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Cocktail and cookbook author Andre Darlington signs 'Bar Menu' at Cochon and Garden District Book Shop events | Food and drink | Gambit Weekly

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Food and drink writer Andre Darlington published his tour of the world’s favorite cocktails, “Booze Cruise,” in 2021. He has a background as a food, wine and travel writer and once owned a restaurant. He’s released a series of themed cocktail books, but his latest is a cocktail party cookbook, “Bar Menu.” It goes from nuts and olives to sandwiches and seafood dishes. Darlington will be at a book signing and dinner at Cochon on Wednesday, Nov. 9. He visits Garden District Book Shop and its adjacent Chicory House on Thursday, Nov. 10, for an event with light bites and drinks. For more information, visit

Gambit: Why did you write a cocktail food book?

Andre Darlington: In 2016, I wrote a book called “The New Cocktail Hour.” It’s about how cocktails had really changed. They had become chefy. We were in this craft cocktail movement. From that moment, it stuck in my mind that everything about cocktails had gone retro. The cocktail kitchen has changed as well. I have always wanted to write a cookbook, and it only took me seven books to get here. I came from wine writing, and there are a lot of wine and food books. What do you make for the wine you’re serving? There really wasn’t anything like that for cocktails.

Right before the pandemic, I did a ton of traveling, and that turned into a book called “Booze Cruise,” where I did essential drinks from cities around the world. I saw that not only had things changed in the US, but all these cultures where craft cocktails were new were finding traditional dishes or making stuff up to go with that. All of that is thrown into “Bar Menu.”

I went to Kyiv in 2019 because I was hearing that there was a cocktail scene going on. There are all these cool bars and speakeasies. When I traveled around the world, these Asian cities have exploded in the last 10 years. It’s because they have these youthful wealthy populations. There was so much cocktail culture, and it had become so great so fast.

Europe still heavily relies on opening a bottle of vermouth or sherry. In Asia, there’s a lot of liquor. They’ve taken on distilling. In Singapore and Bangkok, bars are distilling their own booze. They take you upstairs and show you their distillation system. You’re like, “I am going to have the hangover of my life.”

There is a cocktail culture in Lagos (Nigeria). It’s one of the largest cities in Africa and so, of course, you get cocktails. I try to be global in my outlook.

Gambit: What do you think of cocktail party fare?

Darlington: Part of the backbone of this book is saying the old cocktail party was a lot of bland food that was inspired by these places. So if you had tequila, you served Mexican dip. I am saying, hey, we’ve gotten away from that. Let’s go straight to the source. We’re not as cut off from the rest of the world anymore. I think 20 years ago, not all of these ingredients would be available. But now, you can get them.

Twenty years ago, we knew Italy, France and Spain really well. There are whole books about French aperitif culture. I wanted to explore further. Things are changing a lot. Some of these places have had cocktail culture for a really long time, like the Philippines. There was a guy who went around the world between the two world wars named Charles H. Baker, and he pointed out that Manila had some of the greatest cocktails on the planet. I think it died out for a while, but it’s back with a vengeance. Tokyo has been making great cocktails since the end of the second World War.

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Gambit: What’s your advice for throwing a cocktail party?

Darlington: I always try to demystify. I write cocktail books to let people know that you can make great cocktails at home. It’s good for the whole industry. They make better consumers. They keep people honest in a way. With this book, I would love to see people having cocktail parties again. I want it to be a book that says you don’t have to make 20 different things. You can just make dumplings and have people over and have cocktails be the focus. Make one or two things, and have a few people over and make drinks.

When I am on the road, the number one question is, “What should I get?” People worry and feel like they have to have all these bottles of liquor and wine and beer and this and that. Less is more. You can come up with a signature cocktail or two and put out a recipe card. Keep it small. You can make them their first drink and then let them serve themselves. I talk about beginners having a three-bottle bar, which is gin, a whiskey, like rye or bourbon, and these days Campari or something bitter like that. You can make a vast amount of cocktails with that. Of course, you can add a rum or tequila, but you have to start somewhere.

For food, you can go all out at the holidays, when it’s fun to do more. I don’t think you need to cook that much all the time. I say in the intro that I am pretty lazy. If you’re making cocktails, throw one thing in the oven, or put out cheese or eggs or one veggie thing and that’s fine. The first cocktail party recorded was in 1917, and it lasted one hour. Think of it that way. OK, come on, pile in everyone, have one or two drinks. It’s like visiting hours.

The overall point is, just do it. Go get three bottles and make one dish. Hopefully, it inspires someone to invite you over.