A new generation of mobile apps for cocktail recipes

Welcome to my new development blog! I’m Martin Doudoroff. I’ve been doing booze and cocktail-related software projects for many years. I’ll talk more about some of those projects in later posts, but I’m mainly here to write about new mobile apps for mixed drink recipes.

It’s no accident that drink recipe apps are popular—or at least possess popular appeal—in some circles. Much of the allure and fascination of cocktail culture is its diversity and the vast number of drink ideas to explore. Most of these ideas have been communicated through books—some of which we adore—but books in the field are cumbersome and inefficient to employ. Why wouldn’t you like to quickly pull up the essential details of a drink on your phone or tablet?

There are already quite a few drink recipe apps out there, particularly in the iOS app marketplace. I’ve contributed a few of them, myself, over the last several years, and I’m pretty certain mine have ranked amongst the better. However, all the drink recipe apps I’ve seen have been… disappointing. While a handful have been valuable, they’ve also been rudimentary. A few have aspired to ambitious features, but those have overreached badly and failed miserably. The vast majority have, sadly, been garbage apps filled with garbage content.

Why has it been this way?

It’s hard. Indeed, it’s much harder than it seems it ought to be. A cocktail recipe may appear reasonably straightforward, but that’s only because your human intuition is doing a lot of heavy lifting you’re unconscious of. Computers are devoid of intuition, and enabling them to understand more about a recipe quickly grows fiendishly complicated. The problem with a recipe is not so much what a recipe says as what it implies, although the varied (and often terse) language used to express a recipe poses its own challenges.

It gets worse.

To make a great drink recipe app,

  • You have to begin with great content—recipes worth caring about. That means recognizing what’s worthwhile, going to the best sources and doing what’s necessary to secure their cooperation.

  • You have to have a solid foundation in information design to conceive of how to organize and wring value from the recipes as data.

  • You have to understand an enormous amount about mixed drinks, or you’ll be drawn to simplistic strategies that yield too much misinformation and noise to be valuable.

  • In order to do the above, you have to have access to a large amount of supporting data—about ingredients, for example—that isn’t readily available.

  • You have to be a good app developer, capable of delivering a high quality user experience. There’s nothing common, easy, or cheap about that.

  • Unless you’re independently wealthy, you have to be able to make it all pay for itself.

I’ll have more to say about all these challenges in due time, but I’m pleased to announce, today, that it’s happening. A new generation of mobile apps for cocktail recipes is well on its way. Indeed, it’s up and running in the later stages of development. My partners and I hope you’ll like what we’ve come up with.

—Martin Doudoroff