Need a gift for your favorite home cook, beer geek, cocktail fan or wine lover? Our staff has put together their favorite recommendations of books to treasure this season and beyond. Here are a baker’s dozen of 2017’s best reads.
America: The Great Cookbook, edited by Joe Yonan
This cookbook is beautifully executed with gorgeous photography and a fantastic range of dishes, but what sets it apart are personal touches from each of the 100 chefs included. While some are notable personalities, including television stars and marquee names in the culinary world, other are more unsung. Insights about what each chef loves to cook for friends and family, as well as their signature at the end of each passage, lend an intimate and rare glimpse into the genesis of culinary passion.
—Lauren Buzzeo, Managing Editor and Tasting Director
The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, by John T. Edge
This fascinating book from James Beard Award-winning author and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, John T. Edge, takes an in-depth look at the culinary and cultural traditions of the American South, offering a comprehensive view of the region’s history, from segregation and sit-ins to modern times.
Through the framework of food, Edge pulls no punches in his exploration of the legacy of racial strife in the South and the central role played by cooks, waiters and restaurants during the civil rights movement. The Potlikker Papers also spotlights the area’s recent surge in immigration, the impact of rural, working-class food on the farm-to-table movement and a look toward the future. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete take on the South’s complicated culinary legacy and its impact on the nation.
—Dylan Garret, Associate Digital Editor
Road Soda: Recipes for Making Great Drinks Anywhere, by Kara Newman
This new book by Wine Enthusiast Spirits Editor Kara Newman is ingenious in the way she illustrates a practice that many cocktail lovers have cobbled together for years: the mobile bar. Having enjoyed some great on-the-road cocktails myself with Kara over the years, like a delicious movie-theater Negroni produced in a flask, she’s proven it’s possible to marry the dual concepts of quality cocktails and being on the road. Having tested each recipe diligently, her book offers fantastic how-to advice to set up a respectable bar almost anywhere.
—Susan Kostrzewa, Executive Editor
This memoir chronicles the travels of Thad Vogler, a San Francisco bartender, to some of the world’s top spirits-producing regions, which include Scotland, France’s brandy-making regions, Cuba and Kentucky. Vogler describes the world around him with a deft touch. You feel like you can see the countryside, taste the spirits and personally know the colorful characters that seem to perpetually surround him, from a cuckolded barman who crosses paths with his nemesis in Cognac, to Charles Neal, a nomadic importer who talks fast and drives faster. The book also serves as a manifesto, as Vogler eloquently rails against industrial spirits conglomerates while championing small, “grower” producers.
If you’re looking for recipes, specifically, I’ll also recommend 3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon by Robert Simonson. Sleek, spare, easy-to-make cocktails, just as the title promises. Those who love Wine Enthusiast’s coverage of winery dogs and cat cafés will also want to pick up Distillery Cats: Profiles in Courage of the World’s Most Spirited Mousers, by Brad Thomas Parsons. It’s an ideal stocking-stuffer size.
—Kara Newman, Spirits Editor
Embellished with 1920s-era design, this elegant collection of New York City’s timeless libations will serve as a blueprint for your next bar crawl or cocktail party. Not only are the recipes appealing and innovative (“The Sharpie Mustache” is served from a flask, for instance, while a vanilla bean-infused Aperol is the star ingredient of the “Screen Door Slam”), the suggested bars and lounges are also enticing. Accompanying histories of venues, bartenders and recipes provide a vivid garnish. It’s a real toast to New York City—and a drink at Pouring Ribbons is now definitely on my agenda.
—Angela Kahn, Tasting Coordinator
Wine. All The Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking, by Marissa A. Ross
This book should be required reading for anyone who’s ever thought, “So…what’s up with wine?” Marissa A. Ross brings a bright voice and sparkling wit to a world often associated with exclusivity. It dismantles any hoity-toity pedigree and delivers facts from the perspective of, say, your BFF. It offers a “Sparknotes” version of winemaking practices, at-a-glance guides to labels and regions, tips to taste like a pro and a helpful glossary of terms. Is this an end-all, be-all instructional? No, but it doesn’t pretend it is. Beginners will be empowered, more knowledgeable folks will be refreshed and everyone will laugh their pants off. (I also give her extra snaps for championing natural wine.)
—Sarah E. Daniels, Associate Editor
Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul, by Preeti Mistry with Sarah Henry
Every year, one or two cookbooks come out that feel like old friends. Right now, that book is Juhu Beach Club Cookbook. I’m not Indian, and I’ve never been to Oakland, but recipes like Peaches and Paneer, or Nimbu Pani lemonade accented with toasted cumin and cilantro speak to my very soul, while all the spice blends and the Rough Pastry Dough recipe are just good reference material. Between all those recipes is Mistry’s memoir, which is super-engaging. Maybe that’s what makes the book feel so familiar.
—Layla Schlack, Senior Editor
Beer is For Everyone!, by Em Sauter
Comics and beer combine in this informative delight of a book. Em Sauter is the creator of the Pints and Panels blog and a certified cicerone, and her new book delivers easily-digestible beer knowledge, from how it’s made to the myriad of styles and ways to enjoy it. Yes, I am thanked in the Acknowledgements and make an appearance (in comic form) but it’s a book I was delighted to get nonetheless. Everyone talks about “demystifying” drinks, but this book really delivers as a Beer 101 primer. Why can’t all beverage learning be delivered in comic form?
—Jameson Fink, Senior Digital Editor
Red Wine: The Comprehensive Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties and Styles, by Kevin Zraly, Mike DeSimone & Jeff Jenssen
With eye-catching photography and engaging anecdotes from winemakers the world over, Red Wine is co-authored by long-time wine educator Kevin Zraly, along with Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, lifestyle editors at Wine Enthusiast. It’s a great, easy-to-read resource with tasting notes, food pairings and more for every major red wine grape. In addition to the usual suspects, like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the book also tackles lesser-known varieties like Saperavi, which makes it a great gift for the novice and geek alike.
—Marina Vataj, Digital Managing Editor
The Wines of Canada, by Rod Phillips
In the words of the author, Rod Phillips, “I’ve lived in Canada long enough to see the hybrid varieties replaced by vinifera, hundreds of new wineries spring up and the quality rise exponentially.” Though Canada isn’t a major force in the wine world, perhaps that’s why its producers seem to be more open to wines that are off the beaten path. Canadian wine is worth the effort to explore, as millions of U.S. citizens live within driving distance of its main grape-growing regions. This book covers the history of Canadian wine, and a general survey of its current landscape. It gets geeky, but definitely of great interest for wine tourists looking to keep an eye out for the next new thing.
—Carrie Dykes, Tasting Coordinator
Boragó: Coming From The South, by Rodolfo Guzmán
From the arid Atacama Desert of the north to the maze of fjords that almost touch Antartica, Chile’s geographic diversity offers a staggering variety of unique ingredients. Rodolfo Guzmán, of Santiago’s Boragó restaurant, has almost singlehandedly put Chile on the culinary map, and this book beautifully shows why. The first part is a coffee-table travelogue with ingredients as characters, and the recipes, more inspirational than practical, read like a novel. Get to know puya (an edible bromeliad root), piure (a sea squirt with skin that tastes of citrus), sea strawberries (the fruit of a succulent that grows on rocks) and hundreds of their friends.
—Nils Bernstein, Food Editor
Last Updated: May 4, 2023