Swig: The new Facebook for drinkers (all drinkers)

The new app insists it's the one and only virtual meeting place for drinkers of all tastes. Think of it as the ultimate virtual bar.

Now, these two gentlemen look like discerning drinkers, don't they? Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

As you waft around Facebook, do you see too many pictures of drunk people?

Do their florid faces and madcap grins put you off your croissant? Do you also suspect that these people have all the alcoholic discernment of that man who always sits at the end of your local bar with his hair flopping into his beer?

Perhaps you'd like to try something new: a Facebook for drinkers.

This seems to be the concept behind Swig. It bills itself as "a community for all the world's drinkers." Please try to imagine a bar containing all the world's drinkers. For some, this would be heaven, with God as the barman who never calls time.

In this case, Swig's founders believe it's impossible to customize Facebook and Instagram anymore. So, if your passion happens to be alcoholic, you need your own special booze-centric place.

On Swig, you can follow your favorite drinkers, bartenders, sommeliers and the like and share your own experiences with them and with anyone else who happens to be of like mind and liver. You can use pictures and words. Hiccup is a word.

You can discover all sorts of drinks you might never otherwise encounter. And you can do it in the convivial company of those who care as much about drink as you do.

Swig co-founder Harry Raymond told me: "Facebook doesn't care about helping you find a coveted Goose Island Bourbon Stout or the best Bloody Mary in Manhattan. We do."

I must admit, Mark Zuckerberg has never struck me as much of a drinks aficionado. Perhaps Raymond has an idea. But how, I asked him, does this differ from apps like Delectable, where people post wines and follow sommeliers?

He told me: "When we looked at drinking apps out there, everything was tailored towards aficionados. We wanted an easy-to-use, accessible app for a young, mobile audience. For example, Delectable is very focused on sharing and collecting wine labels, so they attract an audience of hard-core winos. We wanted something that was easy to use."

I have never heard a wine connoisseur referred to as a "wino" before. Well, at least not one who owns his own bed. But does Raymond really think that his virtual bar is necessary?

His justification: "Swig bridges the gap between the beer, wine and spirit worlds. We had two apps for beer, one app for finding beer menus, two apps for cocktails, three apps for wine notes, five apps for wine reviews. We wanted to build something for drinking experiences of any kind, anywhere."

Swig has been in beta for a little while, ensuring its technology sobers up before its iOS launch today. Raymond claims that the app "has attracted a huge community of world-class mixologists, brewmasters and bar owners. If you need drink inspiration, there is no better place to get ideas than from the world's best."

Raymond believes Swig will, as drink searches multiply, better understand drink trends than any other app. He told me: "Let's say you walk into a new French restaurant. Swig will show you the drinks we know you'll love even before you're given the wine list. It sounds like science fiction, but it's not too far away."

I would very much like science fiction to keep away from alcohol. Too many science fiction people are trying to create the sort of science fact that 10 tequilas, 4 grenaches and 2 jugs of my friends David Cruz's home brew would engender.

You'll probably think that Swig will have been created by three twentysomethings who like a drink or two. You'd be right. Raymond is 25 and lists bourbons, porters and Manhattans among his favorites.

His favorite beer is Dragon's Milk by New Holland Brewing. His favorite spirit? Evan Williams Single Barrel. And his favorite wine is Public House Wine's Cabernet Sauvignon.

No, I didn't discover this from his app. I did it the old-fashioned way. I asked him.

If only apps like Swig had existed in olden times. I'm trying to imagine whether, say, Hemingway, Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson would have become Swig BFFs and shared their latest alcoholic adventures. That might have been worth observing.

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