“You have such a cool job! I mean, it’s pretty awesome to get paid to drink all day, right?”
Hahahaha… I wish.
But no, there’s actually more to what I do… Although, if that’s the general perception of what I do, please excuse me while I allow a moment to be flattered for making it look easy.
Moment over, reverting to my signature self-deprecation.
Anyway. In order to be an effective beverage teacher/consultant/writer/voice of reason at 11pm in a wine shop, I make it a point to constantly study. As I always say, understanding drinks involves knowing several topics in varying degrees: Biology, languages, history, gastronomy, culture, geography, and chemistry (these are just off the top of my head, I’m sure somebody’s going to let me know that there’s more).
As an introvert, the best way for me to keep myself up-to-date and in fighting form (and makes me do pretty neat party tricks, like geeking out on a wine over dinner and sounding pretty convincing while doing it) is to either watch a documentary (I’m obsessed with The Wine Show right now, which probably means articles inspired by the series very soon), or read books.
For the record, I have nothing against online resources for wine (I mean, 2shots aims to be one), but there’s something so authoritative and so sure about getting my sources (and inspiration) from books. I have several that are on constant rotation, such as What To Drink With What You Eat (Dronenberg and Page), Grapes and Wine (Clarke), The Oxford Companion to Wine (Robinson), Red, White, and Drunk All Over (MacLean), Kitchen Confidential (Bourdain), The Curious World of Wine (Vine), and The New York Times Book of Wine: More Than 30 Years of Vintage Writing (edited by Goldberg).
I get my books from all over the world (my story about hauling the massive Oxford Companion book from Singapore to Manila is a classic in my family), and the thrill that I get when I acquire a new one is simply amazing.
This was why I was stoked when I was gifted a pass for the opening of this year’s Big Bad Wolf Book Sale (good for two people, so I naturally had to bring my equally book-loving husband to the event). The 24-hour sale (which runs from 22 February to 4 March) features a massive selection at great prices.
Here are some fun finds for different kinds of drink lovers:
For the aspiring mixologist who prefers to learn hands-on: The Definitive Guide to Creating Classic Cocktails
It comes with a cocktail shaker, so it’s perfect for people who prefer something tactile as they learn. It contains basic classic recipes, which provides beginners with the fundamentals on creating cocktails. Fair warning: The shaker is a very light plastic version, so it’s definitely not something professionals use. I think it’s a low-risk way to see if the reader would like to invest on proper tools in the long run.
For the future backyard (or industrial) brewer: Craft Beer
Again, it’s a book for beginners. What I like about it is that the book contains enough information to equip a novice brewer (or beer aficionado) with the basics on understanding beer and beer styles. It gets bonus points for keeping it fun with a beer opener and beer mats (like a proper connoisseur).
For the mixologist who learns better visually: Cocktail Infographics (Spence)
I am a visual learner, which is why I got the book (which features perfectly measured illustrations of recipes) for myself. The cocktails in the book are a mix (pun intended) of basics (like a Martini) and obscure (like a French 75), and are neatly organised according to the alcohol bases. It even provides a nice list of equipment and ingredients needed to make cocktails at home.
For the wine geek: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Wine (Walton)
I like this book because it gives the reader an insight on how to understand wine. It touches up on the multiple topics I’ve mentioned in the beginning of this entry, without being excessively technical. It’s a great reference book for intermediate (and passionate, it’s a bit of a read) wine hobbyists who want to have a deeper understanding of the subject. The photos are also great for visual learners pursuing WSET 1 and 2 (I wouldn’t dwell too much on the text… I mean, the exams don’t ask about Winston Churchill’s quotes on Champagne).
For the traveler/foodie/drink enthusiast: Where Chefs Eat (chef selection and reviews by Warwick)
I have yet to meet a chef that doesn’t appreciate (or at least understand) a good drink. What’s pretty cool about the selection is that there’s either an ingenious cocktail on the menu or a phenomenal wine list. There are also establishments that are actually a bars/pubs. My personal favourite in the selection is Michael Mina in San Francisco for the impeccably paired (but pricey!) wine dinner. Next goal for me is Le Bernardin in NYC. Hmmmm…
For the dexterous mixologist: The Architecture of The Shot (Knorr)
Confession: I hate making layered shots with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I simply do not have the patience or dexterity to make neat looking layered shots (this is probably why I got into the academic side of studying spirits instead of pursuing mixology). I know people who do, and I think this extensive selection of layered shots is worth looking into (and experimenting on).
For the no-frills (read: Impatient) entertainer: Good Things To Drink with Mr. Lyan & Friends (Chetiyawardana)
I’m too lazy to make cocktails at home (heck, I’m generally lazy, period). I love how Ryan Chetiyawaradana (of White Lyan and Dandelyan fame) made a collection of impressive cocktail recipes that don’t require too much effort. Some of the ingredients mentioned may not be found locally, but he has put possible alternatives in each recipe. I also give it bonus points for the breathtaking photos and funky illustrations. Fair warning: Those who are used to American English may find the instructions, which are written in UK English (or as my English friend put it, proper English), a bit of an adjustment.
For the health nut: SuperJuicing (Reinhard, MS, RD)
There are a ton of benefits to drinking juice, but not all juices are good for a person… After all, each person has specific needs. The book provides recipes that aid in weight-loss and balancing nutrition (especially for those who hate eating vegetables… Ahem). I like how it also explains the health benefit of each food used in juicing, so it goes beyond being just a collection of recipes.
For the gut-challenged person (i.e., me): Drink Your Way to Gut Health (Morgan, RD, CDN, CSSD)
My recent health scare that targeted my gut really threw me, and I’m now on a constant hunt on things that could balance my stomach. I’ve talked about how I got intimately acquainted with the concept of probiotics… I still thank my lucky stars I live in a country where Yakult, a yummy drink rich in probiotics which was also featured on Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, is readily available. Anyway, I’ve since tried to find more ways to incorporate probiotics into my diet. I’m going to explore this a little bit (and find alternative ingredients I could get around my neck of the woods).
That said, excuse me while I go through my newly acquired pile of books (and here’s to hoping for Marie Kondo and Anthony Bourdain books in the next BBW… Maybe a little Jancis Robinson, Natalie MacLean, and Oz Clarke too). Cheers!