There's an interesting article in this month's Wired about Hunch, a new recommendation engine from Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake. I'm featuring it here for two reasons - first, Caterina Fake possesses one of the all-time great names, and second, it reminds me of something I tend to do when making drinks. The basic idea behind Hunch is that instead of generating recommendations based on what you've previously bought, it derives its suggestions from the answers you give to a wide range of questions. This leads to insights such as those who believe in the existence of UFOs tend to prefer Pepsi over Coke, and holders of an MBA like blue pens over black ones. Once the site's generated enough data from your answers, it can offer you recommendations for things as diverse as blogs, laptop bags, and, of course, cocktails.
It's a neat idea and it can link into cocktail service. Every once in a while, a customer will ask a bartender to come up with a drink that isn't on the menu. If this happens, I usually try to gather a couple of important bits of information - what spirits they particularly like or dislike, if they'd prefer a long or a short drink, any allergies - that will provide the overall shape of the drink, and then I ask the customer to name their favourite band or musician.
If they say Beethoven or Mozart, for example, then I'll opt towards something more classic in style. If they go more pop, then I'll swing toward the brightly coloured, fruity end of the spectrum. An Oasis fan may seem quite rock'n'roll, but perhaps they won't be as willing to be challenged in the same way as a Radiohead fan might while someone who names John Cage could be happy with something from the bleeding edge of mixological innovation. At best, it adds a personal touch and a bit of theatre to the transaction. At worst, it's a conversational dead-end and we move on.
Back to Hunch, and after answering a bunch of questions - way more fun than I thought it would be - I checked out the "cocktails" category first. My number one recommendation?
The internets know me so well.