Last Call: Bartenders on Their Final Drink and the Wisdom and Rituals of Closing Time

Ten Speed: Crown. Oct. 2019. 288p. photos. index. ISBN 9780399582769. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780399582776. COOKING
Food writer Parsons (Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All) started with the idea of asking bartenders their final drink before the ultimate last call. He used that premise to interview bartenders around the United States. For most of them, the question of the last drink brought out reflections on bartending techniques, history, memory, and tradition. A few of the bartenders offered no last drink or suggested a drink that didn’t include alcohol, yet the question still provoked deep thoughts on one’s own mortality. Of course, if you ask about a last drink, you’d expect to make the drink, so from each bartender comes a recipe (or recipes) for the last-call drinks as well as tips for each. It should be noted that the bars Parsons visited are mainly located on the coasts (East, West, and even along the Southern coast).
VERDICT Parsons alternates between direct interviews and storytelling, which leads to a slightly inconsistent writing style that makes the book less smooth to read. Still, he manages to offer a thoughtful and enjoyable book that will delight cocktail aficionados and lovers of bars alike.

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