Brow Beat

Google’s New Cocktail Recipes Are Worse Than Useless

What you see when you Google “margarita recipe.”


We interrupt your Friday happy hour to bring you urgent booze news: Please pause before availing yourself of a new, highly touted Google feature. Check yourself before you wreck some perfectly good liquor.

This week, the tech company announced that both its desktop search engine and its mobile app would automatically serve up recipe cards when presented questions about cocktails. In an email, a company spokeswoman described the thingamajig thusly:

Now, when you ask Google how to make a cocktail, you’ll get step-by-step instructions for preparation and a list of ingredients, along with suggestions for garnish and drinkware. Just press the mic on the Google app on iPhone or Android and ask “Ok Google, how do I make a French 75?” or “Ok, Google, how do I make an Old Pal?”

This feature was greeted with much delight by journalists, a class of people whose enthusiasm for being drunk is not matched by a commensurate ardor for proper drink-making. This feature is, in practice, worse than useless.

Google’s algorithm tends to rely on Wikipedia for data. Wikipedia, in turn, tends to rely on recipes attributed to the International Bartenders Association. Meanwhile, no one who tends bar in the United States relies on the opinions of the International Bartenders Association. I don’t mean to slander foreign bartenders wholesale, and I certainly don’t want prejudge the members of the board of the IBA as incompetents, but I need to point out: there’s a reason that many of the most acclaimed European bars have names like “the American Bar.”

To wit: The IBA wants you to make a margarita with 3.5 centiliters of tequila, 2 centiliters of orange liqueur, and 1.5 centiliters of lime juice. Converting this formula for a rather small, very poorly balanced drink from the metric system, Google tells us that a margarita should be made like so:

Let’s pretend to set aside the fact that there are a variety of superior margarita recipes available in such reference texts as the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide and The Joy of Mixology and the Webtender Wiki and Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls, probably. Forget about that for a second. Also, let’s stipulate that there’s nothing wrong with making a margarita with just 1⅙ ounces of tequila in it, like if you’re about to head into work or something. But there is no avoiding the decided weirdness of writing the recipe thus. It is alien to professional bartenders and also somewhat strange to the home cook, who tends to think of a sixth of an ounce as a teaspoon.

Earlier this evening, I spoke to a Google PR rep about these matters in what began as an interview and swiftly evolved into my being like, “You guys gotta fix this. No one in recorded history ever thought to put ‘⅞ oz’ of lime juice in a daiquiri.” She politely advised me that each Google user is invited to give feedback on each drink recipe. I, in turn, implore the bibulous populace to seize this chance to right a wrong: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.