It’s cocktail season, and The New Cocktail Hour: The Essential Guide to Hand-Crafted Drinks is ready to hit the shelves and countertops. This book, written by brother-sister duo André and Tenaya Darlington, published by Running Press, and photographed by Philadelphia food photographer Jason Varney, features classic recipes from every era, presented in a fresh, contemporary style.
Jason had shot a number of cookbooks already for Running Press, including Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, which was also written by Tenaya, so they met up for this project like old friends. They decided, with designer Joshua McDonnell, to show at least 60 recipes, as well as some atmospheric settings for covers and openers.
The New Cocktail Hour offers cocktail categories such as “Literary Cocktails” and “Five Speakeasy Drinks to Make Before You Die,” in addition to offering some historical background on certain cocktails and pairing suggestions in categories like “Cocktails for Oysters.” It does all this in a way that caters to the home-cook. “We’re not bartenders…we’re lushes,” say Tenaya and Andre in their book intro, insisting that this book is for people who just want to make great cocktails in their homes. Because of this, Jason had to make sure that the photos he was taking depicted the drinks in a warm, welcoming way—showing off their bright colors and delicious flavors rather than leaning towards the darker, late-night vibe so many cocktail books display.
To accomplish the natural home-kitchen look for the book, they shot in Jason’s very own natural light studio. Using this natural light space and incorporating fresh ingredients into the images fits in with Jason’s typical food photography style, always showing the food with its authentic bright colors and rich textures. Prop stylist Kristi Hunter brought in surfaces, backgrounds and glassware to fill out the sets and design the space. Then they spent five days total over the course of several weeks to make their magic.
Jason was thrilled with the photos that came out of the shoot, and really pleased with how they translated to the book as a whole. “I was blown away,” he says. “The book printed beautifully, and its smaller size makes it practical to keep handy by your home bar.”
The New Cocktail Hour: The Essential Guide to Hand-Crafted Drinks is available from Amazon and everywhere cookbooks are sold—and good thing, because our office picnic party is just around the corner, and we all deserve some mint juleps!
To view more of Jason’s work, visit varneyphoto.com.