I got a chance to review this book by some strange means. Someone suggested the Facebook project of the author/photographer, and I kept an eye on the project during its development. I put the author in touch with Ellen Fee at my beloved Fee Bros., saying, "Hey, there's some gorgeous photographs of your bitters in this upcoming book..."
Then my friends the Knipples of From the Southern Table e-mailed me to say, "Hey, we got a sample of a book about bitters, and told the publisher to send you one!"
Now, I can't comment on the photography because I received a printer's proof (a softback black and white sample that has a few errors and isn't the final copy). It's a little book put together using a process called perfect binding. Oddly enough, I've used that equipment many times in the past. The photos online look spectacular, and I can't wait to see the finished product.
Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All
Brad Thomas Parsons
$25, Ten Speed Press, 240 pages
I was expecting a book entirely about the history of bitters, or a review of many different bitters around the world, but I was surprised. While those topics are covered, the majority of the book is devoted to recipes for making your own. And I'd honestly never thought about doing that, but why not? I've made limoncello and spiced rum and other neat things, so why not bitters? It might have to do with the fact that I own over a dozen bitters that will last me for a decade, and I don't have easy access to Tibetan toadroot, sandalwood bark, and powdered--not coarse ground--unicorn horn.
You won't find any trade secrets in here, but there are various bars and bitters enthusiasts across the country that have provided their custom recipes. And yes, finding all the ingredients might be difficult. But the actual preparation for small batches isn't too difficult, and I've already started thinking about some blends I'd like.
If you're a cocktail enthusiast, it's a good book to have on your shelf. You may not be ready at the moment to start making your own bitters, but at some point you're going to run through all the classic cocktails, then all the new ones, then you'll start making your own recipes, and then you'll start building your own ingredients.
Note: This book was received as a sample.