REVIEW – When I make one I make sure that I have the right cherries on hand. (Using those maraschino cherries is for amateurs.) I also need the perfect orange bitters, and good quality simple syrup. The right sized glass is also critical, and if you have the ability to make one, use a classic ice ball so you don’t have use that standard ice that your refrigerator spits out. And of course, the biggest choice is picking just the right bourbon, which for an old fashioned is usually a rye. Part of the joy of drinking it is making it. But what is this witchcraft? A machine that makes an old fashioned with the press of a button? No mixing? No stirring? Surely this can’t be. Let’s find out.
What is it?
A Keurig-type dispenser that makes cocktails on-demand.
What’s in the box?
- Bartesian drink machine
- Drink book
Design and features
The Bartesian measures 12.5”x12.75”x12.25”, which is a little larger footprint than a large Keurig coffee maker, but it should fit under the cabinets of most kitchens. And in our house we don’t have a dedicated bar, so we use the Bartesian in the kitchen. We also don’t use it daily (more on that later) so when not in use we store it in the pantry. If we had a dedicated bar, we would definitely keep the Bartesian prominently in place for all to see, if for no other reason than it is a great conversation piece! But you don’t buy the Bartesian for a conversation starter, so let’s talk about the features.
The main unit looks very much like a coffee maker, with the water reservoir at the back and you lift the very front of it to insert the pods, then close it to hear that familiar ‘pop’ as a needle punctures the pod. But in the case of the Bartesian you don’t pop in a pod of coffee, you use one of the approximate 40 types of pods for your favorite cocktail. More on those pods later. On the left and right side of the main unit of the Bartesian you will find 4 glass containers (2 on each side) that contain your liquors of choice for whiskey, tequila, vodka, and gin/rum. You actually have 5 glass containers, so the slot for the gin/rum is swapped out depending on which drink you are making. Thankfully, the Bartesian prompts you when to swap it out so you won’t have to worry about forgetting to swap it out when needed.
So here is how it works. You pick the brand/quality of liquor you like, fill the glass containers (26 oz / 950ML, which is larger than the standard sized liquor bottle which is 750ML) with the liquor, insert them into the appropriate location (they are marked), lift the lid and insert the drink pod of your choice, close the lid, then follow the prompts on the screen to make the drink.
The glass containers have a special dispenser for the top that screws on. Here is a close-up picture of the lid, which has a special value they call a ‘duck bill’ valve.
When you are ready to use the glass containers with the liquor in them, you turn them upside down and this special lid slides easily into the round slot on the Bartesian, and this special ‘duck bill’ valve is used by the Bartesian to pull in the liquor as needed when it is making the drinks. I bring up this special valve because to maintain the Bartesian you have to periodically take the tops of the containers apart and clean them out very good, including this ‘duck bill’ to make sure that gunk doesn’t build up inside them.
It is important to mention that the pods do not have the alcohol in them, which is why you have to fill the containers with your favorite liquors. I mention this because the other product that competes with the Bartesian is the Drinkworks, made by Keurig, and their pods actually do contain alcohol. I pondered this major difference between these 2 products, and I actually like being able to pick the alcohol that I like. So what is exactly inside the Bartesian pods? Depending on the drink pod, there are real fruit juices, mixers, bitters, extracts, and so on. The contents are sugar based, not corn syrup based, which is great. And, they are recyclable, for those folks who want to recycle.
The secret to making the perfect cocktail is located on the pod itself. There is a barcode on the top of each pod that is scanned by the Bartesian when you close the lid, so it knows exactly the type of drink to make. Here’s a picture.
The touch screen on the top of the lid tells you what drink is getting ready to be made, and it even tells you the appropriate glass to put under the dispenser. It also asks you what strength of drink you would like: ‘mocktail’ (no alcohol), light, regular, and strong. This is another advantage over other products I believe, because you can decide how much alcohol to use. The Bartesian also came with a drink book that provide some neat information about each drink like what it pairs well with, what garnish to use, and more. Very nice touch. Also in the back of the book is a chart that tells you exactly how much alcohol is used for each drink when you choose ‘light, regular, and strong’.
So I know what you are thinking. These drinks can’t be that good. I mean, you can’t get a decent drink from a pod, right? You would be surprised. I am bit of a snob when it comes to an old fashioned. I realize it is a pretty easy drink to make, but everyone likes their old fashioned a certain way… maybe a little more sweet, maybe with more bitters, and so on. So I did a test with the Bartesian. Me and another old fashioned fan manually made one the way we like, then we compared it to the Bartesian old fashioned. And low and behold, it was good. I mean, good enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to pop in a pod and make one. Do I still like making my own? I do. But if the Bartesian was on the counter, I would make one with the Bartesian rather than make it myself. By the way, a box of 8 capsules from Bartesian costs $20, which comes out to $2.50 per drink. Very affordable in my opinion. And for those folks who end up really liking the Bartesian you can sign up for their monthly subscription service for about $38 where they send you two 8-packs of pods of your choosing, which you can change every month.
So what is the downside of this thing? For those people who enjoy the process of making your own drink… the mixing, the shaking, etc… maybe this isn’t for you. But the reality is that I would never be able to make over 40 different drinks myself. First of all, I have no idea what ingredients go into each drink, and I have no idea what proportion of this and that to use, and I don’t have all the juices, mixes, extracts, etc, that I would need. I can make maybe 3 or 4 drinks pretty good, that’s it. So the Bartesian opens up the possibilities for drinks for us. If you drink the same drink all the time, there’s not much need for the Bartesian. Which is why we don’t keep it out on the counter all the time. I only make an old fashioned on a regular basis. And my wife is a wine/beer drinker. So we only use the Bartesian when we have other people over for parties and such. And it’s always a big hit.
In fact, as a final test of the Bartesian, to make sure that I wasn’t overlooking something, we invited several folks over to test it out. We had pods for about a dozen different drinks, so we really put the Bartesian through its paces. And I discovered that as good as the Bartesian is, everyone has their own opinion about their favorite drink. One of our friends loves Cosmopolitans, and she said the Bartesian Cosmo was fantastic. My wife agreed. Another friend loved the margarita, but my wife didn’t like it at all. I liked it myself. Another friend thought the Rum Breeze and Uptown Rocks were too sweet, while her husband thought they were great. So if you get the Bartesian, invest in several of the Variety Packs on their website so can you try out several of the drinks to find your favorite.
A few final things to mention that will help make your experience better. The pods are filled with sugar based ingredients, and they are liquids. Make sure that you put your glass under the dispenser before putting the pod in the lid, and leave the glass there till you take the pod out and dispose of it. Sometimes the pods dripped a little when I closed the lid and when I removed it, and those ingredients are sticky. Also, the water reservoir doesn’t chill the water, so if you want your drinks to have chilled water, fill the reservoir with ice and water and let it sit for a little bit before you use the Bartesian to allow the water to chill. Finally, the Bartesian doesn’t have a container to put tonic or club soda, so drinks that require those you’ll have to make yourself.
What I like
- Around 40 drink types to choose from, with more added over time.
- You get to pick your brand/quality of alcohol.
- Great for a party or get-together.
- You can’t mess up the drinks, just follow the prompts!
What I would change
- No way to include club soda/tonic. Maybe in future versions??
If you have a party at your house, do you really want to spend the whole evening making drinks for everyone? The Bartesian not only can free up your time, it really is a cool party accessory and conversation starter. In fact, even people who don’t know each other can use the Bartesian to start a conversation and get to know each other better. And that’s how the Bartesian will fit into our life. The party at our house was a hit because of the Bartesian, and several folks said they wanted to buy one themselves. You’ll still need those garnishes to make the perfect drink… olives, cherries, limes, etc, but we just pre-made those and set them by the Bartesian so folks could help themselves to whatever they wanted. Are the quality of drinks as good as you get in your local bar? In some cases, yes, and in some cases, no. I have paid way too much for crappy drinks in a bar, and I am sure you have as well. So your taste buds will have the final say. So is it worth a price of $349? For us, the price is worth it. For other folks who would never use the vast array of drink pods available, it is an expensive toy that would gather dust.