I’ve written a number of reviews of cocktail apps on the iPhone, and I’ve got more to cover, but I was especially interested when Jimmy Patrick, one of my fellow elite, chair-borne, cocktail commandos (i.e. cocktail bloggers) gave me a heads up on his new entry to the race, 101 Cocktails.
Jimmy’s position is that too many cocktail compendiums (iPhone, online, and print) get obsessed with the number of recipes they offer, or to be charitable, they crave comprehensiveness. While there is a place for that, I have certainly noticed that my main problem with most apps out there is that a complete database is usually too large to be wieldy. Here’s Jimmy’s thoughts on numbers:
Working in a bar, as a professional bartender, you probably need 50 drink recipes on the fly. When you’re entertaining at home, you probably need to have about ten or twenty “go-to” favorites that you can whip up and impress your guests.
Somewhat arbitrarily (the best numbers are usually arbitrary), Jimmy decided to come up with a list of 101 cocktail recipes everyone needs, and with which anyone could survive on a well-stocked desert island. And he then put said recipes into a handy iPhone App for easy reference. My little desert island analogy falls down here, because while well-stocked desert islands are rare, desert islands with charging stations are damn near non-existent.
First, let’s examine Jimmy’s list…. French 75, Martini, Manhattan, Cosmopolitan, Sidecar…. Ah! Pegu! Yep. It’ll do.
Actually, it’s a fabulous list. There isn’t one
essential I could think of that is missing. As I said, Jimmy is a pro and a connoisseur in one package. Armed with this app, you can get what you want from/torture any bartender you like in furtherance of quenching your thirst as you like. The recipes are accompanied by good photography, so 101 Cocktails is pretty to use too.
The conclusion here is that the content is top notch. It won’t help you with obscure stuff, but that is not its plan.
Next, let’s look at the interface. I hope Jimmy does well with this project, so he’ll have an incentive to do a version 2.0. The app is certainly usable, and Jimmy clearly learned from others who came before, so it avoids some of the very annoying problems other apps have. Its mild hiccups should not deter you from buying it. But I’ll list them here in the interests of fairness, and also so I can warn you of a few and tell you how to navigate around them. First off, the default view is by individual recipe. Beautiful, but not the most useful. To get to the list view, you have to click on the button that looks like the iPhone’s default email item button. When you click on it, you can either email the current drink, or go to the list page. It took me a while to figure this out.
In portrait orientation, you can flick from one cocktail to the next, like CoverFlow, or you can shake the phone and get a random drink.
This brings up two things. First, if you drop the phone in your pocket while you work, it’ll activate the random shake function. Grrrr. Second, I had the app for a few days before I noticed that it has a landscape view as well! In portrait, you must tap the
i button to bring up the ingredients and instruction popup. In landscape, the info is there full time.
The app lets you rate each drink, and gives you a separate listing of the drinks according to your ratings. I like this better than the usual favorite list function on many apps.
Another thing I found only after searching was that there is a preference panel for the app. Useful stuff there, plus
twitterific support, whatever the hell that is. Perhaps Jimmy will chime in in the comments to let us know….
All of these
problems are essentially documentation issues. There are no instructions inside the app, and Jimmy’s support page needs much work. Again, no feature would escape discovery with a little fiddling around, but a central compendium to save the effort would be nice. After you crest the learning curve, the app is fast, attractive, and as I said before, has very useful content. I can’t stress that last bit enough.
101 Cocktails is a good app, and a darn good value, even at version 1.0. I suspect it will get even better.
UPDATE: As I read over this post, I’m concerned that I don’t sound as enthusiastic about this app as I meant to. It really is, documentation wartlets and all, one of the most attractive and really useful cocktail apps I’ve seen.
Here’s a list of the other posts here about Apple iPhone software:
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