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I Tried the Bartesian, a Bartending Machine That Makes Drinks in Seconds

Like the Nespresso of cocktail machines (pods and all), this futuristic machine makes margaritas, negronis, and more at the touch of a button.
October 27, 2021, 3:45pm
bartesian cocktail maker machine review
Composite by VICE Staff

What do James Bond, Carrie Bradshaw, and The Dude have in common? They all have a signature drink. There’s nothing quite like that first sip of your favorite cocktail, but it makes you wonder—wouldn't it be amazing to have a machine that whipped up your drink of choice at the touch of a futuristic button? After all, if you’re aspiring to write the great American novel, pen New York's spiciest sex and relationship column, or bowl a perfect 300, you can’t be sitting around making drinks all day. Well, that’s where the Bartesian cocktail maker comes in. 

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Bartesian

Bartesian Cocktail Machine

There's no denying that the Bartesian cocktail maker is a wildly intriguing gadget. Released in 2019, it was designed by former bartender Ryan Close, and is the the world's first single-serve cocktail machine that is pod-based, meaning it's basically a Keurig for cocktails. 

Here’s how it works: You keep a reservoir of five spirits of your choice in vessels that make the whole thing look like a rig from Breaking Bad, and when you’re ready to turn up, you insert a cocktail capsule (an internal scanning system tells the machine which capsule is inside so it knows what to add), decide how strong you want the drink, hit “mix,” and voila, you’re on your way to Lit Town, USA. While the Bartesian isn’t popping out Last Words or Jungle Birds (yet), it can whip up a wide array of classics, including Sazeracs, Negronis, mint juleps, and screwdrivers, as well as college-bar regulars like Long Islands and Sex on the Beach and even higher-end picks like Paper Planes and Mai Tais.  

Since its release in 2019, the machine has been hyped by everyone from Oprah, who named it one of her "Favorite Things," to the Consumer Electronics Show, which offered the invention an Innovation Award in 2020. On Amazon, it has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars from more than 1,850 reviews. So as a somewhat savvy home bartender, I was excited to try the Bartesian for myself. 

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The quality of the Bartesian’s drinks is up to you, and pretty much depends on whatever liquor you decide to load it up with. (The brand recommends adding whiskey, tequila, vodka, rum, and gin to the included glass bottles for the widest variety of cocktail options.) If you’re inclined to use the bottom-shelf stuff, you can certainly do that; however, if you like your old fashioned with Bulleit or your Aviation with Nolet’s, you can make that happen, too. If you want a screwdriver with Grey Goose, the world is your oyster. And of course, adding garnishes or fresh elements will also elevate the whole experience. 

When I received my Bartesian and put it to the test, I was surprised to find that some of the cocktails were not only passable, but good. The whiskey sour was a little sweet, but tasted punchy and pleasant—it was at least the quality you’d find at a chain restaurant, which is absolutely fine in this house. (And if you’re the kind of person who hates The Cheesecake Factory or California Pizza Kitchen, I don’t want to have a drink with you, anyway.) My girlfriend, who makes the best Boulevardier I’ve ever had, tried the whiskey sour and said, and I quote, “It’s so much better than I thought it was going to be”—and she’s a tough judge. To ensure that it packed that punch of fresh citrus, we simply added a squeeze of lime. The sour and a round of margaritas paired just fine with the vegan nachos we made for dinner that night. 

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In fact, I’ve now made Bartesian margaritas for a number of people, and everybody has seemed to enjoy them. Sure, the marg doesn't exactly taste like you squeezed the lime juice yourself mere seconds before, but remember, you’re consciously drinking a cocktail that came out of a machine, so that shouldn’t deter you. It was fun to be able to hand a friend a cold drink within 30 seconds of him entering my apartment. Imagine having 10 of your buds over to watch basketball or boogie at a Halloween party, and being able to serve everyone the cocktail of their choice almost instantly. Having a Jetsons-esque robot bartender like the Bartesian take over is both convenient and novel. Without it, would you disappear to your bar or kitchen for 15 minutes to throw together a platter of whiskey smashes? Probably not; and if you’re someone who would do that, then you don’t want this thing anyway. 

The only downside of the machine is that because the Bartesian pods are non-alcoholic (they're filled with real juice concentrates, bitters, and extracts, rather than specialty liqueurs), the Bartesian's versions of the Negroni and the Boulevardier aren’t going to have name-brand Campari, and their Aviation won’t have real crème de violette or maraschino liqueur. It’s a tradeoff for sure, and the Bartesian does bet it all on the fact that you don’t care that your Negroni has bittering agents from a capsule rather than real Campari and vermouth. For many, that’s totally fine—the payoff of drinking an easy, gin-based, Negroni-esque cocktail at the end of the day is still worth it. I may have private and powerful opinions about Negronis, but I’d never begrudge somebody for choosing an easy drink over no drink at all.

Obviously, if you’re a master mixologist and your home bar looks like Tom Cruise should be dancing around and flipping bottles into the air, then this product probably isn’t for you, just like how if you’re a coffee snob—er, connoisseur, sorry—who needs organic, single-origin washed coffee from Ethiopia every morning, you probably aren’t using the Keurig. But if you’re a casual chiller who just likes a margarita or old fashioned at the end of the day, or you’re someone who likes to serve up drinks to the homies on the weekend without having to clean bar tools, the Bartesian can be a very useful asset. 

The Bartesian is a niche product, but can be a powerful tool for people who love cocktails but hate tending bar, which I imagine describes a lot of people. Hell, I make a pretty good Manhattan, but that doesn’t mean I want to be doing it all the damn time—especially not if I’m planning to write my masterpiece and kill a ton of bad guys while rolling a turkey. Some of us have work to do! 

The Bartesian is available for purchase at Macy’s, Amazon, and Bed Bath & Beyond.