The first gift (from my generous wife) was "The PTD Cocktail Book" by Jim Meehan with illustrations from Chris Gall. PDT (Please Don't Tell) is the now legendary speakeasy on St. Mark's Place, created by Jim Meehan, that is reached by going into the hot dog joint Crif Dogs, entering a phone booth and picking up the receiver to reveal a hidden door that leads to the bar. Mr. Meehan and PDT have been on the forefront of the now pervasive cocktail culture and this book is the "Mr. Bartender" of this era.
The book is set up as a guide not just for the home bartender but for those who are interested in (or fantasize about) opening their own bar. He starts with his own history and how PDT came about (the secret door, it's most famous feature, was actually a clever way of circumventing the need for a liquor license). The book is then broken up into three sections. Section 1 is "Setting Up The Bar." Design, equipment, mixers, techniques etc. Section 2 has "The Recipes". Besides the great cocktails it includes food recipes from Crif Dogs as a bonus (yes, you too can make a Chang Dog and a Wylie dog). Section 3 he calls "The Back Bar." This contains a spirits primer, pantry, seasonal mixology and specifics for the home bartender.
The PDT Cocktail Book is a detailed, well thought out and fun guide for any lover of cocktails and cocktail culture. There are no airs here, and Mr Meehan goes out of his way to give credit to those who helped and influenced him. Every recipe credits the person who created it. This is clearly a labor of love for Mr. Meehan and it is infectious. There are recipes for the beginner (a classic Manhattan). There are recipes for the insane who are happy to track down rare ingredients and infuse their own liquors (the Vaccari for those who have some chamomile-infused Compass Box Asyla Blended Scotch Whiskey lying around). Regardless, this is a great read that will make you thirsty and will have you exploring that corner of the liquor store with the Italian spirits you never noticed before.
As for my second gift? As coincidence would have it, my lovely sister gave me a kit containing all the ingredients needed for a classic Manhattan, Did I mention that the Manhattan is my favorite cocktail? I know. What a surprise. In the kit was a bottle of Old Overholt Rye, Dolin Sweet Vermouth and Bitter Truth bitters. It is going to be a Happy New Year. Who is thirsty?
2 oz. Rye or Bourbon
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes bitters
Chill glass. Put ingredients in cocktail shaker and add ice. Stir or shake. Strain into glass. Add cherry. Enjoy.
(The Manhattan was originally made with rye but bourbon has replaced rye as the whiskey of choice in this country. Use what you like and don't let anyone bust your chops. Bourbon is made with at least 51 percent corn so it is sweeter than rye. There are a lot of nice ryes coming on the market so it is easier to find them for a Manhattan. Rye is made with at least, you guessed it, 51% rye so it is more herbal and complex than most bourbons. Martini Sweet Vermouth is the classic but there are a lot more vermouths available these days so experiment. The same goes for bitters,