In 2000, When Sasha Petraske opened Milk & Honey, his now-legendary cocktail bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he shifted cocktail culture in the United States, resurrecting pre-prohibition concoctions served in a speakeasy setting. He died suddenly in 2015 at the age of 42, and the cocktail world mourned, with the New York Times obituary calling Petraske’s role in the modern cocktail revival “difficult to overstate.” At the time, Petraske was working on his first cocktail recipe book, and with the help of his wife Georgette Moger-Petraske and the legions of bartenders who were schooled under his tutelage, the book was completed, and will be released by Phaidon on October 31.
The book, titled Regarding Cocktails, includes 85 cocktail recipes, as well as stories and recollections from the bartenders Petraske trained. According to Phaidon's executive commissioning editor for cookbooks Emily Takoudes, the publisher began to explore the idea of a cocktail recipe book several years ago, and after meeting with Petraske in November 2014, developed the concept and laid the groundwork for the book—which would be an “accessible and beautiful book that would be for the home bartender, and also a reference for the professional community,” said Takoudes.
“Before Sasha’s passing we had worked closely on the content that he wanted to include, the ways in which the book would be organized, the size of the book, how he wanted it to feel in a user’s hands,” said Takoudes. After he died, the team at Phaidon and Moger-Petraske reoriented the book, using his original vision to guide the process. “We were...fortunate to have [Sasha’s] tight-knit bartender community fully embrace the project, and in the book they share stories and cocktail recipes, including many of Sasha's original recipes that he had taught them,” said Takoudes. “And instead of the traditional photographs of cocktails accompanying each recipe, we wanted a visual element that would be unique, like Sasha, and commissioned architectural-like diagrams.”
The title marks new territory for Phaidon as the publisher’s first cocktail recipe book, and is a part the company’s larger interest in growing its cocktail and beverage list. “There is so much exciting work happening in this area and an eager audience that wants to learn more,” said Takoudes. “So we made an active decision to commission more beverage books.” In 2017, Phaidon will be publishing Where Bartenders Drink, edited by Adrienne Stillman, and Where to Drink Coffee, edited by Liz Clayton and Avidan Ross.
The publisher’s first beverage book, Food & Beer by Daniel Burns & Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso (of Luksus and Torst in Brooklyn), was released in May. “It was an exciting concept led by the idea that beer could be elevated to the level of wine in fine dining,” said Takoudes. “That began the new category for us and we started to think about other unique approaches to this category. It was around that time that we simultaneously explored the idea of a cocktail recipe book, which led to Regarding Cocktails.”
The launch event for Regarding Cocktails will be held at the John Dory in New York City, where Petraske acted a bar consultant (his name still appears on the bar menu). Phaidon publicity director Meg Parsont said that the publisher is focusing on "people and places deeply connected to Sasha."