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Thankfully, the professorial tone begins to give way in the last three chapters. In them, Mr. Barnett covers the reasons certain gin drinks took hold, the mixologists behind particular cocktails, and the ways Americans — from crooked Prohibition agents to cocktail party hostesses — left their imprint on gin culture. The material is still at times political, historical and even scientific, but it is also less densely presented and more conversational in tone.

In the end, “The Book of Gin” proves no more or less uneven than gin’s own history. Ironically, the second appendix — its very existence a testament to Mr. Barnett’s professorial thoroughness — is where the voice of a fellow gin-lover finally surfaces. It offers a selective review of a range of gins, their botanicals and the cocktails for which they are best suited — the sort of information which I suspect many readers crave from a specialist on gin. It is also the section where I, at last, met the Richard Barnett with whom it might be awfully fun to have a drink.

L. Kenna has a doctorate in American Studies from George Washington University and a bottle of Leopold’s American small batch gin in her freezer.