Book Review: The Art of Vintage Cocktails

Disclosure: This is an honest review written by us based on our experience using this book to make cocktails. Although we were not compensated to write this review, this post contains affiliate links. See our disclosure policy here.

About The Book

The Art of Vintage Cocktails, written by Stephanie Rosenbaum and illustrated by Danielle Kroll, is a 115-page recipe book that’s filled with 49 classic cocktails from different eras. Unlike most modern recipe books, each of its recipes calls for the vintage proportions that were most likely used during the time periods in which they were invented. In the author’s words, she chose this approach to “take you back to a more stylish era, when gentlemen wore hats, ladies wore Arpège, and it was always five o’clock somewhere.”

The recipes included in this book are also divided into categories by time period—the Gilded Age, Roaring Twenties and Prohibition, and Post-Prohibition to Mid-Century Modern—so you get to taste a wide variety of cocktails from the last century.

 49 classic cocktail recipes with ingredient lists, methods, and brief descriptions of or stories about each cocktail
 Artistic illustrations inspired by each cocktail recipe
 Descriptions of the era-inspired categories of cocktails
 An introduction from the author
 A list of recommended equipment and ingredients with descriptions of each
 An illustrated glassware guide
 A table of contents that includes each cocktail’s name listed alphabetically under the three era categories
 An index with cocktail names and ingredients for easy navigating

What We Liked

1. Accessibility of Ingredients: The majority of the ingredients used in the recipes are common and available at most liquor stores, which is not the case for many of the other cocktail recipe books we own. That means you won’t have to buy obscure ingredients that you’ll only use once or twice and then never again.

2. Classic Recipes: We started our cocktail adventure with this book, and we’re both glad we did because it exposed us to lots of classics neither of us had tried before delving into the more complicated modern recipes. This also gave us a good base for the tastes of each spirit, which was helpful for Kendall because up until July 2020 she exclusively drank vodka and tequila cocktails.

3. Palatability of Recipes: The majority of the cocktail recipes included in this book are palatable, basic, and inoffensive, which is great news for those with undeveloped palates who typically steer away from more bitter cocktails.

4. Descriptions: Most of the recipes included short descriptions of the cocktail’s origin, stories about why the name was selected, or fun facts about ingredients. We both enjoyed learning about each cocktail’s background and found this to be especially helpful when playing cocktail trivia games.

5. Illustrations: We both liked the colorful, creative illustrations included in this book, Kendall especially because they were done by one of her favorite illustrators Danielle Kroll. Thanks to her creative background, Kendall has a habit of buying books in all genres just because they’re beautifully designed. That was originally why she purchased this one several years ago.

6. Organization of Recipes: The recipes are organized alphabetically and by era, so the drinks were easy to find when we wanted to reference them again. There’s also a handy index at the back to help you find specific ingredients and the cocktails that use them.

What We Disliked

1. Ingredient Proportions: Our biggest qualms with this book were the ingredient proportions. We knew going into using these recipes that they were vintage, so we often tried the book’s version but would want to change the ratios so they were more modern and higher proof. That meant we ended up making drinks we didn’t really love to begin with a couple of times, but again, trying the vintage recipes is the point of this book, so we appreciated the chance to do so at least once.

2. No Photography: The only downside of a book like this one that uses illustrations instead of photography is that it makes it hard to know if your cocktail looks correct. We often found ourselves googling the drink before we photographed it to ensure accuracy.

3. Vesper Ingredients: We weren’t sure why, but the recipe listed for the Vesper Martini was not the same as the one Ian Fleming included in his book. Alex is a huge James Bond fan, so that was a big no-no for him, and he insisted we use the correct proportions when making it.

Who Should Buy This Book

In our opinion, The Art of Vintage Cocktails by Stephanie Rosenbaum is best for readers who:
 Don’t frequently make cocktails and know very little about their ingredients
 Are interested in trying the original proportions used in vintage cocktail recipes
 Want to learn more about the origins of classic cocktail recipes and the different eras
 Would like a lovely new cocktail book for their coffee table

This book is a wonderfully curated and informative collection of classic cocktail recipes that features beautiful illustrations and neat historical facts, but if you have a fairly developed palate, you shouldn’t buy it expecting to try new drinks. Kendall, the one of us who originally knew nothing about cocktails and has a more underdeveloped palate, loved this book, and Alex, the other who’s been making fairly complicated cocktail recipes for years and has a more developed palate, felt lukewarm about it.

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