How's Your Drink?

Etymology of the cocktail

Eric Felten’s How’s Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well may be the single most important book on the subject of cocktails to emerge in quite some time. It is not a moment too soon as a new generation of drinkers is returning the cocktail to popularity. Now they have a well versed guide in the form of Eric Felten whose column by the same title appears Saturdays in the Wall Street Journal.

Up there with Amis and Embury, Felten’s book How’s Your Drink is a literary work that will surely impact the way in which the cocktail is appreciated. In a world polluted with Martini’s that are nothing of the kind, and sugary concoctions designed more for shock value than taste, Felton’s book offers a smart, witty, and incisive insight into the culture of the cocktail.

Felten begins by putting the cocktail in historical perspective. Quoting from the literary likes of Samuel Johnson and H.L. Mencken and referring to pop culture influences from James Bond to Sex In the City, Felten breathes fresh life into the fascinating history of the mixed drink.

As he moves forward in time, Felten provides far more than delicious recipes, as his true talent lies in his ability to unlock the mysterious aura surrounding the cocktail. Indeed, a subtitle for this book might be “the Etymology of the Cocktail” as he provides a rich investigation into both the origins and culture of drink. John Updike may have killed the Old-fashioned (as one chapter begins), but Felten’s book could herald its rebirth, along with many of its siblings!

James Bond helped make the Martini the king of cocktails, but his onscreen insistence that it be made with vodka not gin has opened up the doors not just to vigorous debate among aficionados of dry, but also to a whole host of sweetened ‘Tini drinks that have nothing to do with the original. But then the literary Bond (our man in the books) was a far more sophisticated drinker, adapting his order to the time and place. Confused? Never fear, for this book is at its best putting the cocktail in cultural terms. Felten, for example, uses Bond to anchor the Martini in time and place while tracking its rise in the 1880s from the syrupy sweet Martinez through its transformation into a dry cocktail that inspires such passions today.

As the cocktail enjoys a well deserved resurgence, this new generation is quite fortunate indeed to have a guide in Eric Felten, and a guide book as fascinating as it is informative.

Make no mistakes — this is no dry reference manual. Felten has an easy writing style and a marked ability to elevate the mixed drink to the level of literature while at the same time making his smart insight approachable to all. Even teetotalers will enjoy reading this rich look at our cultural history that provides insight into the culture of prohibition as well as the modern aesthetic that gave birth to the Appletini.

For those of you who enjoy making a good cocktail at home, How’s Your Drink is a must-have guide to some delicious drinks. The Silver Gin Fizz, The Black and Velvet and Dark and Stormy are just a few of the cocktails I have fallen in love with, thanks to this invaluable guide.

Re: How's Your Drink?

Mr. Felten has generously shared one of his recipes from How’s Your Drink? with the GreatGrub community. Try the Silver Gin Fizz today and see for yourself why this book is a must have item for anyone who cares about cocktails.

Re: How's Your Drink?