Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday. What could be better than enjoying dishes handed down through generations (or pulled from Pinterest) with your adoring family? Well, if your grandpa's turkey is dried out and your relatives only want to know when you're finally going to settle down, wine can--no, will--make the experience tolerable.
One of my favorite new apps is NextGlass, a beer and wine recommendation engine that's based on science, not buzzwords. The app makes for a perfect companion when you're shopping for last-minute Thanksgiving dinner ingredients by helping you pick the best bottle or bottles to pair with your meal (or polish off later).
Open it for the first time at home, when you have time to swipe through and rate various bottles of wine and beer. It's sort of like Tinder, but without the pressure. Get your friends and family on board and ask them to make their own profiles. When you're in the wine and beer section of the grocery store, open the app, point your phone's camera at a label, and watch its scanner go to work. (This part is cool.) NextGlass will take into account your tastes and give you a score. The higher the score, the better chance you'll like the bottle without ever having tried it. The app can take up to two of your friends and relatives' tastes into account, too, so you'll eventually find a bottle that all three of you will love.
The science behind NextGlass's algorithm involves some manual labor. The company tests each brand and type of beer and wine with a mass spectrometer, which identifies chemical compounds in liquids. Founder and CEO Kurt Taylor said drinkers respond to the chemicals in booze more than flavor profiles, so the app can analyze thousands of different compounds in the types of wine and beer you like and recommend new bottles with similar chemical makeup.
"Taste is very personal," Taylor said. "Just because someone who is an expert says it tastes like oak and tannins and has crushed red fruits in it, I might not taste any of that. Take the adjectives out of it and find what really matters. Being able to objectively define it is the key differentiator."
The app currently has more than 23,000 bottles in its database, with more coming online all the time. NextGlass even conducted a recent "beer census," which involved driving around the country to collect hyperlocal beers for lab testing. Yeah, it's serious.
The app also gives you each bottle's nutritional profile, including carbs and calories. But it's Thanksgiving, so you're already on the losing end of the nutritional battle.
The back-up plan
If you can't make it to the store and your wine supply is running dangerously low, you still have options that don't include sending out a relative who might go rogue and pick up an atrocious bottle. A new crop of on-demand alcohol apps have popped up in certain major metropolitan areas and might be the answer to all your problems.
Saucey, Drizly, and Minibar are among the apps that have launched in the last year to bring you wine, beer, and liquor with just a few taps on your iPhone. Drizly is in more markets than Minibar and Saucey, covering nine metro areas including Austin, Boston, NYC, Los Angeles, D.C., and Denver. Each app offers free delivery, but some have delivery minimums. Now, I haven't tested these apps (yet!) so I can't go so far as to recommend them. But if you're in a big city and need alcohol in a pinch, the Uber-for-wine tactic might be your best move this holiday season.