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 as bored Americans tried to recreate the magic of the cocktail bar.
“We definitely saw a sales increase,” says David Kaplan, Death & Co. “We sold far more books in 2020 than in 2019 because people drank 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 began reviewing the recipes, according to reports Kaplan heard from his friends and fans. “Suddenly we heard from lots of people digging through it,” says Kaplan. “They started making every recipe in it. It was part of their COVID journey. They could not go out so they really got into cocktails. ”
From 2014 to December 2020, over 200,000 copies of “Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails” were shipped to bookstores. Over 100,000 copies of “Cocktail Codex” have been shipped since the title debuted in 2018.
Interest in sales of both Death & Co.’s first cocktail book and its sister publication, Cocktail Codex, coincided with people seeking accessible luxury during the dark days of lockdowns. If people could not sit at their favorite bar, it was a bright spot to make a signature drink with all the care of a mixologist.
Will the interest in the pandemic era of making cocktails at home become strong when bars reopen across the country? Or to put it in book terms: Will people still buy new cocktail books to make fancy drinks at home, even when the pandemic recedes?
Kaplan is optimistic, the answer is yes. The third addition to Death & Co. bogreol, “Death & Co. Welcome home” arriving in early November. “The name is appropriate at all times, but certainly for the time we are now in,” he says. “When the world reopens, it’s ‘welcome back, we miss you.’ ”
Tomen, which contains 600 recently published recipes, is as much aimed at home bartenders as it is a look at the training that the professional bartenders at Death & Co. offer. reviews. The book contains essays, sample recipes and explanations on everything from how to choose ice cream varieties to developing a drink that tastes on the palate to tips on how to make drinks for an audience. Situated alongside lush, illustrated collage-style photography in the late 60s, “Welcome home” offers an in-depth look at how to not just think like a bartender, but to make precise, beautiful cocktails like a world-class Death & Co. mixologist.
“We focused hard on this book and made sure it still felt like opening the cover of this book opens the door to your favorite cocktail bar,” says Kaplan.
Cocktail books never replace the personal bar experience, but the pandemic showed that many cocktail enthusiasts embraced the opportunity to put the work in a delicate tipple at home. A resurgence in home cocktail parties is on the horizon, even when bars reopen.
“So many people started appreciating home delivery [during the last year], ”Notes Kaplan. Books and home cocktails “never replace being out or replacing the magic and complete enveloping harmony we get at a bar in front of our bartender.” But people’s heightened understanding of what’s going on in fine cocktails will hopefully linger.
“I hope they will appreciate the book even more, and I think if we did it right, it’s still this window into this world that we love so much.”