“Words of Wisdom” and a review of Drink Lightly

I’ve been utilizing the library more and more this summer.   Even though I am requesting my books and they are standing and waiting for me on the call shelves so I just run in and run out, I am reminded of summers long ago and searching the children’s section for as many books as the librarian would let me take.

There’s also just something about the smell.  I LOVE the aroma of books and the library is obviously the repository of that smell.

The library is keeping me reading and is a means of curbing my book buying binging.   I also pick up a couple of cookbooks with every trek to the library to pick up my novels and readings for Cook the Books, Lit Happens, and other book clubs.

I’m starting a new theme here (and we will see how long it will last) by reviewing some of the latest cookbooks.  Here we go with the inaugural post and Drink Lightly by Natasha David.

About the book:

Explore the lighter side of serious cocktails with 100 recipes for creative low and no-alcohol drinks from the craft cocktail veteran behind New York City’s beloved Nitecap bar.

Drink Lightly presents a relaxed style of drinking that goes down easy but is soundly rooted in the technical precision of craft cocktails. Award-winning bartender Natasha David’s approach to low-alcohol, aperitif-style drinks goes far beyond the formulaic—bitter liqueur plus soda—and takes full advantage of an incredible and vast array of low-proof spirits, liqueurs, and wines, along with flavorful fruit and herbal infusions. The result is a collection of creative, genre-pushing drinks that surprise and delight.

Offerings are effervescent and light in effect, but complex in flavor, ranging from savory and herbal to floral and aromatic, depending on your mood. Inspired by the joyful rhythms of life and gathering, recipes include delights such as the Lillet Rouge-spiked Kitty Cat Chronicles and the Wiggle Room, a vermouth and soda on a tropical vacation. The drinks are organized by refreshing Gulpabale Thirst Quenchers that invigorate the soul, Party Starters for a crowd, Decadent Treats for some frothy indulgence, end-of-the-night Slow Sippers, and non-alcoholic pick-me-ups.

Served up with whimsy and a wink, Drink Lightly will delight novices and professionals alike with its joyful spirit and lighthearted offerings.Q&A: Drink Lightly Author Natasha David - Imbibe Magazine

About the author:

Natasha David is a German-born American bartender, mixologist, and author. In 2014, David opened the critically acclaimed cocktail bar Nitecap. She has appeared on Iron Chef America and has many other awards and honors like Zagat’s “30 Under 30” and numerous Bartender of the Year awards.


 What I thought…

I wanted to love this book. I heard an interview with David on The Splendid Table and immediately went out and found the book. The good thing is that I found it at the library (vs. rushing out and buying it like I normally do.) Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lovely book and I enjoyed the writing and David’s story.   I was excited to find some very sippable summer cocktails.

While I’m sure the cocktails are lovely, the ingredients seemed hard (for me) to source and even with caveats from David about the expense of a particular obscure bubbly wine, I felt let down. (Especially when only 1 teaspoon of said expensive particular obscure bubbly wine was used in the cocktail.)

Of course the problem is that this book is for the serious home bartender. I’m not that serious. I did enjoy the section on glassware and how she classifies all cocktails into seven categories: the Sour, the Daisy, the Highball, the Spritz, the Martini, the Old-Fashioned and the Alexander. From these seven, she lists foundational recipes that could help one mix and match and create. I also appreciated her shout out to using jams in cocktails.

There’s a lot of prep involved beyond just sourcing the ingredients. Her cocktails call for infusions and syrups like Jalapeno-Blanco Tequila, Beet Aperol, Cacao Nib Campari, Toasted Coconut Madeira, Salted Lemon-Lime Cordial, Sage White Wine, and Vermouth Limoncello. (I was actually most intrigued by this “Syrups and Infusions” section.)

I found one recipe I wanted (and felt confident) to try: “Words Of Wisdom.” It involved the aforementioned Sage White Wine, honey syrup, apricot liquor, and “Miracle Mile Bay Rum Bitters.” I used peach brandy and orange bitters b/c that’s what I have on hand. I did use sage from the garden but used only six leaves as some were huge.  (David’s original recipe calls for 10 leaves.)

Words of Wisdom

Based on a recipe from Drink Lightly

I made this b/c I could.  I adapted the original recipe with what I had.   Note that it is probably much better with the specific called-for “Miracle Mile Bay Rum Bitters.”


  • 2 oz. Sage White Wine*
  • 1/2 oz. Honey Syrup**
  • 1/2 t. peach brandy
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • tonic water
  • 3 hand-cracked ice cubes (plus more ice)
  • 1 orange section or wheel


  1. Combine the wine, syrup, brandy, and the bitters in a wine glass with the 3 hand-cracked ice cubes. Add more ice.
  2. Top with tonic water. Stir to chill.
  3. Garnish with an orange.

Yield: 1

*To make the sage wine, muddle 10 fresh sage leaves in the bottom of a large jar.  Add a bottle of dry white wine and let set for 30 minutes.  Strain and rebottle.  Good for five days.

**The honey simple syrup is 1 cup honey and 1/2 c. filtered water.  Whisk to combine until honey is dissolved.  I totally quartered this recipe because honey is precious to me.

(Note:  I realize I should have taken these pictures out in the summer sun in the garden and not in my dark library, but it was raining out the day I needed to shoot photos and sip.)

Honestly, if this had been a beverage cookbook with just the syrups and the infusions, I probably would have given it 5 stars, but that’s being a little hypocritical because one has to know how to mix them up and utilize them for the perfect cocktail.   (I did love this section though.)

I also have to acknowledge “The Celebration Never Stops” section with all the delicious non-alcoholic cocktails.  These recipes are a little more accessible (for me) but some still use exotic and hard to find (for me) ingredients like yuzu kosho.  I definitely want to try “Dreaming in Pink” with its watermelon juice, rice vinegar and basil leaves.   Now that sounds like a summer sipper!

Bottom line is that these recipes are not simple (and David acknowledges that). I would just prefer to go to a lowly-lit bar and have a master bartender make them for me.

Rating:  3 Stars (out of 5)

Again, this book is for serious home bartenders, not this lazy reader which wanted easy and simple summer sippers.

I will say that David has given us all permission to enjoy the quintessential (and often maligned) summer cocktail, the white wine spritzer.   To that I say thank you!

What’s next in the pile (all from the library)?

Look for these review shortly.

I’m linking up with Foodies Read for August.

4 comments to “Words of Wisdom” and a review of Drink Lightly

  • mae

    Great review! I almost never drink mixed drinks, only wine. So it wouldn’t be for me. I’m somewhat shocked at the idea of opening any bubbly wine to use a teaspoon full: the bubbles only last a few hours and then you have some pathetic flat stuff. It’s not like a syrup or brandy that will keep for months or even for years. It signals me that this author is not really trying to provide useful knowledge for a home audience at all, maybe just advertising her drinking establishment.

    I’m looking forward to your future cookbook reviews.

    best, mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  • […] you’ve read the first review in this series, you know I’m checking out these cookbooks from the library.   Everyday Grand will either be […]

  • A very comprehensive review. I’ll be looking for this one at the library and was able to get Everyday Grand there!

  • The great thing about getting cookbooks from the library is that you can figure out if they deserve a permanent spot on your cookbook shelf. Thanks for sharing Debra.