Bartendro is a new gadget at the center of a Kickstarter campaign. In a nutshell, it’s an automated system for serving cocktails: just link your tablet or smartphone to Bartendro’s software, select your favorite cocktail, and wait for it to be dispensed.
On the one hand, we appreciate the ingenuity behind Bartendro. A quick look at the demo video shows that the machine was harder than you might think to create.
Also, automated service like this seems to be the way of the future. Over the past decade or so, countless bars have begun placing gizmos on the spouts of their liquor bottles to measure “perfect pours”. We’re sure the manufacturers of such devices claim that they help bartenders make better drinks, but the bottom line is that they control costs by preventing barkeeps from giving away the shop. Bartendro is the logical next step in that evolution.
On the hand…well, on the other hand, where do we start?
First and foremost, Bartendro can only make the most basic of cocktails on its own. Until the designers coax the machine into shaking, stirring, muddling fruit, chilling glasses, and adding rims of salt, it’s probably not going to be very useful. For parties? Maybe. For serious drinkers who appreciate a mixologist’s touch? Not so much. It’s the kind of thing that might come in handy at some Bourbon Street bars, or on the Vegas strip, but elsewhere, the appeal will be limited.
Second — and perhaps most importantly — Bartendro obviously lacks the human element. If we wanted to drink pitch-perfect gin-and-tonics, we could do so at home. We go out, in part, to be social with friends, strangers, and — yes — the bartender. At this point, Bartendro doesn’t even have the personality of Rosie the Robot, much less that of a bona fide mixologist.
Like cooking, mixing cocktails is an activity that can be replicated by machine, but given today’s technology, the products — and the experience of consuming them — lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Going forward, there will obviously be a demand for Bartendro and its ilk, and in fact, the Kickstarter project will likely reach its $135,000 goal. But until the machine learns how to smile, listen to our problems, and improvise at our request, we’ll stick with our human barkeeps.