Pick Your Poison: Edible Cocktails vs the New Old Bar


To say that I love books is an understatement: in our current home what was meant as the dining room serves as our “Library” and doesn’t even come close to holding our combined collections. And my cookbook bookcase is full to overflowing.

And, yet, I’ll seldom pass up the chance to meet a new book (though more and more and showing up on my Kindle, these days).

But, just like people, not every book was meant for every person. Today I’ve got two books that I wanted to love, but only found that bosom companion in one.


First up, Edible Cocktails: From Garden to Glass – Seasonal Cocktails with a Fresh Twist by Natalie Bovis, The Liquid Muse.

With a name like Edible Cocktails, at first I expected something that took the flavor profiles of cocktails and put them into foods as opposed to beverages. The subtitle turned me around and then had me thinking that the cocktails would be arranged by season, to take advantage of fresh fruits, herbs and juices in-season.

It didn’t really do either per se.

What it did was spend the first third of the book touching on everything from types of spirits to gardening to composting. Yeah, I don’t want composting anywhere near my cocktails; thanks but no thanks. And it did all of this while coming off a bit pretentious. I kept thinking it was the Portland or Austin of cocktail books. Not a bad thing if that’s what you’re looking for, but not necessarily my cup of tea.

The true thrust of this book leans towards the syrups, jams, purees, and infusions that pepper the book and are then used in the cocktails that make up the other half of the book’s recipes. Even though I have a confirmed black thumb and have no interest in gardening whatsoever, I do appreciate the inventive flavor combinations her recipes suggest.

Another niggling detail was that each of the purees, etc. require refrigeration and last only a week. And that’s after you’ve gone to the trouble of making and seeing how much you have because the recipes are sorely lacking in any sort of yield information (okay for cocktails, they usually make 1, but not for other items). I also didn’t really appreciate the brand-name-dropping that went on throughout the book. Things like that stick in my craw, but others may not care about them so much.

The photos in the book are breathtaking, though–this could have been nothing but the photos in a hardback coffee table-sized edition and I would have loved it as is. No recipes required. And I would love to have their assortment of barware.

Best bet is to gift this book to a friend who does garden, drools over the Anthropology catalog, and shops thrift stores for vintage finds.

(And just a note to say that while I may not have thoroughly enjoyed Edible Cocktails, Bovis is a partner in the O.M. line of organic cocktail mixers which I adore.)


By contrast I truly adored The New Old Bar: Classic Cocktails and Salty Snacks from The Hearty Boys. This fun, fast-reading book by Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith (whom you may know if you are a fan of the Next Food Network Star) was an absolute pleasure to read. There’s a healthy smattering of cocktail photos as well as many photos of cocktail ephemera and neon signs. It’s just plain fun.

In addition to quite a long list of cocktails (listed alphabetically on their own, but organized by base spirit in the index), along with tips or anecdotes on many, there’s the promised chapter on snacks that really makes you want to get into the kitchen. Fried, pickled, or baked and, yes, salty, these nibbles are intended to whet the appetite of a bar patron or your guest for some liquid refreshment. The Cheesy Monkey Bread in particular caught my eye.

The New Old Bar rounds out its offerings with a chapter on toasts. While its true you can drink any time, having a reason–be it loves lost or gained, life’s milestones, or holidays–makes the libations even more meaningful with a few choice words said over them.

A bon vivant of the first order would love this book, as would any burgeoning cocktail enthusiast interested in the classics as well as some more modern drinks.


I was provided copies of each book for purpose of review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. Have a cocktail book coming out that your brave enough to let me see? Email sipsandshots@gmail.com for my mailing information.

4 thoughts on “Pick Your Poison: Edible Cocktails vs the New Old Bar

  1. Thank you for your review of Edible Cocktails: Garden To Glass. Its true that the book discusses growing fresh herbs and farmer’s market-fresh ingredients… its meant to be an explanation of the follow-on from the Farm-To-Table movement happening in bars around the world.

    Many bartenders, as well as chefs, are passionate about growing their own ingredients (ie: gardens) and this book is a guide for people seeking to do just that. Homemade purees, syrups, etc. in drinks is also an example of care and quality poured into the glass – and yes, “fresh” often means a shorter shelf life than those store-bought ingredients that can last for decades on a shelf with no refrigeration.

    As for name brands, I’m sure you know, as a spirits writer, that some gins, for instance, are more citrus-y / juniper-y / etc than others. Certain brands are known for particular qualities. Some of the recipes in the book are contributions from my colleagues around the world, so if they prefer one brand over another, I included it in the book, as I’m sure they have their reasoning behind choosing them.

    Again – thank you for your time and candid review. I’m sorry to hear you found the tone pretentious. One of my main goals at The Liquid Muse is to make mixology accessible to the home entertainer.

    I’m happy to hear you like OM Cocktails. I am very happy to be involved with that product.

    Kind regards & cheers, Natalie

    1. Excellent points, all.

      While I completely understand about brand preferences in general, it is a barrier–sometimes small, sometimes big, depending on your location and budget–when you have to search out a specific brand of any given thing. The beauty of the old cocktail manuals was that rum was, more or less, rum, and gins were lumped into broad categories, too. You felt–and still feel, reading reprints today–that you could grab the bottle you had on your shelf and make that cocktail. Whether that is better or not is open for debate. Then again, the target market for Edible Cocktails might be more willing to search out this brand or that, in which case my take on it (as I suspect I’m not the target market) is an out-lier.

  2. Sounds like Natalie’s book may be right on. If you are drinking purees that are good for longer than a week, you probably don’t want those chemicals in your cocktail.

    Thanks for the recommend of the “New Old Bar!”

    1. No argument there! And, yet, alcohol is a preservative so I think some of the purees could be extended (a la homemade grenadine) a smidgen.

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