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Book review

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Shaken & Stirred: Douglas Ankrah’s Cocktails

Douglas Ankrah

Kyle Cathie, £14.99

ISBN 1-85626-566-8


This book appears to be aimed mostly at the home bar market, but owing to the credentials and experience of its author, Douglas Ankrah, owner of London bars Lab and Townhouse and consultant to many others, most of the drinks would hold their own behind any top cocktail bar.

Ankrah has produced a book of recipes that are relatively easy to reproduce without dumbing down in terms of ingredients. There are lots of fresh fruit imbibitions – everything from melon and strawberries to kumquats and mangoes – and where less well-known spirits and liqueurs are listed they come with a basic explanation, making it possible for the more sparsely stocked bar to improvise. I liked the fact, too, that the recipes are bolstered with beautifully styled photographs that show just what great drinks should look like.

Before getting down to the recipes, Shaken & Stirred has a series of short introductory sections on tools of the trade – for instance, the obligatory glassware, equipment and methods pages – but Ankrah also devotes two pages to the importance of ice. It’s an aspect of drinks-making that is often under-considered, so I’m pleased to see it discussed.

Similarly, too, garnishes are covered in some detail. It’s very important that drinks should look as good as they taste and, alongside an overview of garnishing fashion over the past 20 years, Ankrah stresses the importance of dressing a drink appropriately without going over the top: elderflowers when you’re using elderflower cordial, an apple fan for an apple cordial-based cocktail.

Ankrah has also covered the main spirit categories with some brief explanation, providing a bit of insider knowledge for the budding bartender, but stopping short of getting overly technical.

The heart of Shaken & Stirred is its recipe chapters, and Ankrah has divided these into easy-access sections such as “Collinses, Breezes and Martinis”. By highlighting these cocktail families he shows that a simple variation on an established recipe can create an entirely new drink, and therefore encourages experimentation.

With so many great drinks on the lists at his bars it is only natural that there should be a chapter featuring some of them (“Lab and Townhouse drinks”). Many of the recipes have useful notes, either describing their characteristics or giving some background information on how they were devised.

In another chapter, Ankrah gives a good nod to the classic cocktail recipes and includes some of the world’s more famous cocktails and the best places to drink them; for instance, Bellinis at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Daiquiris at El Floridita in Havana and Singapore Slings at Raffles hotel in Singapore.

Cleverly, his non-alcoholic cocktail section, with drinks all named after Bond girls, shows that cocktails can be themed – sometimes a little on the cheesy side – without being tacky.

Overall, I would say that in Shaken & Stirred Ankrah has written a book that is accessible to the novice but also one that that may teach the odd old dog a new drink or two.

– Dan Warner, bar manager, Thyme at the Hospital, London

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