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Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu

Geek Out on Cocktails

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Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu

Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu

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The science of cocktails is the subject of a new book by Kevin Liu. In Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers, and Classic Hacked with Science, Liu takes us on a journey that dives deeper into the science of mixed drinks than any other book available. Filled with charts, diagrams, and formulas, this is a book that will appeal to the geek inside many of us as Liu explains the chemistry and physiology of our favorite drinks. It's a fascinating read and a must-have reference book for both home and professional bartenders.

Exploring the Science of Cocktails

Though a somewhat disputed term, mixology does refer to the science of creating cocktails. In the same way that chemists must know how the mixing of two elements will react, we must know how the mixing of two liquids will react in order to create flavors and textures that will appeal to the drinker. Unlike many books on cocktails, Liu's takes the science far beyond simple flavor combinations and bartending techniques and it is a fascinating read that answers many questions cocktail geeks have had over the years, including some of those questions we have not even thought to ask yet.

The first chapter, "Foundations of Flavor," sold me on this book. It is one of the most interesting, in-depth explorations of what favors are, why we like them, and how our body reacts and distinguishes them. If you have wondered about the term mouthfeel, there is an section dedicated to its explanation, and following that is a study of why some people do not like the taste of alcohol and how to handle diverse drinker's tastes. This is the foundational challenge of any bartender who wants to cater to their guests and Liu has done a wonderful job explaining this phenomenon.

As you dive into the book, you will find one fascinating discussion after another. Some of the highlights include preserving ingredients (including maximizing freshness in citrus), the science of shaking and stirring, making infusions go 200 times faster, and "A DIY Cold-Smoker of $20." In "The Classic Hacked" chapter, Liu breaks down the flavor profiles of some of the best cocktails of all time including the Sazerac, Brandy Crusta, Martinez, and Mojito. He then examines hyperdilution's effects on the Manhattan and how a colder cocktail dampens its aroma.

All of Liu's writing is backed up by experts throughout the book. He has tapped into the minds of taste scientists, engineers, beverage experts, and bartenders for the data and experience needed to write this book. He includes an interview with Harvard University researcher, Sorell Massenburg, about the types of filtration and how it works, and he references Camper English's recent ice science experiments from his blog Alcademics as well as a former NASA engineer's take on ice.

The detail of the book is almost overwhelming and you can view its contents and get a preview at CraftCocktailsAtHome.com, because there is not enough time in my day to go over all of the highlights for you here. You can also pick up some of the bits and more at ScienceFare.org where Liu is an editor and contributor.

Book Details

  • Written by Kevin Liu
  • 250 pages, 65 cocktail recipes
  • Available in paperback and ebook
  • Published by Kevin Liu, February 2013
  • Retails for $9.80 paperback, $3.99 Kindle version
  • ISBN: 978-0615766386
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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