Making fancy cocktails can be intimidating if you’re used to sipping on simple gin and juice. And earning a mixology degree can take up to two years of memorizing drink recipes and their weird witch-potion names (i.e., Grog, Monkey Gland, Hangman’s Blood), then passing an equally vivid-scary exam.
An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails: 50 Classic Cocktail Recipes, Tips, and Tales, a new book by Serious Eats columnist Orr Shtuhl, with Elizabeth Graeber’s playful illustrations, makes the art of mixology accessible. Dedicated “to all cocktail drinkers, from the sage imbiber to the budding enthusiast,” the guide offers instructions on how to like whiskey (hint: choose applejack); how to drink at weddings (stick to two-ingredient cocktails, know that “grapefruit juice is the holy grail of cheap mixers”); and how to buy bar equipment (first, look up “jigger” and “Hawthorne shaker”). You’ll be mixing Zombies and Papa Dobles in no time.
Alongside human characters like Bonnie and Clyde and Don the Beachcomber, the pictures feature tippling penguins, a martini-drinking parrot, and green fairies and centaurs (because “Drinking your first Corpse Reviver #2 is like glimpsing a mythical creature”).
“The use of animals gives a touch of humor,” Graeber tells Co.Design. “Orr’s stories are pretty funny. Most other cocktail books I’ve seen take themselves a bit seriously,” either using straightforward, stock-photo-like images of drinks, or just standalone recipes.
Graeber used black pen, ink wash, watercolor, gouache, and colored pencils on paper to create her illustrations for a book that was a year in the making. She cites beloved children’s illustrator Quentin Blake, as well as Maira Kalman, Charlie Harper, and Esther Pearl Watson, as inspirations. Chicken-scratch hand lettering adds to the book’s personality: “That’s my handwriting trying to be neat,” Graeber says.
In the animated book trailer, a dart-throwing beaver asks how the Old Fashioned got its name. One-time speakeasy owner Shtuhl’s witty histories of beverages from the Bellini to the Rickey answer this question and more.
An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails is also a handmade Etsy success story: It was self-published and sold by Graeber and Shtuhl on the DIY site until Gotham Books picked it up. It’s now on sale for $20 in bookstores, as well as at chains like Anthropologie. You can order it here.