Food & Drink

“Pour Me Another” Is A DIY Adventure Guide To The World Of Cocktails

J.M. Hirsch is a cookbook author, the Editorial Director of Milk Street and the most well-traveled person I know. In the past five or six years he has taken his love of drink to a new level. This path led him to become an expert mixologist and drinks creator with a no-nonsense style that reflects his practical, thrifty New England roots as well as his extensive food background.

He didn’t set out to become an author of cocktail books, but he told me, “it started of course—as all things do—with the Old Fashioned. I graduated to a Manhattan and then it went on from there until I amassed 20-30 cocktails that I loved,” remembered Hirsch.

These cocktails and more became part of his first cocktail book entitled Shake Strain Done: Craft Cocktails at Home. The book’s point of view was different from most drinks books because Hirsch created cocktails from a chef’s perspective. For example, he found that if he added just two or three (more or less) grains of kosher salt to a drink, it would change the taste and balance out the flavors much in the same way that salt balances the flavors in a recipe.

On the practical side, he rarely calls for a specific brand and doesn’t create drinks that have a lot of “crafty” esoteric ingredients unless they truly make a difference. His philosophy is to use “common accessible ingredients to create great craft cocktails at home.”

The reason that I mention his first book as an introduction to his new book is because it’s a continuation of his smart approach to drinking.

In Pour Me Another: 250 Ways To Find Your Favorite Drink, he has created “flavor maps” to guide people and help them find other cocktails that they will (most likely) like.

Hirsch says, “start with what you know and discover what you love.”

This means that his book and the flavor maps will help you identify cocktails that you otherwise might not try, based on what you already know you like. When I asked him what he hopes that people will get from the new book, he said that he “hopes people will explore spirits and cocktails that they otherwise would pass up.”

This high-concept [book] of identifying your favorite cocktail and then taking off in new directions could easily be confusing. However J.M. being the very straightforward person that he is, has approached this high-concept cocktail book in a very straightforward manner, and it is actually quite easy to navigate.

“It is a choose-your own adventure guide to the world of cocktails,” says Hirsch.”

He explains, “each chapter focuses on a single liquor and begins with its most recognizable cocktail. A tequila Margarita. A Gin and Tonic. A rum Daiquiri. A Vodka Martini. A bourbon Old Fashioned. From each of those iconic drinks, every chapter explores 50 iterations…discovering the many and varied ways each liquor can express itself.”

J.M. and I share a love of Old Fashioned. And if you look in the Bourbon chapter, there are many examples of drinks that are related to that old faithful, but new. I’ve never heard of a Mexican Old Fashioned, but now I can’t wait to make it. It’s simple—my favorite kind of cocktail—made with Reposado tequila, crème de cacao and orange bitters. Or the Bijou that he describes as a “lighter brighter Old Fashioned” despite it being made with Gin, Green Chartreuse, Angostura bitters, a few grains of kosher salt and orange bitters.

The headnotes are an important part of the well-illustrated book and very well done. Like J.M., there is not a lot of “fluff” here. They are equal parts stories, cocktail history and taste descriptions that are written in a language that communicates what the drink will taste like before you choose to make it.

And as great as the headnotes are, my favorite element in the book is the sidebar on each recipe. The sidebar is designed as a circle and reminds me of a spotlight which makes sense because it “spotlights” the different cocktails in the book that are related to the recipe. The sidebar on the page with the Old Fashioned recipe is what led me to discover the Mexican Old Fashioned and the Bijou. It also listed six other cocktails most of which were new to me which tells me that I need to get out of my cocktail rut!

If you are like me and drink the same drinks all the time, it’s time to open Pour Me Another and use it like a road map to discover something deliciously new.

Who knows, I may find that I like one of these cocktails even better than the Old Fashioned. In fact, that is exactly what happened to J.M. when he experienced the Vieux Carre which is now his favorite cocktail!

Vieux Carre

Recipe adapted from Pour Me Another, by J.M. Hirsch

1 ounce rye

1 ounce cognac

1 ounce sweet vermouth

¾ ounce Benedictine

Dash Angostura bitters

Dash Peychaud’s bitters

Ice Cubes

In a stirring glass, combine the rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, both bitters. Stir with Ice Cubes, then strain into a coupe.

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