Or: "Knowing what’s wrong and fixing what’s wrong are not the same thing."
I had a few friends over back in December. College friends, work friends, a woman I was seeing; the close group that doesn’t really need an invite.
I was making drinks, just because that’s what I do when I have people over. It’s a hobby and an easy conversation starter.
There are a couple of cocktail books in my kitchen. Standard ones, ones that have cute little made up stories and dialogues about drinks, and one that’s really damn good-looking. Even though some of the recipes are wrong*, I always seem to gravitate toward that one, the good-looking one, when I need to double check ratios, or am in the mood to make something new.
Anyway, I was making a Martinez, or an Aviation, or one of those ones that I always just make because they fit that important double-duty of tasting delicious, and allowing me to look really cool making them. So I cracked open the book, something about a vermouth ratio, and one of the friends asked:
Why don’t you just look it up online?
To which my immediate, unprocessed, uninformed response was:
Every single cocktail recipe website sucks.
…which is a pretty hefty claim to level against the entirety of the internet. I had, definitely, looked at a lot of cocktail websites, and a whole lot of them really did suck. I could even point out specific things I didn’t like about them:
Tiny fonts. No pictures. 1000 user-submitted versions of the same Bloody Mary. Inaccessible search. Useless on mobile.
But what the hell was I doing to fix it?
And then one of the friends, one of the college ones, and I started coming up with ideas very quickly. We could do it. Why not?
He and I had worked together during school on projects that ran the gamut between "novice" and "bad" but were now a whopping six months into our careers, and absolutely had all the answers.
So we drank and sketched and alienated the rest of my guests for a while. Then a few days later we started working. And after a while, the friend had some pieces totally working in the background, and I had some standards set and styleguide elements nailed down. And it was all absolutely perfect.
And then I took a week away from it and realized that it was awful.
I had made totally different mistakes, trying to fix the mistakes I had nitpicked on other recipe websites. Hell, I had made the same mistakes in a few instances. For all we had wanted to fix, we had broken just as much.
And again, I could point to the exact specific things that were wrong. But now I didn’t suddenly have the stream of cool ideas, because it was problems with my own work - work that I thought was absolutely killer a few weeks before.
Then the friend came to me with a whole list of things he already wanted to rework behind the scenes. And just as with my list, the problems were obvious, but the solutions weren’t.
Ideas got spitballed and prototyped and scrapped, and then, just as before, something kind of took shape.
Then we took that time away from it, again.
And then we came back to it, and this time we didn’t hate it. And then we asked other people what they thought. Honest people. People who are willing to hurt our feelings. And they actually liked it. And I had this funny weird kind of feeling that usually only comes from watching this. And that feeling was:
Maybe this is us getting better.
We always knew what we wanted to fix. Critique was easy. But it was this work, this process, this heartbreak of eating our firstborn that actually led us to fixing it.
So this is the version we like: thecocktailgui.de. The version we’ve decided to show off. We really hope you’ll like it, too. But maybe it’s wrong*. Maybe you have a specific list of things that you can’t believe we did.
If you do, please leave a note. We want to get better.