My Drinking Ledger
I am a hobby mixologist and frequent imbiber of craft cocktails. When I frequent my favorite bars and try new drinks, I often find myself wanting to record the ingredients, take notes, and be able to recount the specifics of the drink and the experience after the fact. But as of yet, I’ve found no existing product that sufficiently addresses my cocktail note-taking needs. So I began on a journey of tackling the problem of cocktail note-taking by designing a mobile product.
I began by considering the typical cocktail record-keeping process, which for me typically involves forgetting your notebook at home, jotting down notes on a bar napkin, and then loosing that napkin. Conceding that I will simply never remember to bring my notebook, I began investigating other what existing apps might address the problem.
Other Mobile Solutions
There are mobile beverage-centered note-taking applications available, but most of them focus on beer and wine. Those are inherently brand & label based, but cocktails offer the unique challenge of featuring recipes with multiple ingredients, different units, and instructions. Dedicated cocktail apps exist, but they are primarily for recipe searches and liquor cabinet maintenance. They tell users what they should drink and how to do it, but few (if any) allow users to create a rich and browsable drinking history, complete with recipes, tasting notes, locations, and dates.
The potential user of this app is not just an average bar-goer or even a craft beer and wine aficionado. There are plenty of apps for those looking to snap a photo of a bottle label and look up prices, reviews, and more information. But there are a unique set of needs and constraints when it comes to creating an app of value for cocktail connoisseurs.
Not everyone brings a tasting notebook out to a bar or orders a drink with the intention of contemplating its flavors and remembering the experience. The potential audience for my app is a very specific type of bar-goer or mixologist—craft cocktail enthusiasts who are looking for a better way to record and subsequently reflect upon their cocktail drinking history. The app will appeal to those who enjoy cocktails as an almost intellectual endeavor, rather than a tastier-than-normal means to consume alcohol. There is so much chemistry and finesse behind mixology that it could be considered an academic subject, and this app is for the type of person who treats it with that level of respect.
I spent some time considering the different ways that an app could help with my cocktail note-taking process. I brainstormed the different scenarios when I would want to record a drink, the potential formats that might facilitate the note-taking, all the possible fields and information types I’d want to record, and the different viewing mechanisms I might want to employ when browsing later. Out of the infinite realm of possibility, I drilled down to find the simplest distillation of a solution to the problem, to identify the absolutely essential functions—the core elements that would define the app and act as the foundation.
The concept I arrived at is a cocktail note-taking application that would let the user record drinks by adding ingredients, tasting notes, photos, and location, and then allow them to browse their drinking history conveniently after the fact. The drink entries also need to provide superior formatting options than what is available through paper note-taking and other mobile but generic note-taking applications.
Upon reviewing the first round of designs, it became clear that there were a number of elements that I could improve upon. The buttons and font size were too small—clicking and reading would be difficult on a mobile device. Material design elements could also play a larger role. Furthermore, I still didn’t feel like the UI truly captured the gentlemanly, literary spirit that I wanted.
In an effort to incorporate feedback, improve the usability, and enhance the design of My Drinking Ledger, I am working on a second version of the product. It has a refreshed look, but the underpinnings remain the same, except for a few notable improvements.
I wanted My Drinking Ledger to look and feel more like the sophisticated journal of a refined cocktail connoisseur. So I took more aesthetic cues from the design of craft cocktail packaging, updated the typefaces, modernized the color palette, and updated the layout of the drink entries to feel more like a recipe booklet or barware packaging.
adding month breaks and bar sections to the Drinking History
What happens when users are browsing through not just multiple days of entries, but potentially multiple months and multiple years? A further level of sectioning was needed in the entries to provide some road maps of sorts when browsing the drinking history list. Bold, red headings containing the month and year help the user to see approximately where in their drinking history they are browsing.
When viewing the drinking history by bar, users who travel and have recorded entries at bars from multiple cities may need a reminder of where a particular bar was in order to jog their memory. Version 1 simply grouped bars by name, but in Version 2 street addresses now sit beneath the bar names in addition to a map link.
simplified new drink entry screen
The drink entry screen in Version 1 was just a slightly simplified version of the drink details screen. The formatting and design elements were distracting and made it difficult for users to add their entries.
In Version 2, the new drink entry screen is now stripped down, a sparse and blank canvas for users to enter data. As fields are populated, they change from inactive gray to a bolder black, so users can see their entry come to life and which fields are still missing content.
Once an entry is saved, then it adopts more formatting and design elements to enhance the browsing experience.
moving the recipe search
In Version 1, users had the option to either “Add a Custom Drink” or to “Start with a Classic.” This is an unnecessary step to impose at the beginning of the drink entry process. Instead, I’ve incorporated the classic recipe suggestion as a dropdown that appears when users are adding their drink title. It’s precisely the moment before they will begin adding the recipe and precisely when they might like a little help with remembering those ingredients and ratios. If a user chooses that suggested classic recipe, or previously-recorded drink by the same name, the ingredients and ratios will be populated for them.
I’ve also added a recipe search feature to the menu to accommodate those limited cases who know that they need help remembering the recipe from the beginning, as well as offer some utility to those who might want to browse or search before ordering or creating a drink.