If you couldn’t guess from its hefty price tag and page count, Vincent Gasnier’s Drinks is a coffee-table book—and what a book it is! Big, splashy and colorful, Drinks is a handsome, beautifully printed volume that perfectly reflects DK Publishing’s typically high production values. What’s more, this isn’t some pretty but empty-headed picture book to be flipped through once and ignored. It’s actually more like an encyclopedia, divided into six sections (wine, spirits, liqueurs, cocktails, beer and cider) and crammed with interesting information throughout.
Holding forth on all types of alcoholic beverages is a tall order, but the author is eminently qualified for the task. Gasnier is a certified drink expert, who became in 1997 the youngest recipient of the title, “Master Sommelier.” He trained in Paris, polishing his craft at much-lauded restaurants such as Laurent and Jules Verne. Along the way, he earned the Ruinart Sommelier of the Year and the Dom Perignon awards. In short, he knows from whence he speaks—or in this case, pours.
The information is smartly presented and quite extensive. Consider the beer section, which contains historical background on beer’s origins, an overview of the world’s great beer regions, a chart outlining the 22 unique styles of beer, advice on how to store beer properly, tips on matching foods with beer, a guide to tasting and appreciating beer, and much, much more. And Ian O’Leary’s bold and exquisite photography—much of it showcased in large-format presentation—is the perfect mixer for Gasnier’s text.
Of course, any book that sets out to chronicle the entire world of drinks is bound to attract criticism. Certain beers and ales are omitted (What, no Tiger Beer from Singapore? No Warsteiner?), and amateur mixologists will probably know of concoctions that failed to find their way into the book’s collection of mixed drink recipes. Such quibbles should be expected for any book claiming to be “the definitive all-in-one illustrated guide.” The fact is, it’s difficult to imagine a book coming closer to that lofty mark than Drinks, that rare breed of coffee-table book that’s as rewarding to read as it is pleasant to regard.