While great apps have been designed for just about anything you might conceivably want to do—park a car, play DJ, stargaze—somehow "making a good drink" fell off the list. Cocktail geeks have been left in a kind of app ghetto, fending for themselves with iPhone applications seemingly cooked up by '90s-era bartending-school instructors whose specs for an Old Fashioned include things like seltzer and muddled cherries. Want to know how to make a White Gummy Bear? There is, I'm sorry to say, an app for that.
Luckily, that's all about to change. "Bartender's Choice" ($2.99), a new app from Milk & Honey bartender legend Sammy Ross—inventor of the Penicillin and 2011's American Bartender of the Year—is now available for download on iTunes. This is the first cocktail app truly aimed at the drinkers and home bartenders who cut their own ice, juice their own fruit, and go weak in the knees for a perfectly curled orange twist. As the name indicates, the premium feature of the app is its ability to replicate the conversation you might have with a real-life bartender at a place like the Varnish or Little Branch. Plug in choices from categories such as Alcohol, Sensation, Style, and Extra, and a few seconds later the algorithm spits out a couple of suggestions. Most of the time it's right on the money. When I selected Bourbon, Refreshing, Shaken (Up), and Mint (for each of the preceding categories, respectively), the app suggested five very appropriate drinks, including a Mint Julep, a Whiskey Smash, and a Kentucky Maid (which is precisely the one I was craving), as well as instructions on how to make each.
An auxiliary section called Minor Details contains short, efficient instructions on things like jiggering, making syrups, and how to shake and stir like a professional bartender. But to my mind, the app's best resource is its curated A-to-Z library of more than 400 cocktails, classics and contemporary classics, each worthy of quaffing at least once. By the time you scroll through the Bs, you'll be reaching for your shaker. It's like tapping into a Milk & Honey bartender's memory—all the recipes that the guy (or girl) across the stick at that infamous LES ur-speakeasy has at their fingertips when making a recommendation. The page for each cocktail features a beautifully shot photo of the drink, ithe recipe and instructions, and a short story behind its development, typically including who invented it and where. It's a nice bit of information to drop as you set down a freshly made drink (on a napkin, mind you) in front of your guest. Come to think of it, if you're adept enough at hiding your iPhone and you can dial up the right music and lower the lights, you might just trick them into thinking they're not so far from Milk & Honey territory themselves.
—Christopher Ross (@cgallagherross) is assistant editor at Details