We Tried the Bartesian, the Keurig Machine of Cocktails

Old Fashioneds with the press of a button? Yes, please.

Bartesian cocktail machine
Photos by Cole Saladino and courtesy of Bartesian, design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Photos by Cole Saladino and courtesy of Bartesian, design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist

I was skeptical when I first heard of a pod machine for cocktails. The same eye roll: must we automate everything? Is nothing sacred? But then I thought about how I press a button for my coffee every morning. It’s so convenient. It’s delicious. And despite the upfront cost, it’s still cheaper than going to a cafe every time I need caffeine. So, when I got a chance to try the Bartesian, a pod system for cocktails, I took it.

The Bartesian is designed to be a one-stop shop for cocktails. Five glass bottles surround the machine. All you need to do is fill each with a booze of your choice, pop in a pod—they range from lemon drop to Mai Tai to a margarita—choose your desired strength on the touch screen, and that’s it. The machine will pull the booze from the bottle, mix it with the capsule, and your cocktail is ready in mere seconds.

Great for convenience and entertaining

If you’re having a dinner party, the Bartesian can be both the bartender and the entertainment. It can make a huge variety of cocktails without any effort or foresight or trips to the store for 15 limes. You can let your guests choose whatever capsule they want (and judge them if they choose the Witch’s Heart with edible glitter shimmer). It even tells you what type of glassware to use and says a friendly “cheers!” on the touchscreen when you’re done.

If you like experimenting with cocktails but don’t want to fill your bar with obscure spirits and mixers, this thing is gold. Want to try an Aviation? You don’t need to go to the store to pick up créme de violette. It’s all in the recycle capsules.

“There’s definitely a market for it because some people definitely love gadgets and convenience,” says Jeannette Hurt, prolific cocktail writer and author of Drink Like a Woman. “They make it easy for consumers, but they also play on their doubts and insecurities, that they can’t bake a cake from scratch or that they need a margarita mix to make a perfect margarita. But I think it has an entertainment value.”

As someone who loves to partake in the party but doesn’t like to drink all that much, I love that you can customize your drink strength. When I was trying the machine out, I could even make my pregnant sister a mocktail, while mixing a strong Old Fashioned for my brother-in-law.

What’s more, this thing is fast. I tried a little competition to see who could make a cocktail faster: machine or human. Unsurprisingly, the machine won out every time. It’s always a little frightening thinking about machines taking over the world, but at least this one makes a good drink.

Drinks might not be as easy to customize

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Bartesian, there’s a fair amount of eye roll involved if you’re thinking about a pod system for cocktails.

First, the machine is expensive. $349.99 expensive. If you do happen to go out very often and drink a lot, it’s possible that it’ll save you money in the long haul, but it’s not a cheap thrill and you still need to buy the pods and the booze. It also has a fairly significant footprint, so you’d need a dedicated home bar where it can exist as the centerpiece.

Also, pod life is sugary. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the capsules I tried were very sweet—in a way that might make your hangover come early and stay late. You simply can’t replace fresh ingredients with pod ingredients. The same way bottled lime juice doesn’t have the same acidity or pungency of just-squeezed limes. While you may get a wider breadth of mixers and ingredients, they often won’t be able to capture the freshness of the real thing.

“I can see that it could be fun to play with, especially with a group,” says writer Kara Newman, author of numerous cocktail books and this story about robot bartenders. “But I suspect it would get old fast, since you can’t customize drinks easily. Seems like your money may be better spent on a great bottle and a cocktail class.”

So, should I get a Bartesian?

If you’ve got money to burn, space in your home bar, and love experimenting with cocktails, the Bartesian is a home run. It’s a cute cocktail robot that will make you feel like a kid again, while drinking grownup drinks. You can try lots of concoctions without committing to bottles upon bottles of obscure spirits. It would make a spectacular holiday gift for someone who geeks out over cocktails, but doesn’t sweat the lack of fresh ingredients or the sugar-fueled hangover.

As I sip coffee made from my Nespresso machine, I can’t help but think that at some point in the past, coffee snobs everywhere scoffed at this coffee-at-the-press-of-a-button nonsense. Actually, they’re probably still scoffing, but here we are. If it can work for coffee, why not your next cocktail?

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Ariel Kanter is a freelance food and lifestyle writer living in Highland Park, Illinois. You can find her bylines on Serious Eats, New York Magazine’s The Strategist, Edible Brooklyn, Refinery29, and more. If she’s not writing, cooking, or eating, she’s playing with her terrier mix, Pippin.