The PDT Cocktail Book – Review

The PDT Cocktail Book
The PDT Cocktail Book

PDT (or “Please Don’t Tell”) is a very influential speakeasy-style cocktail bar in New York. Located at 113 St. Marks Place in Manhattan, the front of PDT is the Crif Dogs restaurant. To get to PDT, you pick up the phone at the phone booth on a side wall of Crif Dogs and confirm your reservation. Then the phone booth wall slides open and reveals a hidden bar with some of the finest craft cocktails in the country.

It’s kind of ironic that a hidden bar called “Please Don’t Tell” has a cocktail book. While PDT is in the speakeasy style, the secret is out and the impact of the bar and the man behind it, Jim Meehan, has been immense. The PDT Cocktail Book looks and feels a little bit like a bible, and in many ways it is. The book contains over 200 pages of cocktail recipes including both classic cocktails and modern creations. The modern cocktails come from a variety of bartenders including Meehan himself, Audrey Saunders, David Wondrich, Don Lee, Julio Bermejo, Dale DeGroff, Sean Hoard, and Lydia Reissmuller to name a few.

The cocktails in The PDT Cocktail Book are arranged alphabetically and include many of our favorite cocktails like Tommy’s Margarita, Hemmingway Daquiri, Statesman, Ti-Punch, and Negroni, along with a number of cocktails we’re eager to try. The recipes are succinct with a short, one to two sentence description and some context for the drink. Brands are specified for the spirits in drinks but no one brand feels overly dominant. It seems more that Jim Meehan is picking the best spirit for the drink here than anything else.

In addition to the cocktails, there’s a good amount of basic information that is extraordinarily useful, including everything from what you need to set up a bar, recipes for housemade mixers, and a nice succinct section on technique. What’s great about The PDT Cocktail Book is that there’s no filler here. Basic information is presented as concisely and clearly as possible, laid out in a way that it’s easy to flip back to for quick reference.

There’s also absolutely no pretentiousness in the book. Meeham has received a massive number of accolades for his work behind the bar at PDT and it’s clear none of that has gone to his head. Everything here is presented straightforwardly with a myopic focus on being an excellent resource book that gets used often. There aren’t any personal narratives or showing off in any way.

People who’ve been to PDT will appreciate a short section dedicated to Crif Dogs hot dogs, including the “secret toppings” from star chefs Wylie Dufrense, David Chang, and Daniel Humm, as well as the Crif Dog specialty the John John Deragon.

Put simply, The PDT Cocktail Book is a modern classic cocktail book. It’s the kind of book you’ll see on the back bars of most of the major craft cocktail bars, right between Jerry Thomas Bar-Tender’s Guide and Dale Degroff’s Craft of The Cocktail. If you have even a passing interest in cocktails, The PDT Cocktail Book is a must-own book.