Review: Brookstone Perfect Drink App-Controlled Smart Bartending
Compatible: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch (Requires iOS 5.1+)
In addition to Apple and its products, iLounge's editors have a passion for cocktails. We've covered some of our favorite iPad and iPhone recipe apps before, but there's never been hardware designed to help make great drinks. Brookstone's Perfect Drink App-Controlled Smart Bartending ($70) is the first. The system consists of a free app and a digital scale that connects to iOS devices using a standard 3.5mm cable. That app contains recipes for more than 300 cocktails, and walks you through the process of making each one. Using the scale, it measures the amount of the ingredients added as you go, and automatically adjusts levels on the fly if you over-pour. The kit also includes a cobbler-style cocktail shaker with an extra cap, two pouring spouts, and an iPad stand. As a note, the author of this piece has written about barware extensively in the past.
The core of the system is the scale. Made mostly of plastic, it’s 9” in diameter, with a control panel sticking out from the front, and powered by three AAA batteries, which are not included. It comes with a clear plastic plate that sits on top; although not necessary as a base, it provides an easily removable and cleanable surface. The scale is useful even when not being used as part of the Perfect Drink system, as it can still measure mass like any other digital scale. Four capacitive buttons to the right of the digital display toggle the power and allow you to zero-out the mass — useful if you have a container that you don’t want measured — and change the units between pounds, grams, ounces, and milliliters. We measured it against a kitchen scale we had on hand, and found it to be accurate within one gram or so. The cable used to connect to the iPad fits into the underside of the scale when not in use.
We appreciate Perfect Cocktail’s accessories for both their inclusion and their quality. The shaker — which is made up of a metal cup, a lid with a strainer built in, and a cap — holds 28 ounces of liquid, and feels very solid. As for the two spouts, they’re also made of metal, with ridged rubber necks that hold them in place. Thanks to an air hole, booze pours in a smooth, controlled stream. The stand that’s included is simple, as two short plastic arms meet at a hinge on one end, and terminate in rubber holders at the other. It can fold flat when not in use, and hold an iPad or iPhone, even in a thin case.
Our favorite part of the whole thing is the only part that’s free: the app. Brookstone’s developers did a truly great job putting together this resource. A universal app, it really shines on the iPad. The landscape home screen displays the myriad drinks arranged in a grid, with attractive photography for each. Tapping on any of them reveals the recipe on the right, along with glassware, a brief description, and instructions. This information is accessible to anyone, not just those who purchase the Perfect Drink hardware. There are dozens of different categories by which the drinks can be organized. We love the cabinet feature, which allows you to enter all of the ingredients you have on hand. The drinks can then be organized based on what’s available to you. It’s really very cool.
When it comes time to build a drink, the app walks you right through the entire process. It starts with placing the shaker on the scale, and then advancing through the ingredients. Audio and visual cues combine to let you know when you’ve poured in enough of each, and if you go over, the other ingredients automatically adjust. You have to use the physical controls on the scale to go back to earlier components, which is somewhat strange given the touch screen, but not terrible. The number of servings can be adjusted on the fly, as the ingredient measures will be updated. There’s even a timer to let you know how long to shake or stir. We measured the amounts based on weight versus a jigger, and found them to be accurate.
Perfect Cocktail’s hardware works, and it works well. For most people however, it’s not totally necessary. The sheer amount of great information provided in the free app is the real value here. Using a scale to measure out ingredients is no easier than using a jigger, it takes up more space, and it uses batteries. All of that is overcomplicating something that really doesn’t need to be. The scale is useful around the kitchen for other purposes though, so it’s not totally superfluous. Add to that the shaker and pourers, and while it’s not $70 worth, there is some real value here. As a whole, the solution earns a limited recommendation; most people will be fine with standard barware. If you’re a cocktail fan, or even if you’re just curious, the app is a sure thing.