In the spring, an urbanite’s fancy turns to handcrafted cocktails. With specialty bars continuing to pop up from San Francisco to New York City, the craving for clever drinks that utilize fresh fruits, fragrant syrups, and obscure liqueurs has never been stronger.
The app world, however, has been slow to follow suit. While traditional drink apps are a dime a dozen (or more like $.99 a thousand), only a handful are solely dedicated to these high-quality, complex concoctions. The best of the bunch may well be Craft Cocktail, free for iOS devices. It is a serial app, meaning that the creators are adding to it over time, in chapters. First released in summer 2013, the app offers 10 drinks per chapter, with Chapter Two having just recently come online. Bonus features include two reference guides: a meditation on the liquors used, entitled Spiritual Guidance, and a grimoire, a “book of herbal spells” (available in the first chapter of the app) that teaches the nutritional benefits of thyme and the breath freshening powers of cardamom.
Indeed, there is a subtle sense of benevolent folk magic that permeates the work, but, more importantly, the app is unabashedly feminine, challenging any notions that the world of mixology and creating bespoke cocktails is a boys' club. The recipes are created and explained by Nandini Khaund, a veteran bartender and server at several well-known Chicago hotspots including Violet Hour and Big Star. Sometimes her creations have a hint of perfume, as with the Dewin’ It!, a concoction of rum, sparkling wine, honeydew melon juice, and a syrup made from steeped honeysuckle blossoms. And her prose can be equally flowery (in a good way): “Ephemeral and woozy,” is her description of lilacs in a drink called Grey Garden, which was “inspired by remembrances of gardens in bloom.”
But Khaund is just as quick to offer up a margarita with Serrano pepper–infused tequila (“If you’re feeling insane, use ghost peppers”) or a shot balancing Fernet Branca, Averna, and a wormwood liqueur called Letherbee Malört: “Fifteen minutes later, you will demand dessert and be ready to dance.”
The photography is by Martha Williams, whose day job is photo editor at Time Out Chicago. Each cocktail is shot in mouth-watering clarity against a moody backdrop. Lauren Kessinger, a former magazine art director, provides the design, a leisurely browsing experience with recipes that rise from the bottom of the screen with a flick of the finger, giving new meaning to the phrase, “bottoms up.”