It was that rarest of all rare birds, a San Francisco summer day that started warm and stayed that way through sunset and into dusk. Indeed, last Wednesday evening was balmy as Brooklyn, a day for sundresses and sandals, popsicles and a tall cool drink after dark. Inside the dim environs of Bourbon & Branch, it was downright tropical, with a sweaty summer heat not even a couple of jumbo-sized fans could mitigate.
Still, no one at the launch party for Left Coast Libations: The Art of West Coast Bartending: 100 Original Cocktails was complaining. After months of miserable chilly fog, it was finally, finally tank-top weather, just for a night. Against a backdrop of flocked wallpaper, rows of books, and gleaming liquor bottles, Ted Munat and his co-author Michael Lazar were making the rounds of the room, showing off copies of their brand-new, self-published paen to the West Coast's most inventive bartenders.
Now a snappy, 160-page hardcover, the book started out as something more like a church cookbook, a little self-produced tome created by Munat and his brother Charles, with a handful of bartenders' bios alongside recipes for their favorite original creations. Munat, who blogs about cocktail culture at Le Mixeur, passed around the first version at Tales of the Cocktail, the boozy New Orleans celebration & cocktail conference. Naturally, the bartenders loved to read about themselves. The only problem was the recipes; while other pros could usually decipher the often cryptic instructions, the average guy with a shaker and a bag of ice wasn't going to get a good-tasting drink out of these jottings. Enter Michael Lazar, a high-tech guy turned cocktail obsessive, who jumped in to spend some 2 years testing and refining the recipes to make them workable even for amateurs.
Then again, this is definitely a bartenders' book for bartenders. As a snapshot of a particular moment in cocktail culture, it's invaluable. And in a few years, just like the outfits in Flashdance or the haircuts in Liquid Sky, it will be a cautionary tale, an artifact of a sleeve-gartered, molecular-mixology, pre-Prohibition-obsessed post-post modernism where bitters reigned, gin ruled, St. Germain elderflower liqueur flowed, no one ever asked for a Cosmo or a vodka tonic, and recipes for Smoked Cider Air, Basil Foam, and (yes, really) Smoked Ice were given with complete sincerity.