Julep: Southern Cocktails

Alba Huerta and Marah Stets
(California: Lorena Jones Books, 2018).
240 pages
ISBN: 9780760351734

Named Bartender of the Year in 2014 by Imbibe magazine, Alba Huerta is the co-founder of The Pastry War and Julep in Houston, Texas. Julep opened in 2014 and in 2015 was one of four finalists for Best New American Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards.

In Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned, Huerta chronicles the cocktails that have inspired her and allowed her to tell the story of the South through drinks. Huerta introduces the book with the stated goal that the drinks be reproducible by readers and includes a brief introduction to basic bar terms. Afterward, the book is broken into six sections on cocktails, one about bar snacks and another about house-made syrups, tinctures and cordials used in the drinks. While the section on bar snacks will appeal to the home chef who enjoys entertaining, and the last section on infusions is utilitarian to the goal of making the cocktails repeatable by the reader, the sections on cocktails are the heart of the book. Over the course of 65 cocktails, Huerta explores the agricultural and culinary connections of the drinks with the cultural and historical concept of Southern identity.

On the surface, Julep is yet another fancy cocktail book with pretty pictures. On closer inspection it illustrates that the conversation about cocktails and spirits can go deeper than the provenance of historic drinks and the use of fresh and local ingredients to an exploration of how cocktails can connect us to our cultural past and present. Julep offers a glimpse at how cocktails and cocktail menus can be tools of cultural mediation used by those who design them to shape narratives that go beyond local, and craft, to a story about the identity of a place, its history and its present.   EZ

Session Cocktails: Low-Alcohol Drinks for Any Occasion

Drew Lazor
(California: Ten Speed Press, 2018). 160 pages.
ISBN: 9780399580864

Drew Lazor is an author and freelance journalist who for the last 12 years has written about food, drinks, travel, technology, music and movies for numerous print and online publications such as Bon Appétit, PUNCH, Vic e, Wall Street Journal and Zagat. For six years, Lazor was a staff writer and associate editor at the Philadelphia City Paper. Since then, he has written three books, New German Cooking, How to Drink French Fluently and Session Cocktails: Low-Alcohol Drinks for Any Occasion.

As the subtitle suggests, Session Cocktails focuses on mixed drinks with lower alcohol contents than your typical libation. Session, in relation to alcoholic beverages, comes from England’s beer culture which has been carried over to the USA and has now been applied to cocktails. Session cocktails have a historical basis with the invention of Cobblers and Cups, which use some sort of wine as the base and add other spirits, herbs and fruits for flavor. Lazor documents how contemporary bartenders have created new session cocktails based on demand from both their guests and their peers in the industry who are looking for full-flavor drinks with just a little less alcohol. As expected, the bulk of the book lays out shaken, stirred, built and frozen cocktails that can be enjoyed with a clear head.

Being able to offer your guests low-ABV cocktail options is both a sign of good service and that you care for their well-being. Many states are seriously considering lowering the maximum blood-alcohol level allowed to operate a vehicle. In urban areas with multiple options for transportation, this may not have as significant an impact, but in less-dense areas where guests are driving to and from your establishment, it very well may. Session cocktails are another way to encourage responsible drinking beyond pure abstinence.   EZ