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The Bartender's Pantry

A Beverage Handbook for the Universal Bar

Paperback (Flexibound)
$35.00 US
6.84"W x 8"H x 1"D   | 32 oz | 16 per carton
On sale Jun 11, 2024 | 384 Pages | 978-1-9848-5867-2
A professional guide that surveys and celebrates the culinary ingredients in mixed drinks, with more than 100 recipes from the world’s most creative bartenders and the James Beard Award–winning author of Meehan’s Bartender Manual.

“As a handbook devoted to the cornucopia of nonalcoholic ingredients that today’s bartenders draw on in their pursuit of deliciousness, it will give cooks at any level a fresh appreciation for the flavorful possibilities they have at their fingertips.”—Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking and Keys to Good Cooking

Jim Meehan’s achievements as a pioneering bartender at Gramercy Tavern, The Pegu Club, and PDT in New York City helped pave the path for this generation’s craft cocktail industry. Here, he’s partnered with artist and designer Bart Sasso of Sasso & Co. and Atlanta’s beloved Ticonderoga Club, award-winning author and journalist Emma Janzen, and renowned photographer AJ Meeker on an advanced handbook focused on the zero-proof components of cocktails that make or break the integrity of a drink.

The Bartender’s Pantry includes concise overviews of ten categories of ingredients—sugars, spices, dairy, grains and nuts, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs, coffee, tea, soda and mineral water, and ferments—that cover each subject’s modern history in drinks, popular production practices, artisan processing methods, and common distribution channels before suggesting sourcing and service insights from experts in each field. The primers grapple with the challenges producers, distributors, and consumers each face as the ingredient moves through the food chain and into the bartender’s pantry.  

Each chapter features artfully illustrated recipes incorporating the featured ingredients that bring the reader into the kitchens of some of the world’s most revered bartenders, baristas, importers, and chefs. Their innovative takes on traditional recipes including horchata, matcha, Turkish coffee, sorrel, kvass, and ice cream are followed by full-page photos of over 50 cocktails that incorporate them including modern classics like the Gin Basil Smash, Earl Grey MarTEAni and Penicillin

Inspired by kitchen references like Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy and Harold McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking, The Bartender's Pantry is an indispensable handbook for hospitality professionals, curious cooks, and anyone interested in how novel and traditional global beverages are connected to international foodways and our wellbeing itself.
The Bartender’s Pantry is vintage Jim Meehan—a clear, thorough, thoughtful, collegial foray into the world of drinks. And as a handbook devoted to the cornucopia of nonalcoholic ingredients that today’s bartenders draw on in their pursuit of deliciousness, it makes a fine guide to the kitchen pantry as well: it will give cooks at any level a fresh appreciation for the flavorful possibilities they have at their fingertips.”—Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking and Keys to Good Cooking

The Bartender’s Pantry is sure to become a classic. The fascinating collection of recipes combined with Jim’s expertise and Bart’s brilliant illustrations artfully simplify learning for experts and novices of mixology and people curious about flavor.”—Nik Sharma, James Beard Award finalist, IACP Award winner, and author of Veg-Table
 
“I’ve learned so much from reading this book. I love the nonpedantic approach to scrupulous ingredient sourcing. Jim teaches us that sustainability matters, even in your glass, and that being thoughtful about selecting your ingredients leads to exceptional results. Yes, it’s a book for bartenders, but Jim’s lessons are based on the foundations of being a great cook. Reading it will make me a better cook.”—Sam Mogannam, founder of the Bi-Rite family of businesses and coauthor of Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food
 
“Welcome to the marriage of cocktails and cuisine! The Bartender’s Pantry will amaze and delight foodies, chefs, gardeners, and cocktail nerds. Jim Meehan’s bartending books are always indispensable, but this one is truly groundbreaking. If your idea of a well-stocked cocktail pantry extends to mint, lemons, cherries, and the occasional egg white, you'll be amazed at what Meehan and his contributors can do with corn, oats, beets, yogurt, and sesame oil. Even salt and pepper are transformed into exquisite ingredients, and butter—yes, butter!—has a chance to shine. With his celebration of sustainability and inclusivity, The Bartender’s Pantry sets a new standard for twenty-first century cocktail books.”—Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist
 
“Jim Meehan has an intense thoughtfulness and rare beginner’s-mind-driven curiosity about ingredients, techniques, and flavor—the hidden work that makes his drinks as effortlessly enjoyable as they are innovative. It’s something I’ve admired about him since I first became obsessed with the same things, as an NYU chemistry major living down the block from PDT. Since few of us will ever get into the weeds of distilling the alcohol that goes into our cocktails, our choices in that arena mostly come down to careful shopping. But in The Bartender’s Pantry, Jim has condensed decades of experimentation and wisdom to give us the tools to control every other element of flavor in a drink, and, even better, to make nearly any tasty ingredient drinkable. Pick it up for the beautiful recipes and cool techniques, and you’ll walk away having gained the invaluable knowledge of the how and why of what makes them so good.”—Arielle Johnson, PhD, author of Flavorama
© AJ Meeker
Jim Meehan is a renowned bartender and author of The PDT Cocktail Book. He worked at some of New York City’s most revered restaurants and bars, including Gramercy Tavern and Pegu Club, before opening the James Beard Award–winning bar PDT in 2007. In addition to writing for Tasting Table, Lucky Peach, and Sommelier Journal, Meehan served as an editor for Food & Wine magazine’s annual cocktail book and Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. He and his family reside in Portland, Oregon, where he runs the consulting firm Mixography, Inc. View titles by Jim Meehan
Introduction

The food and drink rituals I grew up with in the suburbs of Chicago were humble and practical for a family of six.

Every morning, my mom steeped bags of Lipton’s tea in a stainless-steel pot to sip piping hot with a teaspoon of granulated sugar and a splash of 2% milk. While her Quaker Oats warmed, she scooped ground coffee from the plaid Stewart’s tin for my dad’s morning cup into a drip coffee maker. He drank it with a splash of half-and-half in a ceramic mug while toggling between smoking a Marlboro Red and maneuvering a Datsun 210’s stick shift to transport us to school in the morning.

I vividly remember summer trips to Michigan, where we stayed with my maternal grandmother, who kept a huge stack of old Gourmet magazines and cooked fresh vegetables from her garden in a kitchen with a collection of copper pans that rivaled Julia Child’s. But my parents didn’t cook like my grandmother. They made pragmatic decisions about food and cooking because they worked double shifts throughout much of my childhood and had four boys to feed. We’re all grown and out of the house now, but they still take their tea and coffee the same way.

My eating and drinking experiences changed once I began working in bars and restaurants. I visited the incredible farmer’s markets around the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. I worked alongside some of the most celebrated chefs in America in New York City. I moved to Portland, Oregon, where the food scene is so earnest it was lampooned on the TV sitcom Portlandia. I’ve had so many pinch-me moments in these places, and more when I was initiated into a deeper understanding and appreciation of food and beverage thanks to the time, attention, and care of bakers, chefs, sommeliers, farmers, brewers, distillers, baristas, and my fellow cooks, bartenders, and servers.

I didn’t know much about tea, for example, until I worked at Gramercy Tavern, which procured some of the best loose-leaf teas in America from Sebastian Beckwith of In Pursuit of Tea. From smoky lapsang souchong to verdant lemon verbena, I was surprised to find these new-to-me teas and tisanes tasted perfectly balanced and vibrant without sugar, honey, lemon, or milk. Working with Sebastian made me realize the world of tea was so much more vast, varied, and delicious than I had previously encountered.

Later, I expanded my palate with travel. For instance, in San Francisco, a pilgrimage to Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bakery made me rethink every loaf of bread I’ve ever eaten. Their now-famous sourdough is a taste experience that engages all the senses; the texture goes from an airy crumb to an armored crust, and when I cut through its shell, the aromas of fruit, grass, and grain stop me in my tracks. Discovering new flavors and culinary practices, and revisiting old favorites like the ones championed at Tartine, is a joyful practice that guides my eating and drinking rituals.

My life experiences inform the way I perceive ingredients as a bartender. Every time I taste a coffee or fruit or spice, I wonder if it’s really the best version I can find, or if I need to search further to source something more appropriate for the application at hand.

Today, the practice of continuously evaluating the quality of ingredients and understanding their origins drives my work as a bartender. I am not alone in this; the sentiment, I believe, is driving today’s cocktail zeitgeist. We’ve moved beyond rejiggering recipes from the “Golden Age” of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Now, bartenders are blazing new paths by prioritizing transparent sourcing, environmentally sustainable farming, and worker rights alongside the way ingredients taste or function in a recipe. Bartenders are increasingly caretaking the narratives of these ingredients—past, present, and future—in addition to coaxing out their best qualities in the glass.

The axis for this new era of bartending isn’t just centered around the base spirits, bitters, and liqueurs; it has expanded to include the mixers, too. I’ve identified sugars, spices, dairy, nuts, grains, vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruits, coffee, tea, sodas, mineral waters, and ferments as the “universal” ingredients that comprise the components of the bartender’s pantry I’ve written two books that feature spirits and subordinate these zero-proof mixers. I stand by them as works of their time, but today, the pantry ingredients are ushering mixology into the twenty-first century. That’s why instead of glancing past these ingredients and their preparations, I’ve made them the focal point of this handbook.

In the following pages, you will find primers on ten different families of ingredients. Each one can be used to make cocktails and many may be served unmixed. Each family gets its own chapter, with a contemporary overview and tips for sourcing, storing, and preparing them as components of the mixers used in classic and modern cocktail recipes. I want to draw attention to how these ingredients are grown, processed at origin, and shipped. I want you to meet some of the people who bring them to us, and learn how proper tools, functional serviceware, and reliable recipes become critical building blocks of a dynamic bar program or home bar.

Each one of these ingredients has a complex history, with thorny ethical considerations and quality benchmarks. I hope you’re ready to dig into policy and politics, because we can’t talk about sugars, spices, tea, and coffee without examining the role colonialism and capitalism play in bringing these ingredients to the bar. And we can’t survey these subjects without interest in the welfare of the land, the people who farmed it, and those who profit from that work today. Reconciling this history in our mixing practices should matter to both bartenders and our guests.

This book is a celebration of the ingredients in the bartender’s pantry along with the people who help stock it. Every one of the world’s best bars is powered by a team of the world’s best prep people (many of whom tend bar, too), who check in the produce orders, make the syrups, extract juice from fruits and vegetables, monitor infusions, pick and prep all the herbs, neatly organize the storage areas, and much more before opening the bar for service. Here, we focus on their work, and in following their lead, you will not only improve your drinks mixing, but also enrich your social circle with a whole community of growers, wholesalers, and experts to help you navigate your way.

About

A professional guide that surveys and celebrates the culinary ingredients in mixed drinks, with more than 100 recipes from the world’s most creative bartenders and the James Beard Award–winning author of Meehan’s Bartender Manual.

“As a handbook devoted to the cornucopia of nonalcoholic ingredients that today’s bartenders draw on in their pursuit of deliciousness, it will give cooks at any level a fresh appreciation for the flavorful possibilities they have at their fingertips.”—Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking and Keys to Good Cooking

Jim Meehan’s achievements as a pioneering bartender at Gramercy Tavern, The Pegu Club, and PDT in New York City helped pave the path for this generation’s craft cocktail industry. Here, he’s partnered with artist and designer Bart Sasso of Sasso & Co. and Atlanta’s beloved Ticonderoga Club, award-winning author and journalist Emma Janzen, and renowned photographer AJ Meeker on an advanced handbook focused on the zero-proof components of cocktails that make or break the integrity of a drink.

The Bartender’s Pantry includes concise overviews of ten categories of ingredients—sugars, spices, dairy, grains and nuts, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs, coffee, tea, soda and mineral water, and ferments—that cover each subject’s modern history in drinks, popular production practices, artisan processing methods, and common distribution channels before suggesting sourcing and service insights from experts in each field. The primers grapple with the challenges producers, distributors, and consumers each face as the ingredient moves through the food chain and into the bartender’s pantry.  

Each chapter features artfully illustrated recipes incorporating the featured ingredients that bring the reader into the kitchens of some of the world’s most revered bartenders, baristas, importers, and chefs. Their innovative takes on traditional recipes including horchata, matcha, Turkish coffee, sorrel, kvass, and ice cream are followed by full-page photos of over 50 cocktails that incorporate them including modern classics like the Gin Basil Smash, Earl Grey MarTEAni and Penicillin

Inspired by kitchen references like Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy and Harold McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking, The Bartender's Pantry is an indispensable handbook for hospitality professionals, curious cooks, and anyone interested in how novel and traditional global beverages are connected to international foodways and our wellbeing itself.

Praise

The Bartender’s Pantry is vintage Jim Meehan—a clear, thorough, thoughtful, collegial foray into the world of drinks. And as a handbook devoted to the cornucopia of nonalcoholic ingredients that today’s bartenders draw on in their pursuit of deliciousness, it makes a fine guide to the kitchen pantry as well: it will give cooks at any level a fresh appreciation for the flavorful possibilities they have at their fingertips.”—Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking and Keys to Good Cooking

The Bartender’s Pantry is sure to become a classic. The fascinating collection of recipes combined with Jim’s expertise and Bart’s brilliant illustrations artfully simplify learning for experts and novices of mixology and people curious about flavor.”—Nik Sharma, James Beard Award finalist, IACP Award winner, and author of Veg-Table
 
“I’ve learned so much from reading this book. I love the nonpedantic approach to scrupulous ingredient sourcing. Jim teaches us that sustainability matters, even in your glass, and that being thoughtful about selecting your ingredients leads to exceptional results. Yes, it’s a book for bartenders, but Jim’s lessons are based on the foundations of being a great cook. Reading it will make me a better cook.”—Sam Mogannam, founder of the Bi-Rite family of businesses and coauthor of Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food
 
“Welcome to the marriage of cocktails and cuisine! The Bartender’s Pantry will amaze and delight foodies, chefs, gardeners, and cocktail nerds. Jim Meehan’s bartending books are always indispensable, but this one is truly groundbreaking. If your idea of a well-stocked cocktail pantry extends to mint, lemons, cherries, and the occasional egg white, you'll be amazed at what Meehan and his contributors can do with corn, oats, beets, yogurt, and sesame oil. Even salt and pepper are transformed into exquisite ingredients, and butter—yes, butter!—has a chance to shine. With his celebration of sustainability and inclusivity, The Bartender’s Pantry sets a new standard for twenty-first century cocktail books.”—Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist
 
“Jim Meehan has an intense thoughtfulness and rare beginner’s-mind-driven curiosity about ingredients, techniques, and flavor—the hidden work that makes his drinks as effortlessly enjoyable as they are innovative. It’s something I’ve admired about him since I first became obsessed with the same things, as an NYU chemistry major living down the block from PDT. Since few of us will ever get into the weeds of distilling the alcohol that goes into our cocktails, our choices in that arena mostly come down to careful shopping. But in The Bartender’s Pantry, Jim has condensed decades of experimentation and wisdom to give us the tools to control every other element of flavor in a drink, and, even better, to make nearly any tasty ingredient drinkable. Pick it up for the beautiful recipes and cool techniques, and you’ll walk away having gained the invaluable knowledge of the how and why of what makes them so good.”—Arielle Johnson, PhD, author of Flavorama

Author

© AJ Meeker
Jim Meehan is a renowned bartender and author of The PDT Cocktail Book. He worked at some of New York City’s most revered restaurants and bars, including Gramercy Tavern and Pegu Club, before opening the James Beard Award–winning bar PDT in 2007. In addition to writing for Tasting Table, Lucky Peach, and Sommelier Journal, Meehan served as an editor for Food & Wine magazine’s annual cocktail book and Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. He and his family reside in Portland, Oregon, where he runs the consulting firm Mixography, Inc. View titles by Jim Meehan

Excerpt

Introduction

The food and drink rituals I grew up with in the suburbs of Chicago were humble and practical for a family of six.

Every morning, my mom steeped bags of Lipton’s tea in a stainless-steel pot to sip piping hot with a teaspoon of granulated sugar and a splash of 2% milk. While her Quaker Oats warmed, she scooped ground coffee from the plaid Stewart’s tin for my dad’s morning cup into a drip coffee maker. He drank it with a splash of half-and-half in a ceramic mug while toggling between smoking a Marlboro Red and maneuvering a Datsun 210’s stick shift to transport us to school in the morning.

I vividly remember summer trips to Michigan, where we stayed with my maternal grandmother, who kept a huge stack of old Gourmet magazines and cooked fresh vegetables from her garden in a kitchen with a collection of copper pans that rivaled Julia Child’s. But my parents didn’t cook like my grandmother. They made pragmatic decisions about food and cooking because they worked double shifts throughout much of my childhood and had four boys to feed. We’re all grown and out of the house now, but they still take their tea and coffee the same way.

My eating and drinking experiences changed once I began working in bars and restaurants. I visited the incredible farmer’s markets around the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. I worked alongside some of the most celebrated chefs in America in New York City. I moved to Portland, Oregon, where the food scene is so earnest it was lampooned on the TV sitcom Portlandia. I’ve had so many pinch-me moments in these places, and more when I was initiated into a deeper understanding and appreciation of food and beverage thanks to the time, attention, and care of bakers, chefs, sommeliers, farmers, brewers, distillers, baristas, and my fellow cooks, bartenders, and servers.

I didn’t know much about tea, for example, until I worked at Gramercy Tavern, which procured some of the best loose-leaf teas in America from Sebastian Beckwith of In Pursuit of Tea. From smoky lapsang souchong to verdant lemon verbena, I was surprised to find these new-to-me teas and tisanes tasted perfectly balanced and vibrant without sugar, honey, lemon, or milk. Working with Sebastian made me realize the world of tea was so much more vast, varied, and delicious than I had previously encountered.

Later, I expanded my palate with travel. For instance, in San Francisco, a pilgrimage to Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bakery made me rethink every loaf of bread I’ve ever eaten. Their now-famous sourdough is a taste experience that engages all the senses; the texture goes from an airy crumb to an armored crust, and when I cut through its shell, the aromas of fruit, grass, and grain stop me in my tracks. Discovering new flavors and culinary practices, and revisiting old favorites like the ones championed at Tartine, is a joyful practice that guides my eating and drinking rituals.

My life experiences inform the way I perceive ingredients as a bartender. Every time I taste a coffee or fruit or spice, I wonder if it’s really the best version I can find, or if I need to search further to source something more appropriate for the application at hand.

Today, the practice of continuously evaluating the quality of ingredients and understanding their origins drives my work as a bartender. I am not alone in this; the sentiment, I believe, is driving today’s cocktail zeitgeist. We’ve moved beyond rejiggering recipes from the “Golden Age” of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Now, bartenders are blazing new paths by prioritizing transparent sourcing, environmentally sustainable farming, and worker rights alongside the way ingredients taste or function in a recipe. Bartenders are increasingly caretaking the narratives of these ingredients—past, present, and future—in addition to coaxing out their best qualities in the glass.

The axis for this new era of bartending isn’t just centered around the base spirits, bitters, and liqueurs; it has expanded to include the mixers, too. I’ve identified sugars, spices, dairy, nuts, grains, vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruits, coffee, tea, sodas, mineral waters, and ferments as the “universal” ingredients that comprise the components of the bartender’s pantry I’ve written two books that feature spirits and subordinate these zero-proof mixers. I stand by them as works of their time, but today, the pantry ingredients are ushering mixology into the twenty-first century. That’s why instead of glancing past these ingredients and their preparations, I’ve made them the focal point of this handbook.

In the following pages, you will find primers on ten different families of ingredients. Each one can be used to make cocktails and many may be served unmixed. Each family gets its own chapter, with a contemporary overview and tips for sourcing, storing, and preparing them as components of the mixers used in classic and modern cocktail recipes. I want to draw attention to how these ingredients are grown, processed at origin, and shipped. I want you to meet some of the people who bring them to us, and learn how proper tools, functional serviceware, and reliable recipes become critical building blocks of a dynamic bar program or home bar.

Each one of these ingredients has a complex history, with thorny ethical considerations and quality benchmarks. I hope you’re ready to dig into policy and politics, because we can’t talk about sugars, spices, tea, and coffee without examining the role colonialism and capitalism play in bringing these ingredients to the bar. And we can’t survey these subjects without interest in the welfare of the land, the people who farmed it, and those who profit from that work today. Reconciling this history in our mixing practices should matter to both bartenders and our guests.

This book is a celebration of the ingredients in the bartender’s pantry along with the people who help stock it. Every one of the world’s best bars is powered by a team of the world’s best prep people (many of whom tend bar, too), who check in the produce orders, make the syrups, extract juice from fruits and vegetables, monitor infusions, pick and prep all the herbs, neatly organize the storage areas, and much more before opening the bar for service. Here, we focus on their work, and in following their lead, you will not only improve your drinks mixing, but also enrich your social circle with a whole community of growers, wholesalers, and experts to help you navigate your way.

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