The Modern Mixologist was Tony Abou-Ganim‘s 2010 book, that preceded his fabulous look at vodka, Vodka Distilled. With its collection of sixty contemporary classic cocktails it will appeal to more than just vodka lovers, but there’s plenty in it to keep vodka fans happy.
Abou-Ganim has been a star of modern mixology, as you can tell from the people he’s worked with over the years. One of these, Mario Batali, writes a foreword to the book, but other illustrious names on Abou-Ganim’s CV include Las Vegas legend Steve Wynn, Harry Denton of San Francisco’s Starlight Room, and Crystal Cruises.
I have to give yet another shout-out to the fabulous photos by Tim Turner. Turner is one of the finest food and drink photographers around, and his photos are so sexy and appealing they’ll have you licking the page and/or checking what ingredients you’ve got on hand.
Those Cocktail Recipes
Take, for example, Tuner’s photo of the Sunsplash vodka cocktail (see left). It’s one of the simpler photos and yet you can taste and smell the orange coming off the page, and it’s a simple-sounding cocktail to make: Stoli orange vodka, Countreau, fresh OJ, some cranberry juice and a little lemon sour. What I like about Abou-Ganim is that he’s not precious about his recipes, and if there’s another orange vodka you like, try it with that. Cocktails aren’t a rigid formula, as we all have different taste-buds, so if you find you prefer something else, just go for it.
Another of Abou-Ganim’s cocktails I’d like to try is the Blond Mary. Now I have a confession to make, though it’s nothing to do with a blonde. I have never liked the Bloody Mary. I love vodka, and cocktails, and I like a tomato in its place – and it’s place is with bacon and lettuce or with a slice of cheese in a sandwich. It should not be sharing a glass with vodka. What I like about the Blond Mary is that it uses yellow tomato juice, and some of the spiciness comes from using Finlandia’s chili pepper-infused vodka.
Talking of infused vodka, there’s a section on Infusion Jars in the chapter on Mixology Basics: Building Cocktails. As well as explaining the basic bar tools you’ll need, the glassware, mixing methods, and ice (which the author calls ‘the single most overlooked ingredient in drinks preparation’, there are several pages on infusion jars and infusion methods. There are some interesting infusions for you to try, too, like rosemary-infused gin and serrano-infused tequila – that’s the serrano chili not serrano ham, though I’m sure some vodka company somewhere is working on a ham-flavored vodka.
Using Flavored Vodkas
Like I said earlier, Abou-Ganim isn’t precious, and has an open mind. In my review of his Vodka Distilled I referred to what he had to say about not equating purchase price with quality. He’s also happy to experiment with flavored vodkas – or at least the more sensibly flavored ones. As well as the Blond Mary and Sunsplash already mentioned, other vodka cocktails use Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, Ketel One Citroen Vodka, Absolut Citron Vodka, and Belvedere Orange Vodka. Oh, and there are just a few which use good old vodka-flavored vodka, though he always recommends the specific type that he thinks works best.
The Vodka Guy’s Verdict
The Modern Mixologist is another great book from Abou-Ganim. A short review can’t do justice to the amount of entertaining and informative material that’s in here. When I was checking the price on Amazon, I was amazed to discover there’s a Kindle version. I’d be curious to see how that works, but for me this is the kind of book you need to buy in its original large-format hardback version and leave lying around on the coffee table. It’s gorgeous.
Running to 200pp, The Modern Mixologist is published at $35 by Agate Publishing. You can find it at Amazon USA, Amazon UK, and other Amazon stores worldwide.