speakeasy-nycI have this fantasy that one day, I’ll throw a fabulous cocktail party. Billie Holiday will croon from the record player, tones rhythmically rising and falling below the surface of ebullient chatter. Circulating platters will transport gourmet miniatures to the mouths of eager guests, who will be wonderfully dressed, by the way. And the cocktails--oh the cocktails--many colored gems glistening inside elegant glasses, spilling the sweet aromas of carefully selected herbs and bitters.


Back in the real world, however, I find myself slopping some rum into a cup full of diet Coke, munching on some baked Tostitos, and trying to tolerate the Kesha tunes that are blaring from some stranger’s iPod. Sigh. A girl can dream. But as they say, if you can dream it, be it. Which is why I was totally excited when OpenAir Publishing founder Jon Feldman showed me Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from the Modern Mixologists.

iPad > Bartending school

Speakeasy Cocktails for iPad: Techniques Speakeasy Cocktails is a beautifully crafted, multi-media interactive iPad book that shows and tells you how to craft a high-caliber cocktail, from perfecting your ice cubes on up. The “modern mixologists” lending their wisdom are renowned mix-masters Jim Meehan and Joseph Schwartz of NYC’s speakeasy revival joints PDT and Little Branch, respectively. These lauded experts provide video tutorials throughout the book on everything from prepping to pouring to torching and serving.

Like me, Jon had always had higher aspirations for his beverages, which is why Speakeasy Cocktails struck him as the ideal first book for OpenAir Publishing.  “We picked mixology because, for me, it’s something I wanted to learn better,” he says. “I’d been to PDT and Little Branch and I really admired how they were doing what we’ve seen for a while from the food side of things--the artisanal preparation, the quality ingredients, the attention to detail...only in the last few years in New York has there been this resurgence in high quality craftsman ship on the cocktail side of things.”

Cool Features of Speakeasy Cocktails

Speakeasy Cocktails for iPad: pisco sourThe book is really much more than a series of training videos...those you can find on YouTube (though probably not ones hosted by the likes of Meehan or Shwartz). This is a bona fide e-book--the videos serve as supplements to the descriptive text written by journalist Rob Willey. Chapters cover not just drink-making skills but the history of the whole speakeasy movement and, because the developers have thought of everything, you can even listen to a little Cole Porter while you’re learning about the speakeasy movement in 1930s New York. “A lot of Americans don’t even know the details,” says Jon, “and this book is being sold around the world.” Hey world, how about a little history lesson with your Pisco Sour?

This book has so many awesome little features, it would be impossible to talk about them all, so here are my top five favorite:

1) In-depth history of every single spirit you could ever dream up! - It’s like a biography for your bottles. Really interesting stuff!
2) The in-app entertainment - I like to be transported to a particular time/place when I read. This is difficult to achieve with an instructional-type book. The period songs embedded in the text definitely helped bring me into the experience.
3) Buy feature - I don’t have the right glasses, the right stirrers, or the right ice cube trays to even begin! But if I tap the item on the page, viola! It’s magically transported to Amazon where I can have it shipped to me post haste.
4) The world map of international speakeasies - the exact location of every modern speakeasy in the world? Yes please. This is great for traveling!
5) Archival photos - I was amazed by the quality of  the photos of New York in the 1920s and 30s. And I”m a sucker for old photos.

The benefits of iLearning

Speakeasy Cocktails for the iPad: bar stocking Not sure how you feel about reading “books” on the iPad? Well, there are a few benefits  to the platform. The multi-media nature of Speakeasy Cocktails draws readers into the experience and allows them to choose their own adventures, so to speak. If you get to a recipe and find that you have no idea how to cut a lemon twist, it’s cool, just tap the link back to that tutorial. Perhaps halfway through a page you suddenly decide that you need to know about glassware. No problem, go on as many tangents as you like! You’ll always be able to easily find your way back to where you were. “People learn in different ways,” said Jon. “This is non-linear learning. You can start anywhere and jump to any content in the book, that’s something that paper cant do.”

Another plus is the portability, especially for instructional books. “A lot of how-to books are great...but you don’t have them to reference later because you’re not carrying around your whole bookshelf with you,” explains Jon. “With the iPad you are.” Whip out your iPad at the party and people will “ooo and ahh” over the sweet graphics or assume you’re  some VIP with an over-active email. Whip out Bartending for Dummies and you’re just going to look like a noob.


OpenAir Publishing’s first iPad book has gotten great reviews and the public seems to be digging the concept. The company has a slew of ideas for other how-tos and has some new releases planned for this Christmas. So does this mean that iPad books going to become the literature of the future? Maybe not literature at large, but it will certainly expand the capabilities of certain genres. For example, says Jon, “the first TV shows in the 1940s were radio shows where you can  see the guy sitting there talking into a microphone. Then Milton Berle figured out that that you could have costume and dancing and set design and make it really for TV.” Just like the first TV shows were televised copies of radio shows, our first e-books were digitized copies of of our print books. But now people like Jon are figuring out that you can have music, videos, web interaction and make it for the digital platform.

So quit it with your rum and cokes, your vodka tonics, and your other unimpressive mixed drinks. Learn how to make a real cocktail. Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from the Modern Mixologists, is available for $9.99 in the Apple Store. You can check for upcoming publication OpenAir’s website. Happy mixing!

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