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Eat Your Words: An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Jul 12, 2011 6:00PM

The latest addition to the shelves of our home bar may not be drinkable, but we're no less excited for it to join the team. Design*Sponge recently clued us in to An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails, a handsome little book written by Orr Shtuhl with accompanying artwork by Elizabeth Graeber.

Shtuhl is the "BeerSpotter" for the D.C. CityPaper but is a self-professed cocktail nerd, as well. Graeber is a professional artist who has made illustrated city guides and portraits of past U.S. presidents. The cocktail book is their second collaboration, following up a limited-edition publication called A Field Guide to Important Birds of the 14th - 20th Centuries. Each spread includes Graeber's awesome drawing, tells a brief, picturesque history of a classic cocktail - the Sidecar, Jack Rose and Margarita, to name a few - and ends with a recipe for the drink in question.

Among many humorous tales, we learn about innkeeper Betty Flanagan, who once prepared a feast for American and French soldiers during the Revolutionary War that ended with nightcaps garnished with the tail feathers from just-eaten roosters - a flourish that prompted the diners to call for "another cock-tail!"

The duo's projects "are all about bite-sized stories," Shtuhl told us in an email. "I like writing the kind of book you can pick up, open to any page, and in five minutes read a story you'll remember. That's why I was attracted to cocktails as a subject - they're the most story-driven food there is. A lot of the classic cocktails were born in a time when hearsay and hype did the selling, so it paid to put a tale to your creation. And, of course, the bartenders doing the creating were quick to embellish the legends of their cocktails - and their own reputation too, while they were at it."

"We wanted to have book ready for the summer when people are outside enjoying the weather food and drinks," Graeber said. "We do plan to make more books and to have a series that are all similar layouts and short histories. We may expand on the cocktail book, too." We sure hope that they do. Copies of An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails are available on