Emma Stokes, affectionately known as the infamous Gin Monkey, has launched her new book; The Periodic Table of Cocktails. The book creates a spectrum of cocktails with a common theme running from one drink to the next. It utilises pre-prohibition concoctions as well as modern classics. The table is in the book as a pull-out poster and follows the same rules as its chemical namesake; each column represents a style of drink and each row describes a spirit. Personally, this book quickly struck me as an essential in any bartender’s library.
The discipline of being able recommend a cocktail you like, and secondly recommend a cocktail for a customer you may have only met a few seconds before, can be very daunting for a new bartender. I think it’s also easy to get into a habit of leaning on certain ‘sure fire’ cocktails as an experienced bartender:
“Can I have a Margarita?”
“Have you tried a Toreador?”
“Mmm, it’s lovely. I’ll have 10 more, please.”
Being Cardiff based no sentence is more commonplace than ‘Do you do something fruity?’ Unless maybe; ‘I’m allergic to Tequila.’ This I’ve found moulds bartenders into the playing-it-safe game and slinging out a raspberry Mojito to save time and patience behind the stick. If we refer to The Periodic Table of Cocktails directly under ‘Mojito’ is a cocktail named ‘El Diablo’ (remember that guy?) and although the logical step from rum and mint is not to leap to tequila and cassis, why shouldn’t it be? This book is a powerful tool in getting imbibers to try new things and kindle love for new spirits. Although, in this case, after a few El Diablo’s they may use their hangover as proof of their ‘allergy’ to tequila!
The Gin Monkey is an impartial cocktail enthusiast eliminating the bias or empathy to a cocktails history. Almost everyone loves the story of a Tom cat falling into a sugared barrel… Or was it the lead pipe from the mouth of a portrait which best deserves your quirky anecdote to lend to the patron? The answer is entirely on who you ask (or rather which is the most credible). This book goes into impressive detail and strays away from getting caught up in the mythology of cocktails and instead deals in facts. This extends on to the tendency of pretentiousness in bartending. For example; the Gin Monkey debunks the idea that shaking a Gin Martini will ‘bruise the spirit’. Of course you can’t bruise a spirit; it’s a liquid after all, not a peach. Who would know better about the Gin Martini than the Monkey?
The book also lends opinion on amendments to classics such as the White lady;
‘…Neither recipe calls for egg white, although it is generally included by all bartenders today for two good reasons…’ (page 40).
This modest approach to mixology makes so much more sense in modern bartending. Some people think it taboo to try and change the original recipe yet no one uses Jerry Thomas’s ‘a wine measure of whisky’ in the Old fashioned anymore. Drinks making, like any field of skill, is progressive. I believe this book has come exceptionally close to applying logic to the sometimes entropic world of cocktails and for this, Gin Monkey, we salute you!
You can buy ‘The periodic table of Cocktails’ here:
And I do implore that you check the Gin Monkey out yourself at http://www.ginmonkey.co.uk/
By Alex Mills