A Proper Drink, by Robert Simonson, is a journey through the development of the modern cocktail. Through alcoholic literature, there are more books recommended than I thought would be mentioned in this book that is a discussion of alcohol, and personal anecdotes, Simonson walks the reader through every stage of this development.
An excellent start to an alcohol book collection, this does leave a bit of a pretentious aftertaste in the reader’s mouth. While those personal anecdotes add to a story, there were times where is felt like the writer had no personality and was simply listing off what bartenders were saying in regards to one another and various drinks and bars. This book is a story of the bartenders and enthusiasts who made the mixed drink world what it is today, but I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more of the author at times. While reading I was able to understand some of the hipster trends, the desire to be different and still through-back to the classics. Cocktails, today, are about refining drinks that have proven their worth based on ingredients, not their cheap price tag. Which is to say that these drinks are expensive, and it may be worth it to read a book that describes them a bit before buying them.
Be prepared to mourn your inability to go to many of these bars, be that because of location or the fact that they no longer exist. Simonson shines a light on the arguably most influential locations around the globe including Melbourne, NY, San Francisco, LLondon, and New Orleans. Most of these bars would truly fall under the “speakeasy” umbrella, if for nothing more than the size of them. These are the locations that you don’t readily ask for a beer at. How I wish I could venture there.
If you are not interested in drinks beyond “give me the cheapest,” don’t open this book. But, if you are intrigued by the speakeasy world and all those mixed drinks, this is a great place to begin. A definite must read for anyone who drinks more than beer, and any bartender. Bartenders all have their own stories, and within these pages there are a few of the more interesting.
I was given this review copy by Penguin Random House for an honest review.