The stories behind the world’s most iconic cocktails

A new book called Signature Cocktails explores the history of the world’s most iconic cocktails, from the classic Mimosa to the Brittany Spears-inspired Hit Me Baby One Mai Tai.

Curated by New York-based cocktail connoisseur Amanda Schuster – in consultation with regional experts across the globe – each entry in Signature Cocktails is accompanied by the name of the creator, place and date of invention, and spirit type, alongside the original recipe and a specially commissioned contemporary image of the drink.

The book provides context around each cocktail’s creation, revealing its history, secrets, stories and the personalities behind their creation.

The book is organised chronologically and traces the cocktail’s development starting with Atholl Brose of 1475 (above), created in the Highlands for a Scottish Earl and made with a heroic amount of oats, honey, and whiskey. The book then journeys to the 18th and 19th centuries, with entries like the Fish House Punch, a 1730s Philadelphia classic, and the Queen’s Park Swizzle, originating in the 1890s in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Contemporary drinks range from the Kyiv Sour, served at the Parovoz Speakeasy in Ukraine, and the Twin Cities, invented at the trendy Dead Rabbit bar in New York, providing up-to-the-minute insight into the culture and state of the cocktail. The book concludes with the Phaidon 100, a signature cocktail designed by legendary bartender Agostino Perrone from London’s award-winning Connaught Bar to celebrate Phaidon’s 100th anniversary in 2023.

Spanning well-known classics and more experimental, unexpected creations, the book aims to exemplify the diverse appeal of cocktails. Instantly recognizable classics such as the Bellini and Adonis stand beside breakthroughs such as Her Name Is Rio, a 2020s homage to the 80s pop band Duran Duran that uses cherries, egg whites, and cachaca to echo the famous “Cherry Ice Cream Smile” lyric.

Readers will also discover humorous drinks such as The Heisenberg, a blue concoction devised in Goa, India and inspired by the Breaking Bad character Walter White, and more unusual developments like the Bird of Paradise Fizz, a gin (not rum!) cocktail hailing from Panama.

The book also features legends of the bartending scene from years past, such as Harry MacElhone and Jerry Thomas, as well as icons of the London cocktail scene including Dick Bradsell, creator of the Espresso Martini (pictured main), alongside trendsetting, current creatives such as Natasha David and Aki Eguchi.

Signature Cocktails is published by Phaidon and available from Amazon, Booktopia, Kinokuniya, Readings, Dymocks, David Jones, and Harry Hartog.

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