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Book review: Slippery Tipples by Joseph Piercy

Book review: Slippery Tipples by Joseph Piercy
Slippery Tipples
Joseph Piercy
History Press
RRP £9.99
A lively, lovely little tome, 'Slippery Tipples' is written with wit by an obvious bon viveur, and punches well above its diminutive physical weight in terms of content. Joseph Piercy's pocket-sized volume is, quite simply, an utter delight.
The book bills itself as 'a guide to weird and wonderful spirits and liqueurs', and indeed features a plethora of esoteric beverages. It's unlikely even the most learned, well-travelled connoisseur will have encountered all the drinks detailed here, each with relevant history, flavour notes, recipes and offbeat trivia.
Entries are listed, in highly opinionated voice, by country of origin, roving from the Balkans to South Africa via Japan and Mexico. There's a mischievous tone to Piercy's narrative- one imagines the author at the bar, glass in hand and a twinkle in his eye.
'Slippery Tipples' undeniably chronicles the world's lesser known spirits, but not to the the exclusion of the classics. Thus, we find Drambuie nestled in amongst Ly Shan, Vana Tallinn and Patxaran- but even for the most well-known, the book delivers a refreshing appraisal peppered with anecdotes. Retro illustrations add to the charm, rendered in black and white by Aubrey C. Smith.
Recipes are gathered from sources as diverse as the drinks themselves- from the Soviet-era 'Hammer & Sickle' to the literal fireworks of mixologist Alex Schultz's 'Backdraft' . The book closes with a chapter on re-creating spirits at home- some, such as the Italian Fragola, eminently achievable by the amateur, others, like the South American Chicha de Jora, strictly for the enthusiast with time on his hands.
An unassuming little title in a retro dust jacket, 'Slippery Tipples' gives away little about the treasures to be found inside. It's a rare treat for a book on a niche subject matter to be simultaneously so authoritative and thoroughly engaging- and, for that alone, 'Slippery Tipples' is surely worthy of being deemed a true almanac.
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25 February 2011
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