Book Review: Spirits of Latin America: A Celebration of Culture and Cocktails with 100 Recipes by Ivy Mix
In search for a cocktail recipe (preferably with tequila) to celebrate a Covid inspired birthday/anniversary I came across this book of which upon opening it I assumed it would mostly be a collection of cocktail recipes. Little did I know that Ms. Ivy Mix was about to take me on a journey through all of Mexico, the Caribbean and South America on the history and culture of the makings of tequila, mezcal, rum, cachacas, pisco and many other Latin-based spirits derived from agave, sugarcane and grapes. If you love exploring the world of cocktail mixology this book will open your eyes to new spirits less known in the US yet worthy of your taste buds.
First a Bit about the Author
Ivy Mix is a renowned American female bartender, having won countless awards for her magic mixing spirits and well known for popularizing the use of Mezcal in the US and other Latin Spirits. She is Co-Owner and Head Bartender of Leyenda, a pan-Latin cocktail bar in Brooklyn, New York, recipient of a 2019 James Beard nomination for Outstanding Bar Program. She co-founded Speed Race – a national cocktail competition that creates a platform for female bartenders, having raised over $1,000,000 for breast cancer. At the age of 19 she visited Guatemala where she learned the wonders of Mezcal and since has journeyed through all of Latin America learning the craft of cocktails and the ancient ways of how these spirits are distilled.
Ivy is both a storyteller and mixologist as she weaves both history and culture into her 100 cocktail recipes. The book is well-researched and at times blunt on the how both slavery and colonization have impacted these countries’ economy. She does not shy away from presenting the injustices to farmers who are being squeezed financially while chipping away at the ancient ways in which they cultivate and distill Latin spirits. Her ability to integrate story telling intertwine with historical facts and a wonderful complement of beautiful photos to help you fully imagine her experience is awe-inspiring. My immediate reaction is to want to follow in her footsteps, to learn firsthand what she has been so willing to share.
The book which is part history and part recipes is well-organized as she cleverly divides the book based on the agricultural origins of these Latin spirits —- agave, sugarcane and grapes– providing both a historical and contemporary overview of how the cultivation of these sprits have changed and have affected farmers, communities, and more importantly centuries of culture. The actual cocktail recipes are quite interesting as they integrate Ivy’s own American bar-tending experience with that of Latin America.
If you love making cocktails buy this book, if you love history buy this book and if you love traveling buy this book! What more can I say other than I plan to visit the Leyenda Bar post-COVID to drink up and hopefully meet Ivy. If you like to buy the book click here
In celebration of my birthday and the first-year anniversary of my blog, I have chosen the cocktail Brooklyn Burro sharing the recipe via live video on Facebook and Instagram (Yup! Birthday COVID celebration). Click here to watch the 10-minute video. If you are interested in the recipe, you can download it from the blog’s Gratis/Free section.