Sunday, November 29, 2015

Drinking the Devil's Acre by Duggan McDonnell - Take a Look

Drinking the Devil's Acre - A Love Letter from San Francisco and Her Cocktails, by Duggan McDonnell, was a gift from my friend Molly.  Duggan is her nephew.  It is not your average book and not something I would typically even look at.  In fact, it's a little hard to describe. The only way to do it justice is by quoting the inside cover of the book.  It's a little long, but I think it's the best way.

The Devil's Acre was a single, bar-filled block within San Francisco's infamous Barbary Coast that boasted the wickedest, wildest saloons in America.  A few short blocks away, marble-floored drinking palaces poured the high art of the cocktail.  From this, San Francisco's  electrifying nightlife was born; and now, a few generations later, the city's farm-to-glass cocktails have never tasted better.

Quench your thirst with these tales and recipes from a city devoted to drink.  Duggan McDonnell (part culinary anthropologist and part whimsical professor) masterfully weaves essays on prominent spirits, insights into San Francisco's historic love affair with amaro, and recipes for his Bartender's Secret Formulas along with 25 iconic cocktail recipes made famous by the City by the Bay, from the legendary Pisco Punch and the ingenious Mai Tai to the Gold Rush-era Sazerac and the more modern-day Lemon Drop.  An additional 45 recipes show the evolution of these classic elixirs over time, resulting in such liquor-splashed favorites as the Revolver and the Last Word.

Through the lens of the Devil's Acre, we see that San Francisco is and always will be one long, unending romp of bottles popping - a party to which the whole world is invited. 

See what I mean?  I would have never figured out how to describe this book.  So we were in Kepler's last night, and they had a table with gift-type books, including Drinking the Devil's Acre.  There was a stack of them, and one was wrapped.  It made me realize that this is the perfect gift.  It combines:

1.  History
2.  Old-timey pictures
3.  Recipes for a whole variety of cocktails
4.  Pictures of each cocktail
5.  A chronology - from 1579 (with Sir Francis Drake) to 2010

This is a super cool book - and I don't even drink!  Let me wrap this up with the inscription at the beginning of the book:

This book is dedicated to everyone everywhere who has ever enjoyed a cocktail in San Francisco.  You're always welcome to visit us again, to step inside our doors, sit on our bar stools, and imbibe away the joys of the day.


  1. My book club is into infusing liquor and making mixed drinks so I bet a lot of them would love this book.

    1. It really is a great gift. Just the pictures of SF in the early 1900s makes it worthwhile.