Death & Co. Scores Six-Figure Deal for Cocktail Book

death & co.Daniel Maurer

Death & Co., the perennially packed cocktail lounge on East Sixth Street, has sold its first book for what an agent in the deal confirms is over $250,000.

The as-yet untitled book will gather over 500 recipes, according to agent Jonah Straus, who said a handful of publishers were interested in it before Aaron Wehner at Ten Speed Press pre-empted an auction with a six-figure offer. (Ten Speed published the People’s Pops cookbook last month.)

Nick Fauchald, a former Food & Wine editor who founded Tasting Table, will share writing duties with David Kaplan, an owner of the bar that Mr. Fauchald said is hugely influential in the cocktail world. “When I’m researching a cocktail trend or a bunch of recipes for something and you start tracing the recipes back to their origin, more often than not it ends up at Death & Co.,” he said, citing a recent trip to a prestigious bar in Amsterdam where the barkeep surprised him with drinks from the lounge’s stable.

death & co. 2Daniel Maurer

The book, said Mr. Fauchald, will gather recipes from house mixologists over the years, including founding bartender Philip Ward, Brian Miller, Joaquin Simo, and current head bartender Thomas Waugh. It will be packaged in the style of the sultry drinks den and its menus, by the designer that has worked with Death since its opening in 2007. (In December of that year, Times critic Frank Bruni touted the place’s “sexy gloominess” along with its “long, ambitious, ever-changing cocktail list”). Mr. Fauchald hoped the tome would be a “very substantial, craveable object – something with heft and weight to it, that probably looks more like a coffee table book than a bar menu.”

The book’s agent and author stressed that it would focus on the thinking and technique behind the drinks while also being accessible. “The narrative focus of the book will be more on the philosophy of the cocktail,” said Mr. Straus. “I mean, that sounds high fallutin but certainly the public needs a book that teaches them how to think about cocktails rather than yet another compendium of recipes for the home bartender that it’s hard to find the ingredients for.”

Or has cocktail culture become overblown? Mr. Fauchald was quick to dismiss the idea, saying the craft cocktail trend had yet to hit its high watermark. “It’s now in that phase where it’s trickling down and filling in between New York and San Francisco,” he said. “Some people might be bored of it here but if you go to most other cities in this country you’re going to find a really, really excited group of mixologists.”

Death & Co. will join another local lounge, PDT, on the cocktail connoisseur’s bookshelf, and it’s a major coup. During its early years, the bar spent a good deal of time battling noise complaints and fighting for its life: in 2008, the Observer reported, it sued the State Liquor Authority, which had declined to renew its license, and filed for a court injunction preventing its landlord from evicting it. Those troubles seem to be behind it: last month, Eater reported, the bar was granted permission to close an hour later every night.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 24, 2012

An earlier version of this post misidentified the person at Ten Speed Press who acquired the book. It was Aaron Wehner, not Emily Timberlake, though Ms. Timberlake will be the book’s editor.