Review: Danny Meyer's Mix Shake Stir
Feeling drinky? Hitting shelves today is Mix Shake Stir: Recipes from Danny Meyer's Acclaimed New York City Restaurants (buy on Amazon), a cocktail book aggregating the best and brightest concoctions poured up at the nine New York restaurants that make up Union Square Hospitality Group — boldface names like Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Shake Shack, and The Modern.
Straightforward instructions (rarely does a drink get more complicated than "fill a cocktail shaker; shake; strain") are balanced out by visual porn for lushes: closeups of salted rims, perfect twists, and fruity purees ripe enough to lick off the page. In true bartending guide form, most recipes are portioned for single drinks, and the headnotes give snappy cocktail history without condescending to assume that we don't already know what, say, Velvet Falernum is. (If you don't: it's a clove-spiced liqueur.) Everything you're looking for is here: memory-jogging recipes for old standards like Moscow Mules, Negronis, and Sazeracs; inspiration-generating au courant concoctions like Ramos Verjus Fizzes and Kachumber Koolers.
As a cocktail guide, it's a great one. But as an artifact of the Meyer restaurant universe, it's oddly lacking. The pages are sprinkled with insightful, often funny quotes from various employees, who are credited not with their names but by their place of employment: "Eleven Madison Park Bartender" opines on cocktails' sex factor; "Hudson Yards Chef" reminds us that drinkers like salty snacks to fill the space between sips (that need is taken care of by a brief but luscious chapter on bar snacks, with recipes inspiring and droolworthy enough to get us wondering why they aren't their own book).
With a couple of exceptions — "The Modern Toddy," "The Tablatini," a few chef shout-outs — you could read this book cover to cover without realizing the drinks are lifted from restaurant bars. This might be intentional — after all, the USHG is known for understatement — though whether it is or not, it's to the book's advantage. The cocktails shine brightly, especially without chefly egos getting in the way.