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The Bartender's Black Book
by Stephen Kittredge Cunningham

Reviewed by Elliot Essman

Don’t know which kind of Orgasm is right for you? The Bartender’s Black Book, by Stephen Kittredge Cunningham, offers no fewer than three choices. The original Orgasm (aka Burnt Almond or Roasted Toasted Almond) combines vodka, coffee liqueur and amaretto. Orgasm 2 uses triple sec and white crème de cacao instead of the coffee liqueur; Orgasm 3 uses Irish cream instead of the vodka. If Sex On The Beach is more your motivator, you’ll be pleased to discover four varieties as you leaf through this handy, spiral-bound volume.

If The Bartender’s Black Book were a simple compendium of titillating or even interesting mixed drink recipes (Sex on the Sidewalk, Atomic Waste, Quaalude, Dying Nazi From Hell, Rigor Mortis, Wharf Rat, International Incident, Root of All Evil, Tongue Stroke, Wombat) it would join the ranks of dozens of other stimulating compendia; good reads perhaps, but incomplete references. The Black Book, published by the Wine Appreciation Guild, is instead a definitive professional guide, featuring over 2600 recipes for every variety of mixed drink (or drink mix), with special sections on garnishes, bar tools, a wine guide by Robert M. Parker, Jr., and anything else you need to know about drink preparation. Cunningham is a professional bartender whose penchant for detail turned him into a drink recipe collector, then into a careful professional compiler. He revises the book each year, adding dozens of new recipes, many of which continue to expand the art of nomenclature: Leg Spreader, Hot Tub, Dirty Ashtray, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Prison Bitch, Brain Tumor, Boston Massacre, Jumper Cable, Stuffed Toilet, Long Sloe Comfortable Fuzzy Screw Against the Wall with Satin Pillows the Hard Way, and whatever else the mind of man can think to drink.

Cunningham covers the novelties, certainly, but he also gives us the ammunition we need to handle the basics. As an example of the care with which the Black Book has been produced, in the case of Martinis, Manhattans, Rob Roys and related spirit/vermouth mixtures, Cunningham provides bold-faced cautions: “DRY can mean either make drink with Dry Vermouth or less Sweet Vermouth than usual; PERFECT means use equal amounts of Sweet and Dry Vermouth; SWEET means use more Sweet Vermouth than usual; NAKED means no Vermouth at all.” Speaking of Martinis, Cunningham adds a useful section that cross references more than 100 Martini variants: classics like the Gimlet and the Negroni, more unusual varieties like the Maiden’s Prayer and the Purple Russian. A 30-page index cross-lists every drink in the book by constituent ingredient; Amaretto, for example, is used in several hundred drinks from the Abby Road to the Zonker; Dark Rum’s applications range from the American Graffiti to the infamous Zombie. There are sections explaining beer and cognac varieties, all spirits, mixers and liqueurs, and an interesting monograph on “Being a Good Tipper” (think, 20%). The beverage references are generic (i.e., “Coffee Liqueur,” rather than Kahlua or Tia Maria, “Orange Liqueur” rather than Cointreau or Grand Marnier). The result is a true resource, prized by professionals, supremely useful to amateurs with standards.

By the way, I know you’re wondering, but, no, I have never actually had an Orgasm, of any variety, nor do I expect to have any Orgasms in the near future. You ask why not? I’m still working through the hundred or so drinks that begin with the letter “A.” Atomic Bodyslam, anyone? Top -- Culinary Reviews Home

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