Book Review: The Cocktail Seminars by Brian D. Hoefling

, | July 23, 2021

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to us as a review sample by Abbeville Press. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

The market abounds with books on cocktail making. Whether you are a novice taster looking for tips and ways to drink your latest spirit laced infatuation, or a professional looking for new ways to engage with audiences, you can find something that fits the bill. There are even stocking stuffers and personal planner addendums devoted to flavor wheels and writing down your own tasting notes for your chosen beverages.

The latest book from Brian D. Hoefling is a hybrid of the above categories. It takes his knowledge of cocktail making and distills it into a hearty serving of anecdotes, history, and recipes, all in the guise of a fictional cocktail course. Though it is marketed to the novice, I found the writing, though well voiced and good humored, a bit on the advanced side for the liquor layperson.

That is not to say that the casual, weekend bartender will not benefit from a foray into this book’s pages. The recipes range from the old school standbys, to forgotten classics, to the ultra-chic concoctions of the cocktail renaissance of the early to mid 2000’s.

The Cocktail Seminars by Brian D. Hoefling

The Cocktail Seminars by Brian D. Hoefling (photo via John Dover)

Book Review: The Cocktail Seminars by Brian D. Hoefling

Vital Stats

Published by Abbeville Press, this 376-page hard cover is a hearty size without venturing into the coffee table book zone.

The Takeaway

The author has a very conversational voice in his writing. This makes this a smooth read and cuts through some of the heady, textbook style formatting. It’s broken down into five major sections, or “Courses.” The reader is taken through a short history and the technical breakdown of each cocktail with “Exercises” parsed through each section to challenge the reader’s attention and creativity.

Where the execution missed its mark for the less professional drinker/mixologist is that it went a bit hard on the textbook feel and skipped the opportunity to provide either illustrations or pictures of the individual drinks. Not that a picture will show the reader what something tastes like, but things like equipment, glassware, and even some of the ingredients could do with a bit of visual attention to guide the reader more successfully down the rabbit hole of mixology.

Still, I found this to be an engaging and fun read. The cocktails themselves are well-researched and the reader is set up for success by having shopping lists provided along with exact measurements for the individual components of each drink The mixology of humor and cocktails is a great idea and I applaud this author for their voice and attention to detail. It does come off as a bit snobby and could turn away more casual home bartenders who are not privy to the Ivy League sense of humor that was enlisted in the delivery of this book. Because of that, it is more academic than whimsical, potentially missing the mark for a broader audience.

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John Dover

As the creator and writer of “Johnny Scotch”, John Dover has built his Jazz Noir world from the music he is immersed in on a daily basis and from his travels across the US as a professional musician. John continues to build the “Johnny Scotch” library through short stories, and...