Unvarnished: A Gimlet-Eyed Look at Life Behind the Bar

Harper Wave. Jun. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780062899286. $27.99. COOKING
What’s it like to open a craft cocktail bar with one of the great originators of modern drinks service, Sasha Petraske, of Milk & Honey fame? Alperin has that opportunity when he partners with Petraske to open The Varnish in Los Angeles. This readable memoir follows this entrepreneurial endeavor as well as how Alperin came to bartending, while also describing the challenges and joys of working behind the bar. Alperin is not self-pitying, but aspiring bar owners will likely be daunted by the amount of work and forethought that goes into a successful hospitality venture. The book includes the 100-plus recipes that all staff at The Varnish are expected to know; home mixologists will glean several tips. Still, this volume is less about the mechanics of mixing drinks than about making an environment conducive for cocktails and socializing.
VERDICT An enjoyable read for anyone interested in cocktail culture. Alongside Jim Meehan’s Meehan’s Bartender Guide, this will certainly be of use to professionals.
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