You don’t have to be a professional bartender to make delicious beautiful cocktails at home. With the help of a savvy cocktail app, you can see the ingredients and gear you need to shake (or stir) one up yourself.
Enjoying a mixed drink at a bar is fun, but learning to make your own cocktails at home is the bee’s knees! From staples like the martini, to fun tiki drinks, and beloved Prohibition-era cocktails like the sazerac, hundreds of cocktails are out there just waiting to be made. And with one of these helpful bartending apps, you can make and try every one of them!
What to Look for in Cocktail Apps
Just as the ingredients in your drinks matter, so, too, do the features within these cocktail apps. From step-by-step guides to extensively varied recipes, an app with all of these features can really make or break your drink-making experience:
- Varied, High-Quality Recipes:Because everyone likes something different, a good cocktail app should offer a wide variety of cocktail recipes that have been tested and deemed delicious. The best cocktail apps have recipes for frozen and sugary drinks, classic and Prohibition-era cocktails, international boozy beverages, and fun new concoctions so that there’s something for everyone. Having a wide variety of recipes also means more new drinks for you to try, so you can get a better feel for what you like.
- Step-by-Step Guides:There’s always that one person at a party who has a natural instinct for mixing drinks, but for the rest of us, it’s nice to have simple step-by-step instructions, especially if there are pictures. And let’s be honest, instructions are also nice to have when you need another drink, but you’ve already had a few.
- Thorough Supply Lists:If you want your drinks to come out perfect, you’ve got to have the right ingredients and equipment. The best bartending apps list out absolutely everything you’ll need, so you can be prepared.
- Professional Photos:High-quality photos not only entice us to consume a drink—they also give us a frame of reference for making it (does the color and viscosity match, for example). They also provide a suggestion on how to garnish and serve the drink.
- A Few Extras:While the four features above are all you need, there are a few extras that are nice to have, like the ability to save or favorite a recipe you liked so you can easily reference it again. Some bartender apps also offer a drink randomizer, which shows you a random drink if you’re indecisive (or feeling brave). Bonus points to apps that provide information about why particular supplies are needed or a little history on a particular drink.
Authoritative and Educational: The Liquor Cabinet
The interface of The Liquor Cabinet (Free) is as beautiful as the drinks featured within it. The app is filled with classic drinks as well as exclusive cocktails curated and tested by the three brothers who founded the app. You can search for recipes within the app, and even search for drinks made with a single base spirit like brandy or rum. Tapping on a drink takes you to its individual page, where you can see a professional photo of it along with its recipe and all of the equipment you’ll need to make it (as well as a few facts about each piece of equipment, explaining what it does and how it works).
The Liquor Cabinet is a handsome and intuitive app, as the brothers believe that presentation is everything. The app also contains a comprehensive bottle guide, which shows you pictures of different types of liquor along with a few brief notes on their tasting notes, histories, and what kinds of drinks you can make with them. The app is great for sophisticated drinkers and home bartenders of all skill levels.
From the Base Up: Cocktail Flow
Cocktail Flow (Free) is a solid app for all kinds of cocktail enthusiasts, but it’s especially great for those looking to master making all of the most popular drinks. The app has over 600 recipes, however, so there are plenty of other bevs worth exploring once the basics are mastered, including tasty but lesser-known options like the Dark and Stormy, Negroni, and Mint Julep. In addition to searching for drinks by name, you can search for recipes made with a specific type of spirit like tequila or gin.
You can also whittle down recipe options based on which ingredients you have on hand, like limes, simple syrup, orange juice, eggs, or tonic water. This is especially handy if you want a cocktail but aren’t familiar with many, or if you need to know what else you need to grab from the store to make a particular cocktail. It also lets you mark your favorite drink recipes so they’re easier to find next time. With so many recipe and search options and its colorful simple interface, Cocktail Flow is a terrific app for all kinds of drinkers.
For the Indecisive Drinker: Bartender’s Choice
If your liquor cabinet is well-stocked but you just can’t decide what to drink, Bartender’s Choice ($4.99) can help you make a decision. Simply tell it what kind of liquor you want to drink or the type of drink you’re in the mood for (like boozy, sweet, creamy), and it’ll show you a few options, complete with photos and a brief list of ingredients. Tapping on a drink brings you to a page with a bigger photo of it, its recipe, and a quick sentence or two about the drink just for fun. Of course, you can also scroll through the Bartender’s Choice drink database alphabetically, and save or share drink recipes with friends.
Connoisseur Essentials: Modern Classics
If you just want to have a clean-cut list of timeless and beloved cocktails without any frilly club drinks or iffy dive-bar concoctions, Modern Classics ($9.99) is the app for you. It features 99 essential recipes across four categories: the modern classics, objectively popular drinks that could become classics, critical favorites worthy of more praise, and a collection of foundational drinks from the 1970s-1990s that helped bring forward today’s cocktail renaissance.
Modern Classics is a great drink recipe app for connoisseurs and those that appreciate the history of modern cocktail making. You can search for recipes using one of many unique filters, like creation date, base spirit, or cocktail type, or simply tick off which ingredients you have in stock until you see all possible options. The app also makes it easy to save your favorite recipes and create custom recipe lists—complete with your own recipe annotations—and sync your barware and ingredient inventory for easier use in the future.
Trending and Popular Cocktails: Cocktails Guru
Those with an adventurous spirit and a strong liver can jump in and try some of the 15,000 recipes in the Cocktails Guru (Free) database. In addition to being well-stocked on recipes, Cocktails Guru also lists the Top 100 cocktails as well as the ones that are trending with its community members. So, you can try what others are drinking, or make something you’ve never had before. The app also makes it easy to save drinks to your favorites list for easy reference, and rate each recipe you try.
Tapping on a drink brings you to its individual page, which has different tabs for Information, Recipe, Pictures, and Comments. You’ll be able to look through multiple photos of the drink, and see how popular it is within the Cocktails Guru community. On the Recipe tab, the app tells you what type of glass to serve it in, which ingredients and tools you’ll need, and step-by-step instructions. Most cocktails also have a video tutorial option along with a way to make a non-alcoholic version of the drink, if possible.
Animated Drink-Building Guidance: Lush
If you’re new to making your own drinks, or just appreciate having thorough visual instructions while bartending, Lush ($1.99) is a great option. The app features hundreds of handpicked drinks and shots, which you can search for individually or scroll through alphabetically. It also has a fantastic search function that lets you search for recipes by a base spirit, like vodka, and tack on a secondary ingredient, like Amaretto or cola, and find fun options that way. Lush also features curated drink lists for making a quick cocktail choice if you’re indecisive, or you can create your own by favoriting all of the best recipes.
Lush really shines with its animated drink-making guide, however. Tapping on a drink takes you to its recipe page, where each ingredient is listed by quantity and color-coded in a checklist. You’ll also see each ingredient’s “color” within the animated photo of the finished drink, which makes it easy to see the ratio of each ingredient within the cocktail. Lush gives you a step-by-step guide to making the cocktail, from rimming a glass with salt, to finishing it off with a garnish so it turns out perfect every time.