrey Morgenthaler, there are 3 elements that contribute to a great cocktail, the recipe, its ingredients, and the bartending technique.
There are mountains of books that have covered the first two elements of this equation, but ‘The Bar Book’ was the first of its kind to extensively cover the third – bartending techniques.
If you’re a bartender, this book will become your bible. Because for most of us, the recipes and the ingredients we use aren’t up to us to decide. Our managers dictate those. But we’re directly responsible for how we employ different bartending techniques.
This book will teach you how to hone & master those skills.
After ‘The Joy of Mixology’, this is the second book I recommend every bartender to read. Because it details the principle bartending techniques, how you do them, and why you use them.
I mean, there’s an ENTIRE chapter dedicated to shaking cocktails alone!
Why you should read this book: To learn how & why to apply different bartending techniques. If you’re a bartender, this book will become your bible.
4) Death & Co – David Kaplan, Alex Day, & Nick Fauchald
Death & Co is arguably the most famous craft cocktail bar in the world. And the guys who are responsible for it decided to write a book about everything they’ve learned throughout their entire careers.
That book has been appropriately named, ‘Death & Co’.
In it, the authors explore their fascinating world of bartending. A world of craft cocktails, infusions, philosophy, techniques, and more. In essence, ‘Death & Co’ is a complete education in making, balancing, and creating cocktails from scratch.
Once you’ve had some initial experience working with cocktails, this book should be your next challenge.
It’s complicated, entertaining, and written for those who are ready to take their bartending game to the next level. And with over 500 tried & tested Death & Co recipes, you won’t be disappointed.
Why you should read this book: To delve deep into the world of craft cocktails, to take your bartending skills to the next level, and to learn from the best in the industry.
5) Setting the Table – Danny Meyer
Danny Meyer – “The customer is NOT always right, but they must always feel heard.”
Meyer is a big deal in the hospitality industry. He’s the CEO of the Union Square hospitality group and he’s largely responsible for their enormous success. And fortunately for us, he decided to write a book about how he had made his restaurants so successful.
Danny’s Book ‘Setting the Table’ is a complete game changer for anyone who works in the hospitality industry. At its core, this is a book about people skills and being hospitable. As such, it will teach you how to effectively work with people, how to make people feel special, and how to ensure that guests keep coming back for more!
As far as us bartenders go, reading this book is a no-brainer. Because customer service and being hospitable is the most important part of our job.
Why you should read this book: To learn how to effectively work with people, make people feel special (and why that’s important), and to ensure that guests keep coming back for more.
6) The Drunken Botanist – Amy Steward
Product knowledge is important for bartenders and learning about the different types of liquor is key to bartenders. They’re the primary ingredients we use when we make cocktails, and they’re what our guests expect us to know about most.
So if you don’t know the answers to the above questions, I highly recommend you read ‘The Drunken Botanist’. It’s interesting, funny, and easy to read. But most importantly, it will give you a great foundational knowledge of liquor.
Amy covers over 300 different ingredients, from bananas to agave, that can be used to make liquor. She details how they’re made, their flavor profiles, their histories, interesting facts, recipes, and more.
It’s a very useful spirits reference book.
Why you should read this book: To develop a solid foundational knowledge of liquor.
7) Wine Folly – Madeline Puckette & Justine Hammack
Yes, bartenders need to learn about wine too. Although most bartender’s primary focus is on making cocktails and learning about spirits, learning about wine is just as important. After all, we serve it so we should know about it.
If you’re lacking in the wine knowledge department, ‘Wine Folly’ (they also have a great blog) is the best introductory book I’ve found on the subject. I still refer to it whenever I open up a new bottle.
It will teach you how to serve wine, store wine, taste wine, compile tasting notes, and more. And the graphic illustrations used throughout the book make these wine concepts very easy to remember.
On the other hand, if you already know quite a bit about wine, I’d skip this book. This is an introductory book and as such, the concepts are relatively basic.
Why you should read this book: To get a great overview and introduction to the world of wine. It’s also a great reference book so make sure you purchase the print version.
8) The Beer Bible – Jeff Alworth
There’s no doubt about it, Jeff Alworth (you can also find his work at Beervana) knows his beer. And he’s written one of the most useful introductory books on the subject.
From the moment I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. It’s engaging, funny, and accurate. And I refer to it all the time.
Jeff divides the book into four major families: ales, lagers, wheat beers, and sours & wild ales. And then he explores each of these families in depth. You’ll learn about brewing, the different beer styles, different ingredients, beer history, and much more.
Yep, that’s ahead of any spirit, cocktail, & wine you’ll ever sell behind the bar.
Why you should read this book: To learn everything you need to know about beer. From brewing to beers styles, this book covers it all.
9) Liquid Intelligence – Dave Arnold
For a lot of bartenders out there, Dave Arnold’s book ‘Liquid Intelligence’ will be too advanced. And to be honest, it’s more like a science experiment than a book on cocktails or bartending!
So if you’re still relatively new to bartending, cocktails, and the hospitality scene, save this book for later.
But on the other hand, if you’re an advanced bartender who’s fallen in love with mixology & cocktails, you’re going to love Dave’s book!
You’ll learn how to work with liquid nitrogen, why a red-hot poker is useful behind the bar (what??), and the importance of ice (there’s literally an entire 25-page section dedicated to it).
All in all, Liquid Intelligence will teach advanced bartenders how to be even better.
Why you should read this book: If you’re an advanced bartender who loves cocktails/mixology, you should read this book.
10) The Flavour Bible – Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg
Although ‘The Flavour Bible’ is written by chefs and intended to be read by chefs, it’s highly relevant to bartenders.
As bartenders, we also need to learn how to balance flavors, match drinks with food, and learn how to combine different ingredients’ flavors. And this is the best reference book you’ll find on these subjects.
Karen and Andrew break down how different ingredients’ flavors combine, and they give you an endless list of ingredients to play around with.
Like ‘Liquid Intelligence’ I recommend this book for more advanced bartenders. Bartenders who are creating their own cocktails, developing menus, and those who want to learn the more complex aspects of matching drinks with food.
So if you’re still relatively new to bartending, come back to this book later, when you’re ready to delve deeper into different flavor combinations.
Why you should read this book: To learn how different ingredients’ flavors combine & how to balance them in cocktails. This book is intended to be a reference book so make sure you buy the print version.
11) Imbibe – David Wondrich
If you like your history, and if you like cocktails & spirits, this book is about to become your best friend. And to be fair, even if you don’t like history, you’ll still enjoy this book. Because unlike learning about history in school, the history of alcohol and cocktails is FUN.
‘Imbibe’ takes you through the history of American Bartending, classic cocktails, and spirits. And you’ll also discover what life was like for one of the most revered bartenders of all time – Jerry Thomas (what a legend!).
If you’re sceptical of how learning bartending history is useful for bartenders, think about it like this. At the very least, you’ll get a plethora of good stories that you can tell to entertain & educate your guests.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s good enough for me ;-).
Why you should read this book: To learn about the history of cocktails, American bartending, and the great Jerry Thomas.
Reading books is great for the soul and it’s great for your bartending career. If you’re new to reading and/or bartending, this list is a great start. But don’t limit yourself only to these books. Experiment with others because there are loads of great bartending books out there.
Two books come to mind in particular, ’The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’ by David A. Embury, and ‘Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails’ by Ted Haigh. In order to compile a well-rounded list that covered all aspects of bartending, I had to leave them out.
But they’re still great books.
Now, I want to hear from you. What did you think of these books? And are there any that you think should have made this list??
Let me know in the comments section below!
Note: Most of these books are better to purchase in print version (i.e. physical books), as opposed to digital copies (i.e. kindle). The reason for this is because you’ll be constantly referring back to certain pages and it’s much easier to navigate physical books. Trust me!