Bev by Black & Decker Cocktail Maker Review: Let the Robot Tend Bar
Ever wake up so bleary-eyed and unable to function that you can barely get it together to stumble your way into the kitchen and mix a cocktail? Well, have we got a product for you. The Black & Decker Bev does for mixed drinks what Keurig did for coffee, complete with all the pros and cons that the comparison implies.
The $250 Black & Decker Bev “corded cocktail maker” is quite the monstrosity on the countertop, weighing 16 pounds unloaded and measuring 15 inches tall with a footprint of 16 by 18 inches. Six tubes extend downward into liquor bottles that you provide—vodka, gin, whiskey (your choice), rum, and tequila. The sixth hose is used for an included water carafe.
The secret sauce of the Bev is that it uses K-cup-like capsules to deliver all the other ingredients in the cocktail. So a margarita pod includes lime juice, sweetener, and some type of orange flavoring—through it’s not triple sec, because the pods are nonalcoholic. The tequila for the drink comes from a bottle you load into the machine.
A company called Bartesian, which pioneered the concept and which also makes its own (pricey but elegant) dispenser hardware, is the brains behind all of this. Bartesian makes more than 40 flavoring pods, each producing a different cocktail ranging from the simple old-fashioned to the complex sex on the beach and, yes, even the iconic Long Island iced tea. Eight-packs of pods are $20, and note you don’t get even a single freebie with the Bev.
The Bev is not the most elegant of contraptions, but if you asked me what a Black & Decker-produced cocktail making system would look like, this would probably be what I’d sketch.
Raising the Bar
Setting up the Bev requires a bit of effort and exposes some of the device’s limitations. A standard Grey Goose bottle is too tall to fit in the machine’s vodka slot, while a Patron tequila bottle has too wide a mouth for the hose’s rubber gasket to attach to it. So sure, you can use whatever spirits you’d like … as long as the bottles are the right size. (You can also pour that Grey Goose into an empty Popov bottle if you want to keep it classy, I suppose.)
The other big catch is that the Bev doesn’t do any shaking or stirring. It dumps the ingredients—at room temperature—into a glass, after which you’re on your own when it comes to chilling them and serving the drink. Initially I dispensed all the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice, then chilled them by shaking and finally depositing into a serving glass, but eventually I learned that stirring drinks in an ice-filled serving glass was far simpler and produced roughly the same results with a lot less cleanup. We aren’t talking about craft cocktails here, so some shortcuts are not going to kill anyone.
This way of working is especially key if you use the Bev in the only way it makes any real sense: As an attraction for a party where people make their own drinks instead of you. Toss a bunch of Bartesian capsules into a bowl, provide some general instructions, and let your guests have fun with it. They’ll surely enjoy the light show the Bev puts on during the dispensing and the ability to “dial your strength” among one of four booziness levels, including virgin—though I would warn you against select the highest level, which can leave you with more than 4.5 ounces of hooch in your glass and a nasty hangover the following day.
I was really hoping that the Bev would do double duty as a push-button booze dispenser, where I could pull a lever and have a shot of whiskey or gin produced without having to deal with a measuring device, but unfortunately the Bev can’t do this simple feat. It’s cocktails or nothing, and the machine doesn’t do anything without a Bartesian pod in place. A simple feature like this would give the device a little extra functionality beyond making the relatively limited set of drinks that Bartesian offers. It probably goes without saying that you can’t add your own recipes to the system.
As for the cocktails, they’re hit and miss. They all veer toward being too sweet—some overwhelmingly so, no matter what strength you select—though in testing a half-dozen different pods, I surprisingly found the cosmopolitan to be the most approachable, followed by the old-fashioned. The Long Island iced tea wasn’t half bad, either, but memory of course gets a bit foggy from that point on.