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100 Classic and Modern Drinks
Ravi DeoRossi, Jane Danger & Alla Lapushchik
The lore of Cuban cocktails is widespread among cocktail aficionados. The stories of throngs of American tourists escaping the scourge of prohibition in Havana, just 230 miles from Miami, are well known and oft repeated. While today London and New York may top the headlines of cocktail cities of the world, those in the know still look fondly to the traditions of Cuban Cantineros.
It used to be that in New York’s East Village there was a bit of a shrine built to those traditions, called Cienfuegos. Unfortunately it sounds like Cienfuegos is pivoting to a Vegan Texas BBQ concept and giving up the rum bar. Fortunately for you, they’ve left a little something behind in the subject of this review, the book Cuban Cocktails.
Cuban Cocktails has a bit of something for everyone. There’s an overview of the history of cocktails in Cuba, and asides about the most popular cocktails (and imbibers). The book includes great recipes for those who love rum, and a few for those who prefer other spirits. The book is broken down by drink category including: Stirred Cocktails, Punches, Flips & Fizzes, Hot Concoctions, Daiquiris, Sours, Swizzles, Rickeys & Other Highballs and then diverges into some modern Tiki interpretations of these drinks.
Recipes throughout the book start with an explanation of the drink’s origin, whether that is a historical footnote that is inspiring a drink or a classic drink that is being re-invented. Each ingredient is listed with a specific brand in mind. The punch recipes are particularly notable in that each recipe includes a spec for the communal punch version as well as a single serve version. This is great for punch-lovers who don’t always have 5 other people to share their bowl with.
Taking a look at the data, you quickly see that this is a very accessible cocktail book. 84% of the ingredients in the book are categorized as OTS Easy, meaning you can probably pick them up at your local liquor store. Further, 33 of the ingredients are used in at least 5 recipes meaning there’s lots of overlap and you’ll get great use out of ingredients you buy for this book. Almost 30 of the ingredients are made with just four ingredients (including my favorite the Dernier Mot).
One thing I love about the analysis of Cuban Cocktails is that there is not one but two rums in the top ingredients list. Cuban Cocktails stays true to the tradition of blending multiple rums to achieve ideal flavors in its cocktails. The ratio of ingredients to recipes is solid, and you can make most of the recipes in Cuban Cocktails with a minimal investment in your inventory.
If you’re a fan of Cuban drinks (and with the Daiquiri and Mojito both being born there, who isn’t) then Cuban Cocktails is a worthy addition to your collection. It doesn’t have the same historical contributions to make that you’d find in something like Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean but it tells some of the story while keeping the tone of the book light and airy. I do wish it had a few more true Cuban classics in it, versus drinks inspired by the island, but that is a minor quibble. It is a shame that Cienfuegos in New York won’t be around to demonstrate these drinks anymore, but at least you can still grab the book and enjoy these cocktails at home.