Barsys has made me question what I consider to be a good cocktail. You can add up to five bottles of alcohol to the stations on top of this robotic bartender, and insert up to three mixers in specialized plastic containers into the side. Tell the Barsys app what ingredients you have to work with, and it will show you a variety of cocktails you can make with a push of a button. Pick one, put your glass on the tray, and Barsys springs into action, pouring the proper amount of each ingredient into your glass.
Even at its best, you'll still need to deal with its limitations. Many cocktails call for a garnish, and several popular ones need extras like a dash of sugar that Barsys can't provide. While five different bottles of alcohol is plenty for a party night, being limited to three mixers at a time will limit your options. And perhaps unsurprisingly, when I compared Barsys to an actual bartender, it highlighted the fact that there is more to making a drink than pouring the correct proportions.
All told, Barsys can indeed make a good cocktail, but it will never be able to make a great one. That alone is unfortunate, given that the machine costs a hefty $1,050. Beyond that, both the Barsys hardware and the app need a lot of polish. The app crashes frequently and glitches more often than that. The machine can leak, and switching out alcohol and mixer bottles is a giant pain.
I understand the appeal of an automated cocktail maker, and Barsys does particularly well with fruity drinks that don't need delicate mixing or extras -- just the right mixture of liquids. Barsys even looks attractive -- its lights are particularly well suited to an atmospheric bar. Nevertheless, given the hefty price, the inherent limitations, the problems with the app and the sometimes leaky machine, I don't recommend Barsys to anyone.
A messy bartender
Finding a spot for Barsys might be your first setup challenge. It's a hefty 55-pound machine that isn't exactly going to blend into your typical countertop. Then again, for what it is, the style works. Plug it in and different colored lights illuminate the drink tray. They're both decorative and functional. If you remove your drink too early, they'll shine red and the machine will automatically stop pouring. Once your drink is ready, Barsys turns green to let you know.
You control Barsys using the company's iOS or Android app. If you already have a couple of bottles of liquor and some mixers, you can put them in place and use the app to assign each bottle to a station. The app will then show you the recipes you can make with your ingredients. If not, the app will let you select different drinks you might like from its library. You can then see both the full list of ingredients for those drinks and the most frequently used common denominators so you can prioritize what to buy on your next shopping trip.
Putting your liquor bottles in place requires some finesse. Barsys doesn't provide any ingredients. It doesn't make cocktails from concentrate or pods like the upcoming Keurig. Instead, you put a specialized cork into your liquor of choice, then flip the bottle and put it onto one of five plastic nozzles jutting out from the top of the machine. The end result looks cool if you have Barsys stacked with five of your favorite liquors, but the nozzles can push the corks in odd directions, so you need to turn them into place carefully.from
If the cork is misaligned, when it comes time to pour the drink, Barsys could spray outside of the glass instead of pouring the intended gentle stream. I've also seen Barsys drip booze on occasion.
Obviously, Barsys intends for you to leave each bottle of alcohol in place until it's gone, as removing bottles with liquor still in them is even more of a pain. At best, lifting the bottle away takes a little elbow grease and will drip your precious booze as the specialized cork reseals. At worst, the cork will stay stuck in the machine when you pull the bottle out, spilling liquor everywhere.
This happened to me a couple of different times with a couple of different bottles of liquor. One time when I was removing bottles before moving the machine, three of the five corks stayed on the nozzle instead of lifting away with the bottle, resulting in spilled liquor everywhere. The cork fits as snugly in the bottle as it does on the nozzle, so when you pull the bottle away, you're somewhat relying on chance that the cork stays with the bottle instead of the nozzle.
Five liquor slots should be enough for most people, I'd imagine, but if you have a wide selection and want to change them out for parties with different themes or guests, keep in mind that Barsys might cause you to spill a lot of your stock.
The mixer containers are simpler, but they're actually more leak-prone. Pour in your juice or soda, then seal the plastic top and slide the container into one of the three slots on the side of Barsys. Push it in until it clicks into place and push it again to get it to release, like a spring-loaded cabinet door. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to predict when or why the mixer containers would leak, but they frequently made a mess during my tests.
Barsys has a drip tray under the serving stand where you set your glass, but that didn't help me with the mess when the mixers leaked or the liquors sprayed.
Get your ingredients in place, and you tell Barsys what is where using the app. The app also tracks volume as long as you put the right starting number. That's easy with full liquor bottles, but I wish the containers for the mixers had measuring lines, as I didn't want to take the time to measure out how much orange juice I was adding.
The app talks to Barsys via Bluetooth, and anyone within Bluetooth range of the machine can control it. That's fine in theory, especially if multiple people want to make a cocktail, but only one person can connect at a time, so you could wind up locked out if someone nearby is checking recipes.
An upcoming Party Mode for the Barsys app will supposedly help resolve this issue by letting multiple people connect to Barsys at once. Hopefully, it will also allow you to limit who can connect to your machine with a password. Right now, anyone within Bluetooth range can sync to Barsys and lock you out.
The app also glitches frequently. It crashed on me with regularity, and lost track of how much liquor was where on occasion. I also had to pair my phone with Barsys every time I unlocked my phone, even if I hadn't closed the app.
When it works, the app is nicely organized. You can order multiple drinks at once and the app will cue them up and pour one at a time -- waiting for you to replace the first glass before it starts making the next drink. The weight sensor on the drink stand was reliable at this task.