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Cocktails and Alcohol in the Digital Ages

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We are finally past the heat of summer and while the northeast has had mild weather, we still can’t wait for fall to arrive. Frankly, I am looking forward to all of what fall promises including the social whirl and other activities that follow during the holidays. What that means to me is indoor entertaining and the wonderful warmth of friends and families. An integral component is often alcoholic beverages for the adults.

Obviously this column is not a piece from the Food Network, HGTV or the Travel Channel. Rather, the focus is on how the digital era has changed (and maybe even improved) one aspect of entertaining: bartending. There are many products out there in pricing ranging from $24.98 to over $5000. Naturally, their capabilities and ensuing results vary tremendously.

The 2014 article on Digital Trends is a good place to start our digital era cocktail journey with a DT quote, “but as far as we can tell, the B4RM4N (cocktail maker) is the first device of its kind that incorporates all the weighing and sensing tech directly into a mixing vessel. It’s also got built-in accelerometers that can tell you when to stop shaking — a feature you definitely won’t find in a standalone mixing scale.” This sounds exciting.

BarBotics is an example of what material can be found online and in the market, showing the cutting edge of digitally guided bartending. Barbotics is a membership entity where you can pre-order and receive discounts for products. It covers both residential and commercial spheres integrating the smartphone with the bartending process.

I could go on and on with similar postings but you get the gist. Simply stated, gizmos are paired with smartphones to serve as your perfect mixologist. The pursuit of the perfect drink through technology has taken some interesting paths. The marketing emphasis is on the desire to wow your guests! Make Perfectly is a prime illustration of a detailed site which made me want to try everything it mentioned step by step. The Perfect Drink sells for $99.99.

The automatic bartending trends are becoming big business. Keurig and Anheuser-Busch have made a leap forward by joining forces to develop an in-home beer maker cum all beverage maker which they are calling Engadget. The January, 2017 Vending Times articles announced the partnership’s project as a Keurig for booze model. The system would handle cocktails, beer, etc. Therefore mixers and beer could also be made in-home as a complete alcoholic drink dispenser. Yes, that means that Keurig would brew alcohol in partnership with Anheuser-Busch in your home.

Does this signal a new business dynamic? Possibly, but the spirits industry always ebbs and flows. The big question here is whether automated bartending is a passing fancy or really here to stay. Moreover, how much effort will entrepreneurs and businesses expend. Ultimately, it depends on the consumers’ own cost/benefit analysis deciding whether they will purchase this technology or not.

DIY wine making and micro brewing has been popular for years. Is this the time to make alcohol beverages beyond beer and wine available to the mass market? Mashable’s recent article has an interesting spin. It questions whether the Keurig system will actually deliver the beer with their famous little cups. Does all of this translate into instant beer like instant coffee?

Are we now in a quandary? Are we being faced with a sort of paradox? On one hand we have bartending assisted with a techno cocktail shaker and a smartphone. On the other hand we have the promise of big business providing us with all of our beverage desires in a handy dandy home vending system and instant gratification. The choices seem vast with more or less personal control. Theoretically we’ll be able to partake of it all. Whoopee!

When I was a child my mother watched my father’s diet like a hawk. In fact, she cut his fat intake to the bare minimum by making him Starlac (powdered instant skim milk). The taste was awful but the convenience was wonderful. No heavy bottles to carry and all the vitamins it needed to possess. Perhaps this is applicable to the alcoholic beverage quandary.

You have to ask yourself what your priorities are in the scheme of things concerning this vital question of quality and instant gratification. Well, in the digital age, the era of Trump, perhaps this so-called problem will take our collective mind off reality for a little while. Happy Holidays!

Barbara Eber-Schmid, NMI

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