The annual challenging arc of gift giving, during this season of celebration, is well along the way. Likely, we have by now a good idea of recipients, unless, of course, the dreaded unexpected gift appears out of nowhere from someone not on our list – forcing us into defensive action by heading to the mall or searching our stash of previously received gifts that were waiting for the correct re-gifting time and response.

Mostly for friends and relatives who make the “tier-one” cut, we should avoid purchasing and presenting items that are just plain wrong – such as any personal care device featured on late-night television, kitchen or household cleaning appliances, intimate clothing usually worn under everything else, or inappropriate party supplies such as ice cube trays that produce frozen water in the shape of a body part. 

By the same token, there are gift items that are right, and these usually include a fine bottle of wine or spirits of the type you have seen your giftee enjoy, any fine food item that requires no preparation but comes festooned in holiday wrap, or maybe a book.

Books, the old-style analog versions, are usually appreciated at the time of unwrapping. What happens the following week is neither here nor there since you have done the gifting deed and are now actually “off the hook.” And, in truth, many of us have far too many books. To some of us, there is no such thing.

The reality, however, is that there are many great volumes being produced all the time, covering all sorts of subject matters likely to be of interest to our intended recipient. Despite best efforts, the digital age has not eliminated a human’s love of books. Truth be told, books today are a bigger category than ever before. Oh, yes, there are digital editions perfect for electronic reading devices but the real “analog” deal is still appreciated and enjoyed. 

"The Old-Fashioned"  – Robert Simonson

"A Proper Drink" – Robert Simonson

Both books by this highly entertaining author read like novels. They are not all about recipes, although those are present. The stories of the history, the people, the ingredients and the equipment are threaded through the various periods when the cocktail-earth was young.

"To Have and Have Another"Philip Greene

Ernest Hemingway’s cocktails, both literary and in real-life, are featured in vivid fashion, recalling a talented man who was not just of his time, he was his time. The story of a life writ large.

"The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail" Philip Greene

The creation of the Manhattan changed everything about cocktails. And Greene, an unabashed lover of all things New Orleans, even alludes to the fact that the drink, while created in the place of its name, may have been invented by a New Orleanian.

"The New Single Malt Whiskey" – Carlo DeVito

The largest such project undertaken about the subject. 623 pages. DeVito leaves no grain of peat or blade of wheat unturned in this in-depth page-turner which answers every question, no matter how remote or trivial. Places and products around the world are named.


Books that I am proud to recommend every year:

"The Wine Bible"Karen MacNeil

"The Oxford Companion to Wine"Jancis Robinson (updated 2016)

"Grapes & Wines"Oz Clarke

"Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting"George Taber

"Wine and War: The French, The Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure"Donald and Petie Kladstrup

"Windows on the World Complete Wine Course"Kevin Zraly

"The Craft of the Cocktail"Dale DeGroff


A good run-down, if I do say so myself. We are literally awash in books about mixed drinks, wine and service of beverages – so choose wisely. Some books are very pretty but have no substance. Others are perfect if you are going for your Master’s Degree.

I like books that relate history as a story, and entertain along the way. When the book’s enjoyment is enhanced with a cocktail or a glass of wine at your side, all the better.




Read Happy Hour here on every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored, at Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life" every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcasted episodes are available for viewing at