Absolut (that is, V&S Group) released a sexy little application for the iPhone. Credit to Liquor Snob for picking it up (at least we saw it there first) and see the You Tube demonstration here.
So what is it? Drinkspiration, as the YouTube video tells us, is an app containing over 400 drink recipes all at the beck and call of the Generation-Y uber-user. 400 drinks on your phone? Not bad. But the benefit really comes with the quirky taxonomy that comes with those drinks. One can get recommendations according to categories of:
And there are more categories. Pretty cool and fun categories, really (snide comments aside). We're big fans of anything that helps decrease intimidation in the marketplace and this little gem from Absolut turns selecting a cocktail into a Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game (that should be as familiar to Generation-Y as the iPhone). The app even comes with guides for granishes and barware. The cards come in bright pictures and handy recipe guides. Then, best of all, having consumed your drink you can tweet to your friends immediately and tell them all about it. And, we presume, contribute your preference to the great database of chicness and hotness and geographicness so that other people can select drinks based upon your choices.
(What if you're very uncool or a total nerd when you enter in a drink? How does your iPhone know if you're actually cool or not? Maybe Steve Jobs secretly relays all iPhone data to a massive central HAL 9000 system and gives everyone in the nation a coolness score that is used for iPhone app algorithms.)
Props to Absolut. While their brand name is in there (of course) they still offer cocktails from all categories of spirits: gin, whiskey, rum, all stuff. That's good thinking. That's an effort to expand the overall market and increase the number of willing drinkers. Absolut will get their product-placement in the appropriate places but it's not just about that... it's clearly an attempt to better the overall market for the cocktail culture.
Is it just us, though, or is the iPhone just getting a little bit creepy? It has your calendar, so it sort of tells you when to go places and what to do when you get there. It has all the GPS stuff so it tells you how to get there while you're on your way. You can buy stuff with it, find stuff with it, and get its opinion on stuff (all via the web). It's trained you to tweet to everyone what you're doing so everybody always knows where you are. And now it's going to tell you what to drink. Very maternal when you think about it.
In any event, there are a couple of related issues with this thing.
First, there are way more than 400 cocktail recipes in the world. In fact, there are just about 400 combined variations on the Manhattan and classic Martini recipes (and that doesn't even get us to rum at all). It's sort of like the English Department from UCLA or Random House Publishers putting together a list of 400 fiction books and announcing to everyone, Choose from all literature here on your iPhone! That 400 book set is going to cover a lot of ground (have you read 400 books in the last 10 years?). 400 books would be a good chunk of some of the greatest stuff ever written. But still, that leaves a lot of great authors out of the canon just as Drinkspiration leaves a lot of drinks off the menu. And how is the list going to be updated? How are old drinks removed and new ones added? Popular acclaim? Expert opinion? At best, Drinkspiration is sort of like the English 101 survey of literature course: a light introduction to everything that leaves one understanding that there's a lot more underneath the surface. That's not a bad thing... provided everyone understands that's all it really is.
Sub Rosa Spirits has stuff we guarantee you've never heard of before and won't find in the grocery stores any time soon. Even the big market boys are kicking out new stuff. For example, Seagram's Sweet Tea Vodka is selling like crazy but is notably absent from Drinkspiration... probably just too new.
This is not to mention what the local bar scene is doing. One can look up what's hot in San Jose, California (home town to Apple) and get some recommendations. What you won't get is the names of the hot local bars with all the Ferraris parked outside of it and what's awesome about what they're serving inside.
The concept of cocktail organizer meeting iPhone is a great way to hit a new town and immediately find out what the local bartenders at the local hotspots are doing with local ingredients that you literally can't get anywhere else in the world. But because of the limits of the app - both in cocktail recipes and because of the (blameless) author - these sorts of feats aren't exactly possible. And that's a shame. This app has the potential to be the graduate level course in cocktail adventures but it's all potential energy right now.
So what does it all mean? For the technorati among you - that is, those of you with that magic little miracle of technology known as the iPhone - you now have something to help you out when you're in the bar. If you have no idea what you're doing and just getting started, you can look at those little booklets of specialty cocktails that the restaurant/bar offers or you can shuffle up the iPhone deck of drink cards. While it's not all that we think it could be, it's certainly a great place to begin your exploration of cocktails.
But let it be the entry level course. Always be ready - when you've found something you like - to mix it up a bit. Float a rum here, a liqueur there. Infuse it with some herbs or drop in some infused simple syrups. Swap out the gentle silver rum for an anejo tequila (make your friends try that one first). Set it on fire with a little overproof rum. Just don't be afraid! This is supposed to be fun, exciting stuff... and Drinkspiration - as cool as it is - can only be the prologue.
The app can be downloaded here.