A book club but for cocktails

Every Friday, just as you’re getting thirsty, I will send out a new edition of The Spirits. It will consist of a WEEKLY SPECIAL - that’s a cocktail recipe that we can all make together - as well as choice bits of cocktail history, bar chat, ice discourse, reveries, tips, techniques, a weekly playlist and as little boring stuff as I can possibly manage. It will be the digital equivalent, I hope, of slipping into your favourite bar on the way home from work. In those halcyon days when “bars” and “work” still existed.

How to get the most out of the Spirits

It’s annoying, isn’t it, when you click on a cocktail recipe and it requires you to purchase a specific brand of mezcal that’s £76 and some recherché amaro that you can only buy on a sepcific Umbrian farmstead. I find that annoying. SO, I’m going to work from a carefully selected range of just 12 ordinary bottles that you will find in any supermarket. Simply the ones that I find to be the most useful and versatile.

The 12 BOTTLES are, in rough order of usefulness:

🍸Gin; 🥃Bourbon; 🐦Angostura Bitters; 🏰French Vermouth; 🏛️Italian Vermouth;📍Campari;🌴Light Rum; 🏴‍☠️Dark Rum;🍊Orange Liqueur;🌵Tequila;🍇Brandy;🧚Absinthe (or Pastis).

I have written a brief intro to each, together with a few brand recommendations, here. And you will find 75+ fully indexed recipes using only these alcohols in my alphabetical archive here.

How have I acheived so much with so few bottles? By mixing them with lemons, passion fruits, honey, mint, tea, and other things you shouldn’t have too much trouble sourcing. (I’ll put a little shopping list for next week at the end of each post, to be sure.) I’m occasionally going to suggest you make your own syrups or infusions, but nothing that will try the patience of the average home cook, I hope.

As regards equipment, a cocktail shaker, a tea-strainer, a small measuring jug (that goes down to 5ml), and some coupe-type glasses are all you really need. Though I would advise you start making ICE now: you will need lots of it.

How to get even more out of the Spirits

There is a Premium version of the Spirits that I call the CABINET. It’s £5 a month of £50 a year and it’s for people who want to go beyond those 12 bottles and deep into cocktail lore. Every month or so, I’ll fling out an in-depth guide (with 10+ recipes) to such exciting ingredients as: 🌿Green Chartreuse; 🍒 Maraschino; 🍑 Apricot Brandy; 🍫 Crème de Cacao;🌷Cynar; 🏝️ Falernum; 🌵 Mezcal; and 🐂 Sherry.

Please note! The Spirits is entirely reader supported, so it’s the subscriptions that allow me to be so generous with the free content. So do please sign up here:


You might also like to browse the full archive or read this short interview with me about the Spirits. Otherwise: see you Friday at 4pm.

Subscribe to The Spirits

A book club but for cocktails! Every Friday, around 4pm GMT, I will send a delicious recipe to your inbox, plus a light but erudite essay, a little bar talk, a handful of links and a specially curated playlist to match your drink.


🖊 Features, interviews, columns 🥃 Cocktail recipes too! 📙 The Spirits (Vintage) 📰 Guardian, Times, Men's Health, Tortoise, Mr Porter, click here ⬇