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Barsys Automated Cocktail Maker review: A messy cocktail maker that pours disappointing drinks

Barsys is a cool idea in need of a lot of refinement.

Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
10 min read

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.


Barsys Automated Cocktail Maker

The Good

Barsys can automatically make a wide variety of cocktails from a large database of recipes. Barsys will pour proper proportions quickly and look good doing it.

The Bad

You can only have three mixers in the machine at any given time, and Barsys can't shake your cocktail or add extras like sugar, garnishes or bitters. The glitchy app frequently crashes and loses track of your ingredients. The machine itself occasionally leaks, and switching out bottles of alcohol is a huge pain.

The Bottom Line

Both the Barsys machine and the app need more polish, and even at its best, Barsys costs too much for a machine that essentially measures volumes of alcohol for you.

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.

The colorful Barsys will automatically whip up your favorite cocktail

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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.


Barsys looks cool in action. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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 Drinkworks Home Bar from 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.

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.


Pick your liquors wisely, as it's much easier to just leave them in place until they're gone then try to switch them out. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.


Insert up to three mixers into these plastic containers on the side. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.

If you're fine dealing with a messy bartender and an app that still needs work, you can buy Barsys now via the company's site for $1,050. You can find it in the US and the UK, but not Australia for now.

Note that as of now, orders will ship at the end of February, so it looks like manufacturing is somewhat backed up. Mine didn't come with the wireless mixer -- which is a glass with blending blades at the bottom. Apparently the mixer is further behind in manufacturing than the machine and other customers are getting it on a delay as well. While the customized glass looks cool, it wouldn't solve any of my main issues with Barsys. 


These mixer containers could use an upgrade. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Barsys looks like a work in progress, which is good given the flaws, but it also means you should wait to make a purchase if the machine still sounds appealing despite the price and the limitations.

Update, February 19, 2019: According to a Barsys spokesperson, the company says it now has mixer canisters that don't leak, and a mounting for liquor bottles to prevent spilling when you remove them. These updated parts are apparently being sent to existing customers free of charge. Both are welcome updates, and I'm glad Barsys isn't leaving existing customers behind, but it needs many more improvements before I'd recommend it.

Not shaken or stirred

Once you get everything properly in place, Barsys can pour your drink pretty quickly. Tap "make" on your cocktail of choice and set your drink on the tray, and Barsys will spray the proper amounts of each ingredient into your glass. Barsys doesn't chill your drink or offer temperature control, so I'd recommend having ice handy at the very least.

The taste of the drink itself will vary wildly based on the ingredients you supply. Don't expect Barsys to transform your budget vodka into something delicious. Spring for liquor from a higher shelf, and the results will shine through as you'd expect.

If your drink calls for any extras, like a dash of bitters, a cube of sugar or a garnish, you'll need to add them to the glass yourself. The Barsys app will specify the required extras, so you'll have some help, if not automation.

You can also use the app to make a customized cocktail from scratch or alter the recipe of an existing cocktail if you want to make it stronger or weaker. Barsys pours the proper proportions within roughly 10 percent. It doesn't quite hit pinpoint accuracy, but the amounts are close enough that you likely won't taste the difference.

The final taste of the cocktails I tried during testing varied wildly, as you'd expect, as I changed recipes, liquors and mixers. Barsys made a few drinks that I quite liked. We bought a nice bottle of bourbon for testing, so bourbon-based cocktails came out the best. I liked the margarita and a few of the fruity cocktails with vodka and various juices as well.

One other annoyance with the app came up because of our use of bourbon. The app only surfaces recipes that specifically call for bourbon. Bourbon is a type of whiskey, and though I could adjust this with customization or just by telling it I had whiskey in one station, I'd have liked to see recipes that generally called for whiskey and those that asked for bourbon.

Overall, if you don't need garnishes, extras or a fancy look to your drink, Barsys will make you a suitable cocktail. Keep in mind that even some basic cocktails call for more extras than you might think. I was excited to try the Barsys version of an Old Fashioned. As it turns out, an Old Fashioned just calls for whiskey, sugar and bitters. Tell Barsys to make it for you, and it just squirts a little whiskey into your glass. You're entirely on your own to transform that whiskey into something else.

Up against a practiced bartender, the shortcomings of Barsys became that much more apparent. Again, a bartender can cycle through more than three different mixers with ease, but once the right ingredients are in place, Barsys tends to make complex drinks faster.

I performed a two-part test of Barsys versus a bartender at Rabbit Hole Distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. In the first, both made a Boulevardier, which calls for vermouth, rye whiskey and Campari. I didn't let the bartender use garnishes and subjected one of my coworkers to a blind taste test. Given that the drink called entirely for liquids, I expected Barsys to be able to keep up and it did.


We took Barsys to Rabbit Hole Distillery for a showdown against a real bartender. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

My coworker Brian Bennett actually preferred the Barsys version of the cocktail. I thought the Barsys version tasted distinctly more boozy, but that could be solved in part by the blending glass. Regardless, given a basic recipe and equal ingredients, Barsys gave a real bartender a good battle.

Round two wasn't close. I took the restrictions off of the bartender and asked him to make me something good and fancy with as many extras as he'd like. He elected to make a New York Sour, which calls for simple syrup, lemon juice, red wine and bourbon. The bartender also added egg white, shook the drink vigorously and drizzled the red wine on top near the end of his process.

I added a custom recipe so Barsys could use the same proportions and ingredients as the bartender, but simply pouring the four ingredients into a glass wasn't the same. I also didn't add any egg, as I thought pouring egg white into a finished drink stood to make it worse and Barsys can't do anything like that on its own.

The drinks were drastically different. The bartender's version was terrific and the custom Barsys recipe was terrible. That New York Sour showed me that a great cocktail goes beyond just the basic ingredients, as even though the liquid part of the second cocktail was the same, the way the bartender put it together made a world of difference. Barsys can't help with that.

The verdict

On the one hand, Barsys is a cool-looking robot cocktail maker with a large list of recipes. It's unique and interesting and doesn't resort to using concentrate or pods. If you have the expendable income for a $1,050 toy, Barsys could be a fun conversation piece on party night that will save you the effort of pouring the drinks yourself, but you'll still want to wait to make a purchase, as Barsys doesn't feel like a finished product.

Both the machine and the app need a lot more polish before I could recommend Barsys to anyone. As it stands, Barsys is a too expensive, messy gadget with a buggy app that frequently crashes and limitations that prevent it from reaching the heights of what cocktails can be. It really only pours proper proportions. Every other aspect of making a cocktail -- garnishes, extras, ice and even shaking the drink -- are still up to you. Spend that grand on some really nice booze and you'll have the makings of a better cocktail party. Plus, you can replicate Barsys with a shot glass for measuring and Google for searching recipes.


Barsys Automated Cocktail Maker

Score Breakdown

Features 5Usability 3Design 2Performance 6