Cocktail Apps Put to the Test: "Speakeasy Cocktails"

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Sep 2, 2011 6:20PM

2011_9_speakeasy_ccktls_app.jpg"Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from the Modern Mixologists" is an equally handsome and handy new app for the iPad ($9.99 from the Apple App Store) created by how-to app producer Open Air Publishing in collaboration with bartenders Jim Meehan (of New York City's PDT) and Joseph Schwartz (of NYC's Little Branch). Always on the hunt for new and effective educational tools to help us up our game at the home bar, we've been pinching and swiping our way through "Speakeasy Cocktails" recently and have found it to be one of the best of its kind we've seen thus far.

Pretty much every cocktail app we've test driven has recipes - in fact, some of the more basic models are just that: searchable recipe databases. "Speakeasy Cocktails" has as deep an inventory of recipes as any other out there, from "master drinks" like the Julep and Fizz, to classics every bartender should know, to what the authors have called the "new standards" - which are contributions from today's wave of creative modern mixologists. The makers of "Speakeasy Cocktails" have done an outstanding job sourcing intriguing recipes from craft-cocktail bars all over world, including Chicago's own Sable Kitchen & Bar, where the cocktail program is run by Mike Ryan. (Ahem, shameless plug.) If the app was simply this collection of modern recipes, it would be a valuable resource for the price. But the recipe section is also joined by three chapters' worth of instructional material covering bar tools, techniques, and the spirits, ice, mixers, sweeteners and bitters that together make cocktails. There's also a section (shown in the screen shot above) with tips on stocking your home bar. Plus, here and there, Meehan and Schwartz appear alongside the text in short, easy-to-follow video tutorials that demonstrate proper shaking, stirring and the like - a great advantage over paper cocktail guides.

The app features all the expected tools and functionality - you can search, jump between chapters, bookmark pages, etc. But it's also nice to look at and a pretty good read, to boot. A buying guide in the appendix offers direct links to online stores selling bar tools and glassware. And for the traveling drinker, there's even a world map of contemporary speakeasies, with pins covering North America, Europe and Australia (Chicago's The Violet Hour being one of them). Nice to have, sure, but real the beauty of "Speakeasy Cocktails" is that you can now enjoy all those fine, far-flung libations from the comfort of home.