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WFAEats: When Less Is More

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In a world of over-the-top cocktails, a new trend is brewing: simpler drinks made from fewer ingredients, and with lower levels of alcohol.

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Cocktail maven Maggie Hoffman has written a brand-new book, The One Bottle Cocktail: More than 80 Recipes with Fresh Ingredients and a Single Spirit. It hits the sweet spot for aficionados who want tasty, modern drinks but don’t always have an assortment of liqueurs, vermouths, or hard-to-find ingredients on hand. “There’s no Amaro, no aperitif wines, no Absinthe. Just one bottle of booze…and ingredients you can find at your favorite grocery store.”

The book is divided into chapters by spirit, so it’s easy for readers to flip to their favorites and proceed accordingly. Hoffman includes simple recipes to craft DIY versions of the flavored syrups that can be pricey to buy when stocking a home bar. Check out the author’s version of a classic Sidecar cocktail that swaps out Cointreau for apricot jam.

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Drew Lazor and the editors of Punch take a different approach with Session Cocktails: Low-Alcohol Drinks for Any Occasion. The book contains more than 50 recipes for “low proof drinks that refresh and intrigue without sacrificing flavor or integrity.” The concept: cocktails that allow drinkers to leave a session of drinking – think a brunch or baby shower – much less likely to be inebriated than they would following a night of pounding down drinks designed to maximize the bang for your buck.

A concise cocktail history ties the rebirth of session cocktails to the end of the “Fuzzy Navel-heavy 1980s,” when mixologists began digging back into historical recipes for cups, cobblers, and other such concoctions. That has led to a new era of lighter cocktails with inventive flavors derived from artful combinations rather than high proof. Starting with the “session” versions of a Margarita, Manhattan, or Dark ’n’ Stormy is an easy way to try out this trend.

If perusing and choosing from among the slew of new books about cocktails and drinking becomes overwhelming, there’s a “lighter” tome to take care of that, too. Drinking Distilled: A User’s Manual by Jeffrey Morgenthaler isn’t just a clever title. It’s fun and fast reference of history, lore, and etiquette that includes offbeat but useful tips on such topics as “Drinking at the Office” (see: co-workers, clients, your boss), and the heretofore unspoken rules of what, where, and when to drink (see: “Once the sun goes down, you can’t drink a Bloody Mary in public”). Especially helpful are the hints on bar behavior and getting what you want from your bartender. Do say: “I’d like something low-alcohol and refreshing.” Do not say: “What should I have?”

Wine or whiskey, sake or sherry, shaken or stirred – it’s the season to lighten up when lifting a glass. Enjoy!

Amy Rogers writes WFAEats, a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and tackle the meatier side of the food scene in and around Charlotte.

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