Thank goodness Prohibition is over

First impressions 

We have always been an imbiber of simple tastes. Get a glass, add ice, put in the rum, add Coke, stir, enjoy. That was until fancy martinis and mixed drinks came into real prominence in the last decade. “Sex and the City” was probably a pretty big influence with the gals drinking their cosmopolitans, their flirtinis and wotnot, but who knew that come 2013 we’d be faced with umpteen flavoured vodkas including whipped cream fer cryin’ out loud? 

The Speakeasy Cocktails app is not a cheap one compared to most ($9.99 in the App Store) but when you think of what you pay for one expertly created beverage at a top bar or lounge, it certainly seems worth it. Experts break down the tools and ingredients you need (not to mention the recipes) so you can become an aficionado at home. 

We likey. We boughty. 

How it works 

Speakeasy Cocktails is part book, part video instruction, with lots of images to help you along the way. Chapter 1 is an introduction with a brief history of speakeasies and links to stuff you can put up in your home bar (if, indeed, this is your ultimate goal) such as Rules of the Bar. Here’s a freebie: apparently name-dropping is among the no-nos. 

Chapter 2 is an in-depth look at the gear you’ll need. If you think that any old shaker will do, you’re in for a shock. Ditto the spoons, glasses, swizzle sticks (authentic from Martinique, no less), muddlers and even the ice. It won’t be long before you’re looking askance at that faithful, white plastic ice tray in your freezer. Apparently a silicone mold that produces cubic whoppers, or better yet, a plastic one yielding dense, spherical beauties that resemble hail from hell, is the only way to go. Distilled water is best, and you want them to freeze slowly so adjust your gauge accordingly. 

That’s just the ice portion of this journey into mixology. 

Chapter 3 is all about techniques – stirring, shaking, rolling, swizzling, building, straining, garnishing, rimming a glass … It’s at about this stage that you really begin to appreciate the talent of all those people you’ve encountered behind the bar. As you read on you’ll find handy advice and videos from those who have been in this business for a long time and know a thing or two about making an awesome beverage. 

Chapter 4 covers stocking your bar, and then the chapters that follow feature lots of recipes from classics to ones revolving around specific ingredients like rum, vodka or gin. 

Chapter 15 focuses on seasonal drinks from summer to winter, followed by Chapter 16 which helpfully takes you to a site where you can purchase everything you need. These guys are savvy.

When we tried it 

We found that we were woefully understocked when it came to paraphernalia, and there were definitely some gaps in our ingredients. When a dear friend had recently departed the island, they gave us the stuff they couldn’t sell, including peppermint schnapps and creme de menthe. We couldn’t wait to see what delightful cocktail we could concoct with those, the incorrect shaker, and tap water ice in the wrong shape. 

Our shaker was in the shape of a snowman, a previous Christmas gift. We were going to have to work on our bar layout… 

We thought about trying a Mai Tai, but we didn’t even know what “orgeat” was and apparently we needed half an ounce of it, so that was that. We could hardly start this process with substituting ingredients. 

Further lessons spoke about fresh juice only, and the names of cocktails flew past us like Dirt and Diesel and Forty Knights. All were courtesy of mixologists from bars throughout the US. 

We were particularly intrigued with the Death in the Afternoon combination of champagne, absinthe and a lemon twist. Wethinks the name was well chosen, based on the ingredients. 

After a bit of research we realised that we needed to immerse ourselves further. 

Final thoughts 

Cocktail culture is huge these days, and if you’re interested in the magic behind the mixes, the chemistry of it all, or just have an unlikely fascination with ice and all its myriad shapes, sizes and densities, this is definitely the app for you. Again, it ain’t cheap based on the average cost of most apps, but it’s worth the money if you want to improve your skills, or just impress your friends by bandying words like “orgeat” about in a conversation.  

Pros: Fascinating information. Great recipes. Doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet. 

Cons: More expensive than most apps. Could end up costing you significant moolah if you really immerse yourself in everything it teaches. 

Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from the Modern Mixologists
Cost: $9.99
Seller: Open Air Publishing
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Rating: AO (Adults Only) 18+