There's a big difference between simply pouring someone a bourbon and coke, and carefully crafting the perfect Old Fashioned. Skill, patience, ingredients — all these things go into making a cocktail memorable and delicious. In The Curious Bartender: The Artistry and Alchemy of Creating the Perfect Cocktail ($20), they dive deep into the art of mixing drinks, spotlighting an assortment of classic drinks, discussing where they came from, and exploring who invented them. Finally, they take these cocktails and reinvent them, adding new variations to bring some of these classics back to life.
If one of the things you want to be more knowledgeable about just happens to be America's favorite spirit, then American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye ($15) is a book you need to seek out. It's a handy hardcover book featuring a basic introduction to Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye made in the USA and has over 200 whiskey reviews as well, so you know what is worth tracking down. In addition to a bottle of bourbon this year, we know what we are asking for in our stocking.
For those not lucky enough to have seen every corner of the globe first-hand, National Geographic Magazine has been our window to the world through its incredible photographs covering every locale from Timbuktu to Tuvalu. And now many of the greatest photos from over a century of reporting have been reproduced in the form of National Geographic: Around The World In 125 Years ($500). This three-volume, nearly-1,500 page photographic anthology contains photos ranging from their earliest work in black-and-white autochrome to their most recent digital photography, spanning each continent. Each photo creates a portrait of life, culture, wildlife, and scenery documenting every facet of our planet, in a way only National Geographic photographers can.
Rarely do incredible performance and iconic design go hand-in-hand — but throughout its years, the British carmaker has managed to combine powerful cars with stunning aesthetics in a way that few have been able to match. Bentley: The Book ($90) chronicles nearly a century of their efforts at building unmistakeable cars, from James Bond's first, the Bentley 4½ Litre, to the modern-day marvel, the Bentley Continental GT. With beautiful photographs accompanied by detailed essays on the history of the cars, this hardcover book will be the perfect complement to any British car enthusiast's coffee table.
So maybe you own a bike — even a couple — and if you're lucky, you might have yourself a small collection of bikes. But odds are, you'll never own a complete collection of the 100 most-desired bikes of the last 100 or so years. That said, you can at least ogle them in book form with the Impossible Collection of Motorcycles: The 100 Most Coveted Motorcycles of the Twentieth Century ($600). It covers everything from the 1903 Harley-Davidson Serial #1 to the 1999 Honda NSR500 GP, with gorgeous photographs and information on each model. While it may not be as good as riding the real things, it's a pretty decent place to start.