(I was provided a free, ebook, review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own)
Once we get over the peer-induced binge drinking of your college years, many of us go looking for a more enjoyable, and mindful, consumption of alcoholic beverages. As I moved into adulthood, I began to appreciate good wine, and my marriage to a Sicilian-American certainly didn’t hurt my exploration of both homely table wines and more expensive fare. Finally, as I have grown older, I have developed a taste for liquor of many sorts, cocktails of all descriptions and even began making my own liqueurs and digestivos, branching out into making my own hard cider, too.
As my love of cocktails grew, I began looking for books and blogs that could help me expand my knowledge and enjoyment of the countless combinations of liquor, mixers and infusions of all sorts. My wandering through the online world crossed paths with Eat Your Drink.
The title immediately caught my eye. What could it possibly mean to “Eat Your Drink?” Living here in Los Angeles, I have been exposed to the heightened levels of mixology that various cocktail creators have been bringing to our local, and hip, bars and restaurants, In some ways, I have been a bit intimidated by the complexity — some might say, oddity — of cocktails with homemade or unusual ingredients along with the high price tag of most of these cocktails. Still, I thought I might be able to find some ideas I might be able to use in my own humble ways.
While I found the foreword by Roberto Cortez a bit intimidating and off-putting, once I made my way into Biancaniello’s recipes, I was sold. Sure, most of these recipes are not something I would attempt to duplicate in my own home, within each one I found something that intrigued me — something that made me think differently about food, drink and cocktails in particular. One major theme in Eat Your Drink is that of combining spirits with food products to yield something new and unique while still being true to the original ingredients.
Biancaniello takes a chef’s approach to cocktails. He even divides the book into sections that would be at home on any fine dining menu. These include Amuse Bouche, First Course, Second Course, Main Course, Dessert and After Dinner (a traditional placement of cocktails and digestivos) He’s also not afraid to include food elements in many of the recipes — Blood Orange “Crackers”, grilled pineapple, passionfruit and more.
The use of homemade infusion of various liquor talked to my own cocktail sensibilities, too. Fruit and spice infused liquors abound in the book, each bringing a unique twist to each drink, but also something that could be easily created and used in my own kitchen and bar. I make my own limoncello each year to share with friends and family and — even if I might not make any of the book’s cocktails in full — there are variety of infusions that I look forward to making in the coming years.
One particular infusion of note was toyon berry-infused Capurro Pisco. I am surrounded by this native plant covered with red berries around Christmastime, but I have NEVER seen it used as a food item. I didn’t even know it was edible to be honest. I plan on doing some further research on Toyon berries and might even make that the next infusion I make.
As Biancaniello moves into the Second Course and Main Course recipes he loses me a bit. The inclusion of savory ingredients in cocktails is something new to me and a bit challenging for my palette. That said, his Cactus Sage Heaven does sound a bit “heavenly” with agave syrup raspberries, sage leaves, ginger and tequila. Still, cocktails including Uni (Sea Urchin), horseradish and oysters are a bit too much for me. That said, there might be those among you who are already salivating just thinking about it. To each their own, for sure!
After reading about these adventurous Main Course cocktails, the Dessert and After Dinner, pulled me immediately back in, though. The Mayan Campfire with tequila, chocolate syrup, smoked jalapeno tequila and marshmallows had me dreaming of a warm fireside and a comfy chair where I might imbibe and enjoy it. Chai Iced Tea, made with chai-infused gin also caught my eye.
Again, while most of these cocktails might be a bit exotic for me to try making them in own home, the infusions, interesting ingredient combinations and sheer creativity of the recipes certainly got me thinking about what small portion I might be able to use for my own creations. I am fond of saying that any book that gives you one or two great ideas and gets your own creativity flowing is a good book. Eat Your Drink certainly hit this mark for me.