Cocktail Codex

Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions

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JAMES BEARD AWARD WINNER • From the authors of the best-selling and genre-defining cocktail book Death & Co, Cocktail Codex is a comprehensive primer on the craft of mixing drinks that employs the authors' unique "root cocktails" approach to give drink-makers of every level the tools to understand, execute, and improvise both classic and original cocktails.

"There are only six cocktails." So say Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan, the visionaries behind the seminal craft cocktail bar Death & Co. In Cocktail Codex, these experts reveal for the first time their surprisingly simple approach to mastering cocktails: the "root recipes," six easily identifiable (and memorizable!) templates that encompass all cocktails: the old-fashioned, martini, daiquiri, sidecar, whisky highball, and flip. Once you understand the hows and whys of each "family," you'll understand why some cocktails work and others don't, when to shake and when to stir, what you can omit and what you can substitute when you're missing ingredients, why you like the drinks you do, and what sorts of drinks you should turn to--or invent--if you want to try something new.



"Learn the template, and any cocktail you can think of is within reach."

“Too bad all college textbooks weren’t this much fun.”

"A must for amateur and pro mixologists alike."

“If Dora the Explorer turned twenty-one, split herself into
three people, and decided to write the Magna Carta of booze books,
this would be the result. And, unlike every other book you’ll read this
year, Cocktail Codex is packed with actual knowledge you can
use in the real world. Please, please, can Cinema Codex be next?
“Alex, Dave, Nick, and Devon do an incredible job at teaching us the
basic building blocks of modern cocktails. Their unique insight gives
us the tools to master the classics and create new recipes. This book
is a must for all young bartenders and veterans alike.”
—LEO ROBITSCHEK, Bar Director, The Nomad
“Cocktail Codex gives the drink enthusiast a comprehensive, fun,
and complete look into the fundamentals of cocktails and the
illustrations, stories, and background information give the reader
a look into the world of professional drink making at its best.
I strongly recommend picking this book up and flipping through
the pages with your favorite cocktail in hand.”
—GRANT ACHATZ, Chef/Co-Owner Alinea, Next, the Aviary, the Office

Praise for Death & Co:

"This is a book that will inspire the next generation of bartenders."
Dale DeGroff, author of The Craft of the Cocktail

"Elegant, intelligent."
David Wondrich, author of Imbibe! and Punch

"A timeless reference for anyone interested in cocktails."
—Daniel Humm, chef/co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and co-author of Eleven Madison Park: The Next Chapter

"A fascinating, in-depth look at one of the best bars out there."
Gary Regan, author of The Joy of Mixology

"An instant classic for craft cocktail enthusiasts and professionals alike."
April Bloomfield, chef/owner of The Spotted Pig



This book isn’t a study in cocktail history; that work is best left in far more capable hands (looking at you, David Wondrich, Gary Regan, and others). Nor is it a scientific study of cocktails (thanks, Dave Arnold!). Our six root cocktails are less a historical lineage than an approach to understanding the fundamentals. By studying each of these six drinks, you will learn the mechanics of a particular family of cocktails as well as important lessons in technique and ingredients that will elevate your overall cocktail game. We’ve spent much of the last fifteen years not only studying cocktails but also teaching them to countless other bartenders. In that time, we’ve found that this strategy—teaching these six drinks, studying their DNA, and explaining how they’re connected with other drinks—is a proven method that demystifies the overwhelming diversity of cocktails. 

This is where the written recipe enters the real world, where the abstract becomes real, and where the exactitude of technique can make the difference between a good cocktail and a great one. All great artists—from painters and poets to cellists and chefs—begin by studying the classics in their chosen field, and then they emulate and practice those classics until they’ve developed their own signature style and can create original works. We take a similar approach, examining each root cocktail, studying how others have made variations on each recipe—by substituting one ingredient for another or adding a touch of something new and flavorful—and considering what each new variation accomplishes. 

Throughout the book we use a handful of terms that help explain the function of an ingredient (or collection of ingredients) in every cocktail. Together, three areas  of focus—core, balance, and seasoning—help illuminate the inner workings of cocktails. We define the core as the primary flavor component of a drink. The core can be one ingredient or many. In the case of the Old-Fashioned, this is whiskey, while in the Martini, the core is comprised of both gin and vermouth. While the core is the heart of any cocktail, every cocktail is balanced by ingredients that enhance the drinkability of the core by adding sweetness, acidity, or both. Finally, we season our cocktails with ingredients that complement or contrast the core, adding intrigue and dimension. These three components (core, balance, and seasoning) are fundamental to understanding how cocktails work—and once you do, creating new cocktails is fantastically easy. 


Should you be here for recipes alone, flip toward the back half of each chapter, where we offer variations on each root recipe, as well as recipes for members of that cocktail’s extended family. If fancy gear and advanced techniques are your game, each chapter concludes with a section on next-level techniques that can help you reimagine familiar ingredients and create new ones, delving into topics such as sous vide infusions and syrups, clarified juices, alternative acids, carbonated cocktails, and more. 

You can read this book from cover to cover or just cherry-pick at your leisure. And while we’ll be thrilled if you discover a handful of recipes that become new favorites, we hope you’ll dig deeper than that. If you take the time to master these six classic cocktails—the Old-Fashioned, Martini, Daiquiri, Sidecar, Whisky Highball, and Flip—you can master them all.