Taking Coffee And Cocktail Apps For A Spin

Bar search apps — whether it's for the sort of bars that serve cold, stiff drinks or hot, smooth ones — tend to be about quantity over quality. Most mine the web for results and few developers take the time to fact-check their findings.

Enter CoffeeGuru, developed by Greg Cohen of GuruApps. A bona fide coffee lover, he set out to create a better café directory app. After compiling some 3,000 coffeehouses, he spent three months contacting them all to fact-check his data, including which roaster each one uses. CoffeeGuru now has more than 4,500 establishments throughout the U.S. and Canada in its database, with a strong focus on third-wave coffeehouses. It's available on iTunes for $1.99. We took it for a highly caffeinated spin.

The app allows you to search for coffee bars by name or proximity, the results of which can be mapped or listed. It also allows you to search by "direct trade," which returns results of cafés working with roasters who buy direct-trade beans. The simple hand-drawn icons on the homepage include search functions, the option to check in and a comprehensive information section that offers a primer on coffee tasting descriptors, a brew guide and explanations on the difference between fair and direct trade.

Hitting the "nearby" icon, returned hundreds of results in a five-mile radius, including the diminutive six-seat coffee lab serving Coava beans around the corner and several other below-the-radar spots specializing in craft beans in the area. Clearly, the guru has done his homework. The app is an obvious labor of coffee love as opposed to a mere directory, with plenty of details even the haughtiest of coffee snobs will appreciate. Now, to get rid of these caffeine shakes...

This'll do: the Speakeasy Cocktails app is like having your own personal mixologist in your pocket. Unlike so many cocktail apps that seem to collect their recipes from Tom Cruise's 1988 handbook, this one relies on two of the country's top bartenders for its repertoire. Jim Meehan of P.D.T. and Joseph Schwartz of Little Branch, both speakeasy-style bars in New York that helped propagate the cocktail renaissance, share not only their recipes, but the many tricks of their shared trade.

The app is set up like a book, broken down into chapters. The app's authors offer a wealth of cocktail history, information on necessary gear, instruction on basic techniques, advice on how to stock your home bar and a couple hundred recipes, ranging from easy to "master" level drinks. The focus here is on classics and modern riffs on them, so look for how to make your appletini elsewhere. Meehan and Schwartz even make personal appearances in the app, in how-to videos shot at their respective bars.

Like CoffeeGuru, you can tell that Speakeasy Cocktails was developed by someone with a real passion for the subject matter. Jon Feldman, founder of Open Air Publishing, which produced the app, says he'd been a regular at both bars before coming up with the idea. Originally launched in 2011 for the iPad, the app went universal this summer. So many goodies in one application don't come cheap: Speakeasy Cocktails can be downloaded from iTunes for $9.99.

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