A Kitchen Confidential
for the cocktail profession, Unvarnished is a fly-on-the-wall narrative peek at the joys, pains, and peculiarities of life “behind the stick.”
When it opened a decade ago, the acclaimed Los Angeles speakeasy The Varnish—owned, designed, and managed by award-winning cocktail aficionado Eric Alperin—quickly became the stylish standard bearer for modern bars. Unvarnished is a candid, voice-driven, no-holds-barred look at the workings of a bar, and the foundation of The Varnish’s success: attention to hospitality and an abiding belief in the nobility of service.
Alperin and veteran bartender and writer Deborah Stoll push back against the prevailing conceit that working in the service industry is something people do because they failed at another career. They offer fascinating meditations on ice as the bartender’s flame; the good, the bad, and the sad parts of vice; one’s duty to their community as a local; the obsessive, compulsive deliberations of building a bar (size matters); lessons from Sasha Petraske—Eric’s late partner, mentor, and the forefather of the modern day classic cocktail renaissance—and the top ten reasons not to date a bartender. At the book’s center are the 100 recipes a young Jedi bartender must know before their first shift at The Varnish, along with examples of building drinks by the round, how to Mr. Potato Head cocktails, and what questions to ask when crafting a Bartender’s Choice.
A sexy, gritty, honest look at the glamour-less work of a glamorous job, written with the intimate honesty of The Tender Bar, the debauched inside view of Kitchen Confidential, and the social commentary of Waiter Rant, Unvarnished will take its place among these classics of the service set.