It’s not New Year’s Eve without a party, and it’s not a party if you don’t have dranks.
But since cocktails aren’t exactly something you can have delivered to your door ready to imbibe (yet), you’d better know how to make a few yourself.
These books, all authored by Minnesotans, will keep your creativity flowing like... well, wine, which -- along with beer -- is another of the essential alcoholic beverages they’ll teach you about. And there are a few non-alcoholic options here for those who are underage and/or eager for an early jump-start on their New Year’s resolution to drink less.
Northstar Cocktails by Johnny Michaels and the North Star Bartenders’ Guild (Borealis Books, 2012)
Johnny Michaels is a bartending legend in the Twin Cities. His book Northstar Cocktails, written while he was barkeep at La Belle Vie, could be considered the local gold standard for mixologists -- though Michaels himself would never use that term, preferring the title “DrinkMaker.” Michaels comes to cocktails with an attitude of “quality over quantity” and wants his guests to “celebrate life instead of getting drunk.” He divides recipes by gin, vodka, tequila, rum, brandy, and whiskey. He also offers recipes for wine, sparkling wine, and liqueur cocktails, as well as nonalcoholic refreshments. For advanced at-home bartends, Michaels doles out instruction on making your own syrups, bitters, and infusions.
Like many cocktail programs, part of what makes this book so much fun are the names. From the Norwegian Sunset to My Paranormal Romance to Enter the Dragon, you’ll impress your guests before they even take their first sip. Color photographs capture the prettiest of Michaels’ creations, and fellow notorious drink makers like Nicholas Kosevich (Bittercube), Jesse Held (Town Talk Diner, Marvel Bar), and Adam Harness (Town Talk Diner, Café Maude) also make cameos.
Things to Drink in Public Vol. III by Red Cow (Self-published, 2017)
Native Minnesotan Ian Lowther got his start in bartending while he was a student at Drake University. His reputation as a mixologist landed him the job of designing Red Cow’s cocktail program in 2015, and he’s since been promoted to beverage director at both the Red Cow and Red Rabbit. The third installment of Red Cow’s Things to Drink in Public series is a slim volume formatted like a menu and available at Red Cow restaurants. It takes readers through the restaurant’s popular cocktail menu, tracing the roots of classic drinks like the Moscow Mule, the Old Fashioned, and the Daquiri, as well as proffering a recipe for Red Cow Ginger Beer. Aspiring wine enthusiasts will learn the ideal temperatures for wine and recommended stemware. It's an ideal introduction for drinking and hosting novices, though more advanced drinkers should seek counsel elsewhere.
Cabin Cocktail Recipes by Tattersall (Self-published, 2017)
Available as a booklet at stores that stock Tattersall products or as a download on Tattersall’s website, this collection of a dozen recipes features easy-to-source ingredients, seasonal flavors, and cheeky names. Warm up with a Frostbite Martini (gin, Americano, orange bitters), a Snow-Man-Hattan (your choice of bourbon, rye, or brandy with sour cherry, Tattersall Italiano, and aromatic bitters), or an Amaro Swiss Miss (cocoa and amaro). Recipe quantities vary from solo to flask to coffee pot or crockpot, guaranteeing that no matter your crowd size, you’ll be able to wet everyone’s whistle. And for hundreds more recipes from this Northeast distillery? Don’t sleep on the new Tattersall app.
Drink This by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl (Ballantine Books, 2009)
James Beard Award-winning food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl knows way more about wine than you do, but she’s happy to teach you her secrets to selecting the right bottle in this in-depth book. “The point of learning about wine is not to know everything about wine,” she writes. “The point of learning about wine is to enjoy life more.” In each chapter, she introduces a new wine, from Zinfandel and Chardonnay to Syrah and Tempranillo, providing context for each, with history, tasting tips, and conversations with winemakers. It’s a crash course in discovering your own wine proclivities.
Land of Amber Waters by Doug Hoverson (University of Minnesota Press, 2007)
Beer has never been a bigger deal than it is right now. The Brewers Association recently released its year-end report stating that the U.S. has over 6,000 breweries in operation -- and if you live in Minnesota, you know you can’t turn around without bumping into a new brewery. For those who want to understand why people go so berserk over brewskis, delve into this 300-plus page book by Doug Hoverson. Packed with vintage and color photos, it covers the history, the laws, and the notable brands of the burgeoning local brewing scene. Beer virgins will be able to impress their guests with info about ales versus lagers, alcohol content, and why those beers should be served in a glass.
Soda Shop Salvation by Rae Katherine Eighmey (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013)
Prohibition wasn’t all bad. The absence of alcohol increased ice cream consumption, making soda fountains the new de facto local watering hole. Plain old ice cream sodas became marquee-worthy treats, with delightful names like Yankee Punch, Klondike Fizz, and the Flapper Frappe. In this book, Rae Katherine Eighmey revisits the historical timeline of prohibition and provides dozens of “dry” beverage recipes that make use of delicious fruits, syrups, and ice cream. Serve the teetotaler at your party a Bliss High Ball (ginger ale, carbonated water, lemon Italian ice), an American Girl Soda (chocolate, coffee, and vanilla syrups with heavy cream and carbonated water), or a Chocolate Flora Dora (chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, and carbonated water). Your sober guest will feel special that you made a non-alcoholic drink just for them, but don’t forget: Everyone gets a kitschy drink umbrella for embarrassing effect.