Have you ever forgotten the measurements or ingredients for a cocktail you want to drink and wish you had something handy as a reference? Perhaps you’re at a loss for what to do with that bottle of cherry brandy someone gave you. Or you wonder why your orange twist always looks a bit overworked. Maybe you just want advice on which tools and products are needed to set up and stock your own bar.
If you own a smartphone or iPad, knowing a reliable go-to cocktail app should help you out. But with so many apps to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones contain the features you’re looking for and are worth the download, especially with those that cost money. After giving a few a good test drive, I’ve compiled a list of notable recent releases and updates. Read on for what I’ve discovered and how to get the most from them.
Cocktails HD (iPad), Jones APR, Free
This is a more substantial iPad cousin of the popular iPod Pocket Cocktails app with better navigation and more categories, including references and unit conversions, random cocktail suggestions if you’re at a loss for ideas, and a wine pairing guide. Bonus content includes a substantial index of food recipes to pair with the drinks and wine, with instructional photos.
PROS: The Bartender! section is an informative mixology ebook that includes tools, a spirits guide, stocking tips, glassware reference, and techniques for every experience level.
CONS: Same crappy recipes as the iPhone app, which seem like they were conceived at a board meeting for a casual dining chain. Unattractive design elements.
SACRILEGE: No Manhattan in the Classics section, but there’s something called a Rugburn. Random feature brought up “Leprechaun’s Lunch,” which is a green Jell-O shot with gummy candy and vodka. List of “risque” drinks such as the “Sloe, Comfortable Screw,” as offensive in ingredients as they are in title and intention.
The Cocktail App (iPhone, iPod Touch) Moritz von Volkman, $1.99
Very clean, simple and appealing list of cocktails and ingredients.
PROS: Choose ingredients, see what can be made from them, done and done. Excellent navigation. Three versions of the Manhattan!
CONS: Cocktail list is a little too streamlined and functions are very bare bones. Best for very basic reference or someone who doesn’t like a lot of choices.
Martha Stewart Cocktails (iPhone, iPad) Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, $0.99
Attractive images and recipes for cocktails and bar snacks, grouped by category.
PROS: Gorgeous photography, good for home entertaining. In true Martha style, some cocktails require some extra homemade attention that will surely impress, such as the Sour Cherry Cordial. Includes tips, metric conversion charts, shopping lists and in some cases, back stories.
CONS: Very limited and clunky to navigate. Long and noisy intro. You have to purchase add-ons to get full recipe content, which to me is a worse scam than insider trading.
Jimmy the Bartender (iPhone, Android), Rodale, Free
Produced by Men’s Health Magazine, this is an app version of Jimmy’s bar advice column. Includes cocktail recipes arranged by spirit or situation (such as “Make me classy...”), “Eat This, Not That” bar snack damage control, tips on how to win bar games, and another “random” shakeable drink chooser.
PROS: Jimmy’s Best Bars uses your phone’s GPS to provide sound recommendations for where to drink nearby. Besides food, it also advises on which beers or cocktails will do the most carb damage and offers alternatives. The app allows users to contribute cocktail recipes, bar suggestions and rate others. Snarky language can be quite amusing.
CONS: Men’s Health ads galore can make for clunky navigation. Instant Wingman feature is just so wrong for so many reasons.
Speakeasy Cocktails (iPad), Open Air Publishing, $9.99
World-renowned bar professionals Jim Meehan and Joseph Schwartz school you with in-depth drinks history, techniques, recipes by ingredient, useful tips, and buying guides with eye-catching photos, illustrations, text and video demos.
PROS: Chock full of useful information and demonstrations for all experience levels, using concise details in approachable formats. Great navigation. It may sound expensive for an app, but consider for a mere Hamilton, you get a whole bar class experience to learn at your own pace.
CONS: Video sometimes cuts out even with strong wifi reception. Many recipes lack accompanying photos.
Liquor Cabinet (iPhone), Lavacado Studios, $0.99
Users choose from a list of bar ingredients and check off what’s in their cabinet. The Make Now feature displays what can be made using them.
PROS: Substantial alphabetical cocktail index which borders on being overwhelming. The Favorites filter helps to weed the good ones out, and you can also filter by ingredient. Handy restock reminder (that is, if you remember to check off what’s been used). Design is easy on the eyes. Once chosen, ingredients are fun to scroll through on the “shelves” of the home page.
CONS: Expandable headings usually don’t offer many choices.
HUH?: They have Zima! Do they even still make that stuff?
SACRILEGE: Cabinet list does not have Bourbon or Rye sections. Tequila section doesn’t break down by age.
The Cocktail Catalog (iPhone), Striped Candy, $0.99
Basically works the same as the Liquor Cabinet, also looks conspicuously similar.
PROS: Decent bartending tips and tools guide. Tons of recipes with cute icons. Fun slot machine-style haphazard drink mixer. The many careless misspellings, including a subject heading of “Indredients” are sort of entertaining.
CONS: Poor and awkward navigation.
HUH?: Again with Zima as an ingredient (or “indredient”) option, also Mad Dog 20/20, Thunderbird and Wormwood. Again, no Bourbon (but they have Rye).
SACRILEGE: Seriously, they couldn’t bother to proofread before releasing it? It should be free.