Atomic Cocktails: Mixed Drinks for Modern Times

by Karen Brooks, Gideon Bosker and Reed Darmon

Published by Chronicle Books

96 pages, 1998

ISBN: 0811819264

Buy it online


Shaken, Stirred and

Reviewed by Linda Richards

At the height of the late-90s martini craze Chronicle has published a book that somehow manages to be at once cloyingly chic and startlingly warm. It's an interesting combination.

This passage from the book's introduction sums it up quite well:

After the denials of Prohibition, the austerity of the Great Depression, and the deprivation of World War II, Americans uncorked their pent-up craving for alcohol in the 1950s. What resulted was a dreamlike world of perfumed elixirs, or clear, opalescent, amber, pink, and blue potions that lowered inhibitions to limbo levels and connected souls through the liquid heat of ethanol and all its iterations.

One can almost hear the strains of the Verve-style jazz scratching over the hi-fi while you read.

Atomic Cocktail is not, however, all memories and parallels. The Bar Talk chapter introduces you to a dazzling array of bar toys and what to do with them. It includes sections on what glass to use with what and some Basic Training like how to salt a rim or make a sugar syrup.

The drink recipes are categorized into fun and interesting sections. In the chapter called Atomic Cocktails, for instance, there are recipes for drinks with space age purpose. The drink called Rocket Man is no exception. "After a hard day zipping around, taking out death rays and smashing sonic detonators, a guy needs a little flaming cocktail to put it all in perspective."

There are classic cocktails, club cocktails, virgin cocktails: in fact, cocktails of just about every description. The cocktails -- and, in fact, the entire book -- are lavishly illustrated in the kitschy 50s chic style that we're all growing to love: again.

One part fond look back, one part martini "cook" book and one part guide to martini madness, Atomic Cocktail is a beautifully produced celebration of 50s decadence. The kind of book that makes a swell gift or self-indulgence. | October 1998