[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]
I nonetheless keep in mind the primary time John McCarthy made me a drink. I used to be assembly my then-boss, now-friend, and go-to cocktail useful resource, Carey Jones, at a lounge the place her newish boyfriend was bartending. She’d been speaking up their drinks for a few weeks at that time, so I used to be hovering someplace between uncertain (everybody thinks their new boyfriend is wonderful) and actually excited (Carey positively is aware of what she’s speaking about!). I walked in anticipating a well-curated menu of traditional drinks alongside some extra artistic home concoctions, however what I discovered was actually no menu in any respect.
As a substitute, a chalkboard subsequent to the bar listed a wide range of ingredient and taste prompts: phrases like citrusy, ginger, smoky, pineapple, natural, vivid, fruity, spicy, and bubbly. From behind the bar, John inspired me to choose two or three phrases from the record, and to specify whether or not I used to be extra within the temper for a brown spirit or a transparent one. A short alternate and 5 minutes of affected person skepticism later, I used to be sitting earlier than the personalized cocktail of my goals. My solely remorse was that I did not have a recipe to take dwelling with me.
Loads’s modified since that day. Carey and John are married, they’ve moved to the West Coast, and so they recurrently collaborate on initiatives, like their cocktail column for Meals & Wine. However what’s most vital to me, and what needs to be most vital to you, is that I lastly have that recipe—and you may, too. Carey and John’s new e book, Be Your Personal Bartender: A Surefire Information to Discovering (and Making) Your Good Cocktail, makes an ingredient- and mood-driven customized cocktail expertise one thing any of us can reproduce within the consolation of our personal properties.

Of their e book, Carey and John got down to empower their readers to really feel assured mixing drinks. That meant writing about primary cocktail-making instruments and strategies, in addition to crafting 170 recipes. The one downside with all these choices? “It means that there is a drink for everybody—nevertheless it additionally signifies that looking for that drink may be a chore. I personally do not wish to web page by way of 170 recipes earlier than deciding what to make, and I am the ‘knowledgeable’!” Carey informed me. “We additionally suppose that folks do not know, all the time, what they’re within the temper for. However! You nearly all the time have an opinion on A versus B. I can inform you that, proper at this second, I would favor an natural drink to a floral one. I would favor whiskey to tequila. I would favor one thing lighter to one thing hit-me-over-the-head boozy.”

[Flowchart: Maggie Lee]
Most cocktail books tackle this problem with a radical desk of contents, typically organized by spirit, season, or maybe event. However Be Your Personal Bartender takes a novel method by utilizing interactive, easy-to-navigate flowcharts to information readers to the suitable recipe. Impressed by the sorts of questions they’ve fielded each personally and professionally over time, Carey and John have managed to make the method of choosing a drink enjoyable as a substitute of overwhelming.
We requested the duo to take Critical Eats on a customized cocktail journey for the vacations. The 5 ensuing drinks run the gamut, from a light-weight, citrusy cocktail of Lillet and glowing wine spiked with rosemary honey, to a darkish and spicy mixture of ginger beer and bourbon that will get a touch of sweetness from laborious cider. Simply scroll alongside and click on on the drink that speaks to you. Irrespective of which department of the chart you comply with, one factor’s sure: You may be sipping your method by way of the vacations in assured, glad, being-your-own-bartender model.

This publish might comprise hyperlinks to Amazon or different companions; your purchases by way of these hyperlinks can profit Critical Eats. Learn extra about our affiliate linking coverage.