Monday, March 11, 2013

Pin It

Bartendro Eliminates Need for Pesky Skills and Knowledge

Pack it in, Dale DeGroff. We'll take your recipes and drinks nomenclature under advisement, Gaz Regan. Charlotte Voisey, it's time to unpack that suitcase one last time and stow it. Simon Ford, Chris Hannah, Erick Castro, Audrey's been nice knowing you. But Bartendro is here now — or will be soon — and, well, bartenders like you are going to have to start looking into new lines of work.

Your essentials may differ.
Bartendro, you see, is an automated, modular, couter-top drink-mixing robot that, its creators assure us, can crank out cocktails in less than ten seconds. Inventors Rob Kaye and Pierre Michael launched a Kickstarter campaign recently to promote the device. In the video (below), Michael explains the contraption's origins five years ago:
I was more of a beer and wine guy. I liked cocktails, but they seemed a little unapproachable. Whenever I was going to make a drink, it was messy and I was always wondering, "Is this what my drink is supposed to taste like?" So we set out to make a robot that would automate the pouring and get rid of the guesswork and the messiness. 

Maybe it's just the way I was brought up to overcome challenges, but we ought to learn skills and techniques to make tasks easier and experiences more enjoyable. Bartending isn't mathematics. Sure, formulas come into it, but actual skills and knowledge are at the core of it, not formulas. Variability of qualities such as the sourness of a particular lemon or the vitality of vermouth (was it opened an hour ago? a month ago?) require a human touch. Taste the vermouth to see if it's wan, add more (or less) sweetness to adjust for the lemon — an actual bartender can make innumerable decisions for adjusting drinks to the ingredients, a customer's mood, or even the weather. An actual bartender can suggest things you might not ever consider and — good ones, anyway — spend hours upon hours developing recipes, perfecting techniques, building a knowledge bank of ingredients, and learning the craft.

Frankly, if you don't know how a drink is supposed to taste, you need a good bartender. Walk into a bar during a slow time and try something like this:

"Say, Lloyd, I'd like to try a Manhattan. The thing is, I've never made one I thought was any good. Maybe it's just me. Mind if I watch how you do it?" If Lloyd himself is any good, he may ask whether you prefer rye or bourbon and, if the latter, whether you're in the mood for something soft or with a little more peppery bite to it. Bulleit, maybe. Ask questions as long as he's not crushed by a crowd. Take the opportunity to learn something. Come back and visit Lloyd and the rest of the staff. Meet your neighbors and colleagues. Learn something, then go practice it. Get out and experience life. Heads up, though: sometimes, it gets messy.

Or just just chuck it the towel, give up, and get a robot. If you can't be bothered to learn something as simple as a gimlet or a mule, Bartendro may be for you. The Bartendro Kickstarter is here. Almost 300 backers have already pledged over $100,000.

I wish the boys nothing but happiness, but don't look for my name among those kicking in for this particular project.


randall said...

Yeah, but if you leave mixing drinks to ACTUAL people, they might offend someone's palate.

With a machine you get a perfectly average drink made for perfectly average people. No fuss, no muss, and no one is offended.

Seems to me this is where the US if not the world wants to head anyway, so why even bother trying to fight it anymore.

Christopher Carlsson said...

There was a project years ago called cocktail monkey or bar monkey ( can't remember which)
Which had a similar idea and a number of them where actually built ( most seemed to be built in Frat Houses by engineering students).
The results were as predictable as one might imagine - a cocktail mixed by a LINUX database and stainless steel solenoid operated valves delivered as soulless a cocktail as the machinery that made it.
And yes, I remember Gary Regan heavily discouraging me from even attempting to build such a mechanical Antichrist back then too.

Matthew Rowley said...

Engineering students are allows some passes on building ridiculous machines for the sake of exploring what's possible. I saw a machine recently which had one purpose and one purpose only when it was turned on: to flip a switch and turn itself off. Most useless machine ever.

This thing, though, sounds like a joke that's taken on a life of its own. Engineering aside, this is one of the most depressing bits of cocktail kit I've ever seen.