Book Review: The Curious Bartender’s Whiskey Road Trip

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to us as a review sample by Simon & Schuster. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

I’d like to start by saying this is probably my favorite spirits related book I’ve come across.

Not only does the Whiskey Road Trip lend an impressive amount of educational material, but it is a true pleasure to read. Rarely does it dive too deep without a properly laid out explanation, and never does it insult. It tells a story from a historical prospective that many in the liquor world know in parts but it summarizes it in a concise way. It is a proper recollection of the development of the New World through the perspective of a whiskey glass, and would have made 8th grade American History class so much more interesting… if 8th graders were old enough to drink that is…

Our author here, Tristen Stephenson, has written several other books of which all are very good and part of my regular rotation for cocktail development and fact checking. In this edition, he follows the evolution of the American whiskey category by following the historical evolution of America itself. He begins on the east coast and traces back roots of spirits production all the way to the some of the first settlements! From there, we begin to understand how rye dominated before corn, how wheat became a big player, where malted barley was lending hand, why people made what, and to what ends regionality and style became a thing.

Stephenson eventually covers the major players of Kentucky, the big dogs such as MGP, and the smaller craft distilleries on the west coast. He drives through cities and small towns, giving brief histories on distilleries you should know but didn’t necessarily make it into this book. The detail on each production site is what keeps this book entertaining for the whiskey nerds out there, but what makes The Curious Bartender’s Whiskey Road Trip such a fantastic read in general is the parallel storylines of whiskey and America. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

As usual, Stephenson has colorful tasting notes and beautifully described distillery details. The photos bring you to the moment without being repetitive or overplayed. Those of us in America can relate to almost any part of this book too, since it covers most of the United States.

Besides the occasional spelling error, and the fact that the depth of information often had me questioning my own whiskey knowledge and experience, this book is a must buy. Plus, at around $17 it’s an absolute steal. You’ll be nearly overwhelmed with information on American Whiskey, but you’ll come out of it with a new look on the whiskey industry and a better understanding of almost every aspect of it.

User Review
0 (0 votes)


Cameron Holck

After graduating with an engineering degree in Colorado, Cameron Holck discovered his passion for hospitality. He followed his love of the outdoors into the Pacific Northwest where he continues his dedication to bartending, and as a sales representative for Four Roses Bourbon. He warmly welcomes the fact that a night...