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Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail
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Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  79 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
The cocktail is as old as the nation that invented it, yet until this entertaining and authoritative account, its story had never been fully told. William Grimes traces the evolution of American drink from the anything-goes concoctions of the Colonial era to the frozen margarita, spiking his meticulously researched narrative with arresting details, odd facts, and colorful ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 16th 2002 by North Point Press (first published 1993)
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Mar 29, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, culinary
Published in 2001 by one who is clearly a cocktail enthusiast (and restaurant critic for the New York Times), Grimes is unfortunately dated by his laments over the 'deaths' of 1920s cocktail culture, the absence of absinthe, the utter disappearance of rye. Little does he know there's a cocktail resurgence to come in a decade. I typically have rye on my shelf and I whipped up a tall shaker of fresh Manhattans just last night (oh, and I really should re-stock my absinthe--good thing I only have to ...more
Jan 29, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
This is a seminal book: the first accurate history of the cocktail. Without it I'd still be an English professor. Nobody wants that.
Samantha Smith
May 24, 2012 Samantha Smith rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! So interesting. I just randomly came across it while weeding the 600s at my branch and thought it looked interesting and took it home. I didn't expect it to be fascinating, which it definitely was. It gives so much history on various different liquors and cocktails. It talks about how cocktails were affected by wars, prohibition, finances, etc. but it approaches this information in a very readable way. Although I thought I knew a lot about cocktails before, I realize I actuall ...more
Sep 10, 2014 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Slim look at drinking in America and the evolution of the cocktail before and after Prohibition. A pleasure to read.
Jan 28, 2014 Eszter rated it really liked it
This is great! The pace is great, the factoids are great, the recipes are great, but most of all, I just love the way this man turns a phrase. To be a restaurant critic, you really have to have to believe in your own authority and boy, does he ever! He is hoity-toity, but in a very self-aware way, and in a way that he makes clear is very appropriate to cocktail culture. I've been inspired to infuse and mix and research some more, and had a few laughs along the way.

Aug 10, 2010 carla rated it really liked it
I really loved the macro view this book provided. It put cocktails in a broader perspective than an iteration of the history of cocktails. Of the four books on the history of booze in America that I've read in the past year, this one had the most grandiose visions, but ones that were an accurate portrayal of how cocktails reflect America at large.

It wasn't a quick read, although compelling. The recipes at the back covered the gamut, but weren't outlandish.
Mar 30, 2008 Erica rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sippers
A book about the history of the American cocktail, as told by William Grimes, the restaurant critic of the New York Times. Some good info here, including excerpts of Luis Bunuel's take on cocktails and other literary figures. Also, an extensive listing of cocktail recipes in the back.

Grimes makes the argument that the American cocktail is poised to enter its second golden age -- cheers to that!
Apr 29, 2012 Kathy rated it liked it
Good reference book. Has a great break-down of how certain cocktails or liquors became popularized, but unless a die hard liquor alcohol enthusiast, I didn't really find the need to read the entire thing. I read the chapters that interested me, then made some of the cocktails in the back. It has a really good selection of cocktail recipes in the back that is worth getting this book for.
Oct 16, 2012 Derek rated it really liked it
A very interesting, if brief, recounting. At the end I was left wanting, as though there were some historical section that I was missing, even though I have no clue what that would be. The recipes at the end are very informative, though, and I look forward to trying many of them. All in all, though, it's a concise, well-executed history.
Jan 14, 2008 Camper rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: cocktail nerds
This book is probably the first in the current line of cocktail history books that have come out since 2000, and one of the best. After reading many books that cover similar topics, Grimes' book still reveals new information. I would say that if you're getting into cocktail history, start here before any other book, then branch out.
Nov 22, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
Concise, witty, and easy to read history of the American cocktail, with simple recipes in the back. Well done.
Ryan Gannon
Apr 16, 2012 Ryan Gannon rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, but I may never have disagreed with more drink recipes than the ones in the back of this book.
Luna Raven
May 29, 2012 Luna Raven rated it really liked it
Absolutely adding this book to my collection!
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