Bev by Black & Decker cocktail maker review: Let the Robot Tend Bar
When do you wake up? blurred vision and inactivity to the point where you can hardly concentrate to stagger into the kitchen and mix one cocktails? Well, we’ve got a product for you. Black & Decker Bev makes mixed drinks just like Keurig did for coffee, complete with all the pros and cons the comparison implies.
The $250 Black & Decker Bev “wired cocktail maker” is pretty monstrous on the countertop, weighing 16 pounds unloaded and 15 inches tall with a 16 x 18 inch footprint. Six tubes extend down to the bottles of liquor you offer — vodka, gin, whiskey (you choose), rum, and tequila. The sixth faucet is used for the included water tank.
Bev’s secret sauce is that it uses K-cup-like capsules to deliver all the other ingredients in the cocktail. So, a box of margarine includes lemon juice, sweetener, and some sort of orange flavoring — in that time it’s not like three seconds, because the box of margarine doesn’t contain alcohol. The tequila for drinks comes from a bottle you load into the machine.
A company called Bartesian, the company that pioneered the concept and also produces its own (expensive but elegant) distributed hardware, is the brains behind all of this. Bartesian makes more than 40 flavoring shells, each produces a different cocktail, from simple classics to sophisticated beach sex and, yes, even the iconic Long Island iced tea. The eight-box bundle costs $20, and note that you don’t get even a single piece of free software with Bev.
The Bev isn’t the most elegant piece of equipment, but if you were to ask me what a cocktail making system made by Black & Decker looks like, this is probably what I would sketch.
Setting up the Bev requires a bit of effort and exposes some of the device’s limitations. A standard Gray Goose bottle is too tall to fit in the machine’s vodka slot, while a Patron tequila bottle has a mouth that’s too wide for the spout’s rubber gasket to fit. So make sure you can use any brandy you want… as long as the bottles are the right size. (You can also pour that Gray Goose into an empty Popov bottle if you want to keep it classy, I suppose.)
Another major downside is that the Bev doesn’t do any shaking or stirring. It pours the ingredients — at room temperature — into a glass, then you chill them yourself and serve the drink. Initially, I put all the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, then chilled them with a shake and finally put them in a serving glass, but eventually I learned that stirring the drink in a serving glass filled with ice is much simpler and gives almost the same results with a lot less cleanup. We’re not talking craft cocktails here, so some shortcuts won’t kill anyone.
This way of working is especially important if you’re using Bev in the only way it’s meant to be: As the attraction for a party where people make their own drinks instead of you. Toss a bunch of Bartesian pellets in the bowl, provide some general guidance, and let your guests have some fun with it. They’re sure to enjoy the light show Bev turns on while brewing and the ability to “adjust your power” between one of four levels of intoxication, including virgin—though I warn you Don’t choose the highest level, this can leave you with more than 4.5 ounces of hooch in your glass and a nasty hangover the next day.
I was really hoping that the Bev would double as a push button wine dispenser where I could pull the lever and produce a shot of whiskey or gin without having to deal with the measuring device. measure, but unfortunately Bev was unable to perform this simple feat. It’s cocktail or nothing, and the machine won’t do without the Bartesian box. A simple feature like this would give the device a little extra functionality beyond making for a relatively limited set of drinks that Bartesian has to offer. Obviously you cannot add your own recipes to the system.
As for the cocktails, they hit and miss. They all tend to be too sweet — some too sweet, no matter what strength you choose — though in testing half a dozen different groups, I was surprised to find that international was the most accessible, Next is the old style. The iced tea on Long Island wasn’t half as bad, but of course my memory has been hazy ever since.