What Marseilles is to the Mediterranean, New Orleans is to the Caribbean, a savory meeting place where countries and cultures, priests and pirates, hopeful and hucksters mix daringly and delightfully. It would be easy to call New Orleans the ultimate melting pot, but it’s probably more fitting to think of it as a cocktail shaker, given its long association with drink culture. So, who better to take us on a tipsy tour of the town than Neal Bodenheimer, founder of the James Beard Award-winning bar Cure? Heck he’s even co-chair of the Crescent City-based Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. (To produce this book he was ably assisted by longtime food and drink writer Emily Timberlake.)
Obviously the bulk of Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em (Abrams) is recipes, each one sounding more quaffable than the next, but one also may read the gorgeously photographed volume both as a guidebook and a history of the myriad ways the mercantile impulse charted cocktail history. For instance, in his Sours chapter Bodenheimer tells the tale of the effects of the Italian lemon trade in New Orleans—he asserts that by 1884 they were New Orleans’s third most valuable imported commodity, behind only coffee and sugar. How could a Brandy Crusta not have happened, with its horse’s neck lemon twist prominent inside the glass? And while Bodenheimer himself isn’t the biggest fan of that drink, he has to tip his cap to its more pleasing offspring, including the margarita and sidecar.
Want to read the rest then do so at the California Review of Books.