By Rachel Raczka
Reviewing: Martha Stewart Cocktails
By: Callaway Digital Arts
Available on: iPad, iPhone
Should you get it? Absolutely. And then invite me over for drinks.
The desire to play hostess kicked in when I hit my early 20s. Sterling silver serving trays, gilded rim cocktail tumblers, impractical but aesthetically adorable paper straws in every color of the rainbow ... I felt well-equipped to hand out the swizzle sticks and call in the troops. Unfortunately, my specialty - gin and tonic with extra limes - was not exactly the height of cocktail sophistication.
So I turned to my muse in most situations like this one: Martha. (Martha, Martha, Martha.)
For what I consider a fair price, the Martha Stewart Cocktails app delivers the exact tutorial experience you would expect from Team Martha, with masterfully designed, detail-oriented, crisp, and clean cocktail-making instructions.
If you're familiar with Martha's editorial work, you'll immediately feel at ease when using this app: the artwork is stunningly beautiful and aspirational without being too intimidating, the instructions are strict but educational and easy-to-follow, and every detail you could have possibly hoped to be addressed has been (and then some).
While you may be disappointed when the sprigs of mint perched on the rim of your version of the Herbal Lillet Cooler look nothing like the picture provided, what you're left with - a perfectly executed liquid courage - is just the thing to shrug it off. Heck, who am I? She's Martha.
The app opens to a menu page with three categories of drink recipes to browse through: Martha's Classics, Cutting Edge Cocktails, and Mocktails. Each category features 20 unique cocktail (or mocktail) recipes with photos, commentary, and detailed step-by-step instructions with five corresponding bar snacks for complementary consumption.
While Martha's Classics include simple refreshers like Summer Fruit White Sangria and the Classic Martini (gin, dry vermouth, oil-cured olives, and a sprig of rosemary -- shaken not stirred, "like James Bond"), the more curious Cutting Edge Cocktails walks on the safe side with mostly herb infusions, like a Cilantro-Campari Cocktail and a Basil French 75.
Click a bottom tab labeled Menu to display an excess of additional content to explore: a guide to barware (do you know the difference between a Boston Shaker and a Cobbler Shaker?) and proper glassware; tips for storage, making ice, and stocking a home bar; an interactive shopping list feature (that can be synced with Ziplist.com), and instructional videos for muddling, making a citrus twist, and other kitchen bar tips that can make that extra impact your at-home cocktails may have been lacking before.
But the app -- as much as I praise it -- is not perfect. As I mentioned, the innovation of the Cutting Edge Cocktails category is lacking, but perhaps I can get my out-of-the-norm mix in the Girls' Night recipe pack, available for an additional 99 cents via an in-app purchase. In fact, these add-on packages are so readily available that they cloud the main navigation screen with their not-so-subtle pleas to be purchased, while the supplementary content I mentioned earlier (videos, tips, shopping lists) are slightly more hidden. Trés tacky. And not Martha.
Additionally, the latest version of this app (1.5) comes with a "Limited-time FREE Holiday recipe pack" that early downloaders (like me) are not given grandfathered access to with an update. While these two factors annoy me to an extent, the social sharing abilities of this app strike me as more of a missed opportunity than a glitch. Each recipe comes with the option to Share, but limits the capabilities to e-mail and Facebook. No Twitter? No tumblr? No Pinterest??? Where is this brave new world of social media?
Regardless, I've been delighted with the majority of my experience with this app. The recipes are on-point, the design is chic as can be, and I'm thoroughly looking forward to investigating the correlating Martha Stewart Cookies app come holiday season. Now please excuse me, I have some very important
mixing reporting to do. Cheers!