Review: Is this $370 Barthesian cocktail machine worth the cost?

The machine

Bartesian cocktail maker$369.99

The backstory

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

How else to explain the many cocktail shakers or ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails that you find on store shelves? And in recent years, there’s been another way to have your drinks at home – via a machine that does the heavy lifting (er, mixing) for you. Two such products emerged – Drinkworks, a joint venture of Anheuser-Busch BUD,
and Keurig Dr. Pepper KDP,
and Bartesian, a product launched by entrepreneur Ryan Close in 2019.

Drinkworks eventually didn’t make 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” used to prepare the drinks. He says the product struck a chord for one simple reason: “Preparing cocktails is a pain in the ass.”

At this point, it might be worth explaining a bit about how Bartesian works: the machine lets you fill bottles with key spirits – vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, tequila – and then insert them upside down into their base. From there, you pop in one of the cocktail capsules — there are dozens of options (separate purchase required), from a sidecar to a low-calorie whiskey sour — and determine how strong you want your sip. You can also choose the non-alcoholic or “mocktail” route.

Then it takes no more than a minute until your cocktail is ready to drink.

Close emphasizes the quality and the special origin of what goes into the capsules. “For the blackberries in our blackberry margarita, we go to Texas,” he says as an 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

When it comes to Bartesian, my opinion is divided.

First the pros: It makes a decent drink – maybe not as good as one you’ll get at a craft cocktail bar, but certainly far better than some of the overly sweet and artificial RTDs on the market. And it’s hands down better than what you’ll 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 choosing the exact spirit of your choice (in other words, you can go high-end or low-end with your alcohol).

But there are some downsides. Most importantly, 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 that probably isn’t as critical as a kitchen blender or air fryer (the hot appliance of the moment).

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

Also, I’m not convinced that making a great cocktail from scratch is that hard. I do it occasionally, or I rely on a good quality blender to make things easier. It might not be as fun or, more importantly, as convenient as having the equivalent of a booze-loving robot in your house. But remember: you still have to order those capsules, which normally cost $19.99 for a set of eight, to feed this robot.

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if the Bartesian and its price tag are worth the convenience. Review: Is this $370 Barthesian cocktail machine worth the cost?

Brian Lowry

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