So you have a home bar fully stocked with all of the essentials, but you haven't a clue what to make first. Thankfully your smartphone can help, and with the right app, you can unveil a world of mixed drinks and beverages that let you play the bartender, whether you're at home with your own bar or at a friend's house in front of theirs.
Image: Gary J. Wood.
Top Shelf (iOS)
Top Shelf for iPhone sports plenty of recipes, all organised into categories and types to make it easier to find drinks you'll want to make at home. You can add personal notes to record tweaks to specific recipes and the app also allows you to add a list of the spirits and mixers you already have in your home bar so you can search for drinks that only require those items. Top Shelf will set you back $0.99 in the App Store.
Liquor Cabinet (iOS)
Liquor Cabinet features a rich database of drinks and recipes, the ability to fill in your own home bar or liquor cabinet so you can filter recipes and make notes on the recipes you prefer. If all of that sounds familiar, it's because Liquor Cabinet has a number of the features of other apps in the roundup.
Where it stands out though is that Liquor Cabinet's UI is whimsical and looks like a bar, complete with napkin recipes and bottles stacked on a cabinet. The app also allows you to search for drinks you can make with one or two recipes you don't have so you can try something new, or build a shopping list based on the things you want to buy. Liquor Cabinet is $0.99.
Mixologist (the paid app) or Mixology (the free app) both have databases of close to 8000 recipes and 1,300 ingredients, which makes it easy to find something to make. The database goes beyond simple cocktails and extends to shots, punches, hot drinks and even non-alcoholic drinks so your designated driver or non-drinking friend can enjoy something tasty as well.
You can search the database by category or ingredient, add drinks you like to a favourites list, add your own custom drinks and even use the app to find nearby liquor stores and bars so you can pick up ingredients or have a drink made by a professional. Mixologist will set you back $0.99 in the iTunes App Store and $1.49 in the Android App Market. Mixology is free in both markets, although it's ad-supported.
Cocktail Flow (Android/Windows Phone 7)
Cocktail Flow has a pretty solid database of drinks and recipes, but that's not the app's focus. You can use the database to make some good drinks, punches, shots and non-alcoholic drinks, but the first thing you'll want to do when you install the app is to add the contents of your home bar, or the bar at your friend's house. From there, the app will help you find drinks you can make, guide you to downloadable drink packs you can purchase from within the app that show you even more recipes (many of which are seasonal), and walk you through making the drinks you have the ingredients for.
The app also gets you familiar with bartending basics if you're a beginner, types of glassware, bar tools and more. Finally, Cocktail Flow offers a shopping assistant that will help you build a liquor budget based on the drinks you like to make and a shopping list of the ingredients you should buy to make the things you like. Cocktail Flow is completely free.
Drinks Master (Android)
Drinks Master has a database of over 12000 drinks, cocktails, shots, punches and non-alcoholic drinks. Each recipe will show you how much of the ingredients you need, how to prepare the drink and the type of glass you should serve the drink in. You can search by ingredient or by type of drink and you can add drinks you enjoy to your favourites list so you can get back to them quickly.
If you find a drink that you like, or an ingredient you really want to use, you can tell Drinks Master to show you more drinks with the same ingredient or ingredients. Drinks Master's database is rich, but some of its recipes are a little spotty -- if you want a great, deep database, this is a great option, but read the ingredients and glassware options carefully before going all out. Drinks Master is free.
Honorable mentions this week are Cocktails #9 for iOS ($7.49), and Speakeasy Cocktails for iPad ($10.49). Both are great looking apps with rich drink recipe databases that show you what the drinks are supposed to look like when you're finished, help you stock your home bar with the goods needed to make your own cocktails and more.