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Weekend Sip: Review: Is this $370 Bartesian cocktail-making machine worth the expense?

The machine

Bartesian cocktail maker, $369.99

The back story

America loves its cocktails. But apparently, it doesn’t love making them.

How else to explain the many cocktail mixers or ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails you’ll find on store shelves? And in recent years, there’s been another way to have your drinks at home — via a machine that will do the heavy lifting (er, mixing) for you. Two such products came to market – Drinkworks, a joint venture from Anheuser-Busch

and Keurig Dr. Pepper
and Bartesian, a product launched in 2019 by entrepreneur Ryan Close.

Drinkworks ended up not making it — the machine was discontinued late last year — but Bartesian continues to find a market: Close says his company has sold hundreds of thousands of machines and 15 million of the “capsules” that are used in preparing the drinks. He says the product has struck a chord for a simple reason: “Making cocktails is a pain in the ass.”

At this point, it might be worth explaining a little how Bartesian works: The machine has you fill bottles with key spirits — vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, tequila — and then insert them upside down into its base. From there, you pop in one of the cocktail capsules — there are dozens of options (separate purchase required), from a sidecar to low-cal whiskey sour — and determine how strong you’d like your sip. You can also go the no-alcohol or “mocktail” route, too.

Then, it takes no more than a minute for your cocktail to be sip-ready.

Close emphasizes the quality and special sourcing of what goes into the capsules. “We go to Texas for the blackberries in our blackberry margarita,” he says by way of example. He also notes that he avoids using high-fructose corn syrup. In the end, he says, you can make a “gold-standard cocktail” with Bartesian.

What we think about it

I’m of two minds about Bartesian.

First, the pros: It does make a decent drink — maybe not as good as one you’ll get in a craft cocktail bar, but certainly far better than some of the overly sweet and artificial RTDs on the market. And it’s no doubt better than what you may get at a neighborhood bar that relies on, say, canned juices.

I also like the customization aspect — both in terms of choosing the strength of the drink and in choosing the exact spirit of your choice (in other words, you can go high end or low end with your booze).

But there are some cons. Chief among them: This thing takes up a lot of counter space. You have to ask yourself if you really want to give up that space for something probably not as critical as a kitchen mixer or an air fryer (the hot appliance of the moment).

In response, Close points out the obvious: The Bartesian doesn’t have to go on a kitchen counter and can be placed instead in a home-bar area. But that’s presuming you have that luxury. (I live in a New York City apartment — a home bar is as much an anathema to me as a backyard hot tub.)

I’m also not convinced it’s that hard to make a great cocktail from scratch. I do it occasionally, or I rely on a high-quality mixer to make things easier. It’s perhaps not as much fun or, more critically, as convenient as having the equivalent of a booze-loving robot in your house. But keep in mind: You’ll need to keep ordering those capsules, which typically cost $19.99 for a set of eight, to feed that robot.

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if the Bartesian and its price tag is worth the convenience.

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