We opened the Aviary in Chicago in 2011; it was born out of our passion for innovation and challenging the status quo. We asked ourselves: “What if we approach crafting cocktails the way we approach cooking?” The result is the Aviary, a place where we leverage techniques we usually apply in our kitchens at Alinea, Next and Roister to the world of beverages.
We’ve wanted to create a book for the Aviary since we first opened. Grant recalls some of his formative years as a chef, when he was first learning his craft and was poring over massive, jaw-dropping tomes in search of knowledge. Fat, heavy, beautiful books like those by Thomas Keller or Alain Ducasse were brimming with beautiful, full-page photos that profoundly inspired him.
We’ve never seen a beverage book that compares to those iconic cookbooks. Cocktail books usually fall into a very narrow category in terms of style and design: “The Gentleman’s Guide to Cocktails”. The small, black book. Few pictures, if any. Kitschy illustrations, and recipes that are portioned for a single drink. This is due to how books are typically produced. For any book, publishers seek to ensure profit and minimize risk. This often means that the photography, design, layout, recipe structure, and printing quality are intentionally compromised.
Further, the bulk of profit generated for a book goes to the publisher; restaurant cookbooks generally only see “good publicity” for the most part. Shortly after we published our first cookbook, Alinea, we came into contact with Allen Hemberger, who was cooking some of our recipes and journaling about it along the way. Incredibly, he ended up working through the entire cookbook. When he finished, he and his wife Sarah decided to create a book about his experience. They sent the first copy to us.
As we flipped through it, we realized that maybe instead of compromising our visions for what we wanted our Aviary book to be, we could approach this whole problem from a totally different angle. We emailed Allen and Sarah and asked if they’d like to work with us to completely circumvent the current publishing system and make these books ourselves.
And...here we are.