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6 great books for cocktail lovers

As you prepare for a summer's imbibing, relax with your favorite cocktail and one of these refreshing, informative, very accessible books on beverages.

"The Negroni" (Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House, $18.99) by Gary Regan definitely will make you try this essential cocktail and, if you've had one, sample another. Equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari on ice is the basic recipe. Entertaining history, many recipes, from a respected mixologist.

"Classic Cocktails" (Sterling Epicure, $19.95) by Salvatore Calabrese, in a revised, updated edition, is the standard, go-to guide. It adds 50 recipes, a trend watch, techniques, bar-stocking advice and how to organize a cocktail party. Richly informed, very helpful.

"Bourbon Empire" (Viking/Penguin Random House, $27.95) by Reid Mitenbuler skillfully distills and combines history, politics, commentary and context for a heady, entertaining recipe that will make you appreciate "America's whiskey," even if half the companies that control it are based overseas.

"History of Wine in 100 Bottles" (Sterling Epicure, $24.95) by Oz Clarke starts in 6000 B.C. And it's about wine culture as much as specific bottles. But you do learn about plenty, from Gallo Hearty Burgundy to Antinori Tignanello, Madeira to China, synthetic corks to screw caps.

"The River Cottage Booze Handbook" (Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House, $22) by John Wright is a colorful how-to about making infused drinks, writing in appropriately spirited style.

And, to dip into at leisure: "The Essential Bar Book" (Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House, $19.99) by Jennifer Fielder, with 115 recipes and a fine glossary covering wine, spirits and cocktails.

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