A precision scale is a critical tool to have in the kitchen, so why not the bar, too?
Turns out, lots of reasons. On paper, the Barsys Smart Coaster system isn’t a bad idea. Imagine a digital scale (like the Drop) that’s connected via Bluetooth to an app on your phone that tells you what ingredients to pour into a glass sitting atop it. And that’s exactly how Barsys works. Want to make a margarita? Pour in tequila until the base of the lighted coaster turns green. Then triple sec until you get another green light. Then lime juice. Then simple syrup. For the novice mixologist, all they need to do is wait until the coaster says “when” each time, and the drink is done.
Well, sort of. There are plenty of problems with Barsys in both concept and execution to the point where it doesn’t really work well, even as a novelty item.
First, the Barsys may be a scale, but it doesn’t carry any kind of readout aside from colored lights. The scale starts off white, then gradually becomes more and more blue as you add an ingredient specified by your selected recipe. Finally it flashes and turns green, moving you on to the next ingredient and starting the process over. The problem is that if you don’t know how much of an ingredient you need to pour in (and the app doesn’t tell you during mixing), you can either find yourself adding ingredients by the drop—which takes forever—or sloshing in booze and blowing right past the “stop” notification. If you’re the kind of freewheeling home bartender that isn’t hyper-concerned with getting things just so, this may not be a big deal. But in that case, it’s far easier to just estimate everything as you splash the ingredients into a shaker willy-nilly and call it close enough.
Another big issue is mixing. While Barsys is available with an optional mixer unit—a plastic glass with an electromagnetic stirring unit in the base—it’s not the most powerful way to blend a drink. It’s fine for stirring a martini, but if you really want to shake the hell out of that margarita, you’ll need to put some of your own muscle into it (via a separate shaker). Barsys is vague about when and whether to put ice into the mixer during recipe-building. The motor is able to handle a bit of ice, but you can’t fill the mixer to the brim and get any traction. Any ice you do use will need to be added at the beginning (when the empty mixer is initially weighed) or the end, never the middle, as that will throw off the liquid weight measurements. For recipes that require dry shaking—such as sours made with egg white—and then a second shake with ice, the Barsys is particularly ill-suited. It’s also worth noting that the system is really designed to produce only one drink at a time.