With New Book, Death & Co. Welcomes The Post-Pandemic Bartending Trend

With New Book, Death & Co. Welcomes The Post-Pandemic Bartending Trend

The pandemic turned everyone into home bakers, home decorators, and yes, home bartenders. It was a bit of a surprise (or maybe not) that cocktail books experienced a sales bump during the pandemic, when bored Americans sought to recreate the magic of the cocktail bar.

“We definitely saw a sales spike,” Death & Co.’s David Kaplan says. “We sold way more books in 2020 than in 2019, because people were drinking at home.”

People who owned Death & Co.’s lush eponymous cocktail book had primarily used it as a coffee table book, but with time on their hands, they started going through the recipes, according to reports Kaplan heard from his friends and fans. “All of a sudden, we were hearing from a ton of folks that they were digging through it,” Kaplan says. “They started making every recipe in it. It was part of their COVID journey. They couldn’t go out so they got really into cocktails.”

From 2014 to Dec. 2020, over 200,000 copies of “Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails” shipped to booksellers. Over 100,000 copies of “Cocktail Codex” have been shipped since that title’s debut in 2018.

The sales interest in both Death & Co.’s first cocktail book and its sister publication, Cocktail Codex, coincided with people seeking out accessible luxuries during what were the dark days of the lockdowns. If people couldn’t sit at their favorite bar, then making a signature drink with all the care of a mixologist was a bright spot.

Will the pandemic-era interest in making cocktails at home stay strong as bars reopen across the country? Or to put it in book terms, will people still want to buy new cocktail books to make fancy drinks at home, even as the pandemic recedes?

Kaplan is optimistic the answer is yes. The third entry addition to the Death & Co. bookshelf, “Death & Co. Welcome Home” arrives in early November. “The name is appropriate for any time but certainly for the time we’re now in,” he says. “With the world re-opening, it’s ‘welcome back, we miss you.’ ”

The tome, featuring 600 newly published recipes, is as much geared to home bartenders as it is a look at the training that the professional bartenders at Death & Co. undergo. The book includes essays, sample recipes and explainers on everything from how to choose ice strainers to developing a drinks tasting palate to tips on how to make drinks for a crowd. Nestled alongside lush, late-60’s collage-style illustrated photography, “Welcome Home” offers an in-depth look at how to think not just like a bartender, but to make precise, gorgeous cocktails like a world-class Death & Co. mixologist.

“We focused hard on with this book, making sure that it still felt like opening the cover to this book was opening the door to your favorite cocktail bar,” Kaplan says.

Cocktail books will never replace the in-person bar experience but the pandemic showed that a lot of cocktail enthusiasts embraced the opportunity to put the work into a delicate tipple at home. A resurgence in home cocktail parties is on the horizon, even as bars reopen.

“So many people began to appreciate home bartending [during the last year],” Kaplan notes. Books and home cocktails are “never going to replace being out, or replace the magic and that complete enveloping harmony that we get at a bar in front of our bartender.” But people’s elevated appreciation of what goes into fine cocktails will hopefully linger.

“I hope they will appreciate the book even more so, and I think if we did it right, it’s still this window into this world that we love so much.”

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