Beachbum Berry’s Total Tiki is simultaneously as expensive a cocktail app as I know of, and the single best value in such apps. And one of the best values in apps in general, as far as I can see. It clocks in at a hefty $9.99, which is way past my two dollar line of demarcation between “I’ll just download this,” and a considered purchase. It took me all of a few minutes to consider back when I bought Total Tiki almost two years ago. No regrets.
Total Tiki is a compilation of over 230 Tiki recipes from the books of modern archaeologist and wet-nurse of the modern Tiki craze, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. While I own all the Bum’s books, and recommend you buy them all (Though Remixed and Sippin’ Safari will do to get you started), Total Tiki is massively more convenient and usable when it comes time to actually make some drinks. Since the very first cocktail apps came out, including Jeff’s first app, the now defunct Tiki+, it has been very clear that electronic search on name and ingredients is a quantum leap in usability over a shelf of even the very best indexed books. The huge amount of quality content from Jeff’s library and the basic functionality advantages inherent to being an app alone would make the price tag of Total Tiki something to swallow, if with difficulty…
But there is so much more to Total Tiki that adds huge value over all the first generation cocktail apps on the market. The search and filter functions are incredibly robust, yet easy to use. Want a medium strength cocktail that uses falernum, but not rum? Bam, take your pick of Bourbon Special or Western Sour. Want a strong rum-based drink with lime, from the 1950s, that you don’t need a blender for? There are 10 entries. The ability to do a single search that filters the database on ingredients, characteristics, and history, either excluded or required, is… well, it is huge.
Once you have found the recipe you like, the entry the app returns is also very full-featured. The itemized recipes are clear and concise (for Tiki drinks). You can set the amounts to be listed in Imperial, Metric, or Gills(?). And every single item, from lime juice to Okolehao, is hyperlinked to a separate page with appropriate information about preparation, history, brands, and potential substitution options. The recipe directions are detailed. The entry finishes with an illustration, usually of what the drink is intended to look like, and some historical information as well as the published source of the recipe. If the cocktail was popular long enough to have multiple accepted versions, you can wheel through them on a timeline atop the entry.
A final tremendous feature is the inventory filter. There is a list of every single ingredient called for in all the recipes in the database. There is a toggle beside each, so that you can record whether or not you keep that item in your bar (be it home or business or traveling kit). You can narrow your recipe browsing or your searches to just drinks you can make with things on hand. Many ingredients are specific, for example Mount Gay Eclipse. Other recipes might simply call for gold rum, or perhaps a specific variety such as Barbados gold rum. The app is intelligent enough to realize that if you checked the Eclipse, you can make recipes calling for gold rum. It will also realize that you can also make a recipe that calls for, say, Stroh.
The inventory feature is a bit of a double-edged sword, especially with fresh ingredients. If you had clicked “No” on an ingredient like grapefruit juice when you first went through the inventory, you would miss out on a lot of recipes later when playing “what can I make?” I err on the side of usually including ingredients I am likely to have. Be warned that the ingredient database is extensive. It will take you a lot of time to read through it all and mark what you tend to keep on hand.
Now we come to the final cool, and new, feature of Total Tiki: inventory sync. MixologyTech makes more than just Total Tiki. They also offer six other themed cocktail apps that all use the same engine as Total Tiki, with the same features. They have now set up a cloud server that allows you to connect your inventory information from one app you own to another. So if you are making a Tiki drink and note that you now have a bottle of apricot liqueur on your inventory in Total Tiki, the next time you open the Punch app, apricot liqueur will show as on-hand there too! This is a huge time saver, and makes the purchase of additional MixologyTech apps that much easier.
The other apps available with this engine are:
- Shaken and Stirred: A great beginner collection of recipes from the craft school of cocktails. The killer feature here is that each recipe has embedded the Small Screen Networks tutorial video for that drink. This would be my suggested first purchase for anyone wanting to get serious about drinks for the first time.
- Modern Classics: This app features so-called “modern classics”, i.e. drinks invented in the 21st Century for the most part that seem destined to stick around after everyone forgets who invented them. This app only has 99 entries as of this writing, so it takes a ding on the value scale.
- Martin’s Cocktails: This is the biggest database of the bunch, with over 2100 recipes, mostly from the pre- and early post-Prohibition eras. It also is the database that is most often updated, I think. The comprehensive nature of the collection does lead to a problem or two. It is hard to find what you want, even with all the engine’s awesome filtering capabilities. The recipe quality is decidedly uneven, unlike the other apps. But it is one hell of a resource.
- Wondrich’s Index of Punch: Also a small catalog, with less than 70 entries, but with punches, I think this is less of a concern. The search by available ingredients is very important when considering a punch, and for the experienced drink mixer, you are seldom going to follow a recipe slavishly anyway. The Punch app has saved my butt when I found myself with an unanticipatedly large crowd of thirsty guests.
- PDT: This collection of over 400 recipes is a continuously updated listing of every drink, house-devised or classic, that has ever been on the menu at PDT in New York. I have a confession to make. I was underwhelmed when I visited PDT. And I am underwhelmed with the content here. Simply put, the recipes are too esoteric, and too difficult to execute for my taste. But if you want to test your mixing skills, or show them off, the PDT collection is ideal.
- 101 Best New Cocktails: Cocktail Godfather Gaz Regan has maintained a rolling list of the 101 best new drinks on the scene since 2011. This app has all of the nearly 400 recipes that have been on the list at some point in time. While all the recipes are available on line, the collection here is accessed through the wonderful engine of MixologyTech. A lot of these recipes suffer from the problems of the PDT collection, in that they are hard to make, difficult to source, and/or weirdly specific in the kind of taste to which they will appeal. But they come from a vastly wider array of inventors, so if one or another is not to your taste, many others likely will be.
Each app is the same price, $9.99. Each has both a smartphone interface and a tablet layout. Each one you buy becomes easier to set up and to use because of the inventory sync feature. But at seventy bucks for the full suite, you will likely want to pick which ones you want to buy. I own Total Tiki, Punch, Cocktails, and Easy Craft. If you already own any of them, which ones? And if you give one a whirl after reading this, do let me know what you think!