Locally-developed app helps give the gift of booze

SEATTLE -- Brian Erke and Ryan Halper want to buy you a drink.

The two pals -- best friends since they were freshmen at the University of Washington -- found that they were spending a lot of time on Facebook celebrating birthdays, but not really, well, celebrating.

"We basically had this really big urge to send gifts to people that were in different places," Erke said. "We're really all about sharing experiences. There just really wasn't a good way to do that."

Out of their social networking -- and desire to celebrate -- Gratafy was born.

The app, which officially launches Tuesday, allows users to make a toast in real time, sending a Shiraz or gifting a Guinness to a friend, integrating Facebook information with restaurant options, like cocktails and cuisine.

"With Facebook's great ability to connect people and be a platform for sharing celebrations like birthdays, (we felt) we could go beyond the wall post, beyond just the text, and actually allow you to give a gift," Halper said. "We love going out. We love being able to create those memories. We think Gratafy is basically an extension of that."

Sitting on bar stools during Monday night's bustling happy hour at Seattle's Barolo, Halper and Erke showed off how the app works.

"There's [Facebook] events, there's friends, and merchants," Erke said, pointing to different columns in the app. "Right here we have a bunch of upcoming events and birthdays."

Erke clicked on his Halper's profile, loaded the restaurant's options, and decided to send him a cocktail. The app charges Erke's credit card, and Halper's phone registers a Facebook notification instantly (or email, or text), allowing him to show it to the bartender and redeem it. (Barolo is one of more than 40 bars and restaurants in the Seattle area listed on Gratafy, with gifting options that range from a $3 can of Olympia beer to a $30 dinner to even a round of pool.)

"It tastes better when your best friend's paying for it," Halper joked as he took a sip of his Grey Goose and soda.

Gratafy -- which couldn't register the name "gratify" because it was already taken -- currently consists of five employees in a South Lake Union office, but they hope to expand beyond food and drink options to other experiences, such as golf games and hot air balloon rides.

"We really want to bring people together to actually have those experiences and share them," Erke said.