A cocktail and a cookbook: Our favorite food and drink titles of 2014 

Tasty Tomes

Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton (576 pages, Random House) The notoriously prickly chef refuses to dumb it down. A spellbinding glimpse into the creation of perfection, though not so useful as a guide for home cooking.

Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts: The Recipes of Del Posto's James Beard Award-Winning Pastry Chef by Brooks Headley (288 pages, W.W. Norton and Co.) The punk-rock drummer who's also a pastry savant assembled this book full of truly creative sweets (and tour diaries).

A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes From My World Travels by Kim Sunee (240 pages, Andrews McMeel) A jealousy-inducing romp through luxurious meals eaten and cooked in Paris, Scandinavia, Seoul, Louisiana and Tuscany.

What to Bake and How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (240 pages, Phaidon Press) Charmingly photographed in the lay-flat mode beloved on Pinterest, this guide for inexperienced bakers soothes newbie anxiety without insulting their intelligence.

Baked Occasions: Desserts for Leisure Activities, Holidays and Informal Celebrations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (272 pages, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) The chefs offer up cakes, cobblers, pies and cookies for every holiday on the calendar.

Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts by Aglaia Kremez (256 pages, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) Instead of nose-to-tail, think of it as root-to-shoot: a deep dive into the Mediterranean diet.

Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte (704 pages, Phaidon Press) The impressively large volume is not merely a guide to cuisine from every region of Mexico, it's stuffed with gorgeous photos and beautifully designed as well – the perfect gift.

Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook With 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes by Dana Cowin (320 pages, Ecco) Editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine admits she's a terrible cook; many celebrated chefs spring to her aid.

The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries by Ben Towill, Phil Winser, Nick Wilber and Julia Turshen (224 pages, Rizzoli) "Vegetable-focused," but not exclusively vegetarian, cuisine from the celebrated New York-via-London restaurant.

Bombay Lunchbox by Carolyn Caldicott (128 pages, Frances Lincoln) The history and practice of tiffin, the Indian midday meal, with more than 50 recipes for portable feasts.

Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal by Peter Miller (160 pages, Harry N. Abrams) A delightfully precise and mildly eccentric take on cooking and eating with co-workers.

All or Nothing: One Chef's Appetite for the Extreme by Jesse Schenker (272 pages, Dey Street Books) Liked Kitchen Confidential? Add one more to the chefs-with-substance-abuse-issues-memoir stack.

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg (256 pages, Simon & Schuster) The work of a restaurant mirrors the work of a marriage: a blend of exasperation and affection.

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney (240 pages, Ballantine Books) A juicy plate's-eye view of what exactly it takes to get your restaurant meal to the table.

Liquor Lore

Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, With More Than 500 Recipes by David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Alex Day (320 pages, Ten Speed Press) An ode to cocktail culture in a gorgeous, coffee-table-worthy volume.

Whiskey Cocktails: Rediscovered Classics and Contemporary Craft Drinks Using the World's Most Popular Spirit by Warren Bobrow (160 pages, Fair Winds Press) Mind-bogglingly creative recipes, all based on brown hooch.

The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival by Matt Teacher (364 pages, Cider Mill Press) A survey of the spirit once known as "mother's ruin," from 18th-century London to today's craft distillers.

Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times by Michael Dietsch (224 pages, Countryman Press) Compendium of recipes for drinking vinegars and cocktails, both alcoholic and not.

The 12 Bottle Bar: A Dozen Bottles, Hundreds of Cocktails, a New Way to Drink by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson (416 pages, Workman Publishing Co.) A bar-building tool kit for minimalists.

The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler (288 pages, Chronicle Books) A hands-on handbook for perfectionists.

Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail by Dave Arnold (416 pages W.W. Norton) A by-the-numbers how-to guide for obsessives.

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