I don't know about you, but my home bar is a mess. It's two shelves utterly stuffed with bottles any way they'll fit, with no rhyme or reason behind it. Rarely do I have any concept of how much I have left of what; I have to check every bottle and hope there's enough to scrape together a decent cocktail. In the future, it wouldn't have to be this way.
It's Friday afternoon, you've made it through the long week, and it's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid you're wasted.
Take a look at the video above. It's a concept from Pernod Ricard called Project Gutenberg, and it's what the home bar of the future could look like. We've definitely seen plenty of robot bartenders in the past, but this is something different. This is something you actually might want prominently displayed in your living room.
While this particular design is in the early prototype phase and won't be released for a long time (if ever), it serves as excellent fodder for imagining what the perfected, futuristic home bar could be.
One of the most notable things about Project Gutenberg is that there are no bottles, at least not traditional ones. What we have instead is a digitized tray that are stacked with booze-filled "books." Each aluminum book contains one of Pernod Ricards' spirit brands (Beefeater gin, Jameson whiskey, Havana Club rum, etc.), and each is recyclable. When you run out, you'd just toss the empty book in your blue bin, and replace it with a full one that you'd ordered.
While it's a shame to lose the aesthetic weight of some bottles (especially the weirder ones), the book metaphor is apt, your liquor collection reimagined as alibrary of spirits. Not only that, the system is so perfectly compact. Round bottles (and different shapes and sizes) leave a lot of empty space between each other on the shelf, whereas this system is much more spatially economical.
How would we improve on this idea? Well, while we certainly like Beefeater, Jamo, and company, we don't know of anyone with a serious home bar that would want to be limited to the ecosystem of one company. In a perfect world, the book-bottles would be refillable (reusing is a higher form of recycling, after-all), and you could put whatever you wanted in them.
You'll also notice that Gutenberg in its present form can only dish out spirits and liqueurs. Perhaps a rack of smaller books could be added that contains things like simple syrup, lemon juice, and bitters. Maybe it could have some sort of built-in refrigeration? After all, a chilled gin is better for martinis, and you want to make sure that lemon juice stays fresh for as long as possible.
Obviously, one of the banner features of Project Gutenberg is the built-in smarts. Paired with an app on your mobile device, it can recommend drinks based on what spirits you have available. It would tell you how to make it, and which taps you need to put the glass under. Not only that, it will be able to precisely dispense exactly the right amount of alcohol for the cocktail you're making (we asked how exactly this would work, if the bottles would be pressurized somehow, but Pernod said it's still under development so they wouldn't commit to anything just yet). Measuring out proportions with jigger glasses and such is one of the most tedious (and easiest to screw up) parts of cocktail-making, and eliminating that would be huge.
Additionally, the system would know when you're getting low on something and prompt you to reorder, all of which could be accomplished through the app. Now this is where the slickness of an integrated ecosystem would be beneficial. Being able to re-order before you run out, with the press of a button, and have it show up in your mailbox (though, in the U.S. you'd definitely need someone over the age of 21 to sign for it, and even them some states won't let you), would be very sweet indeed. That said, the system would have drawbacks.
Say you were having a party and everybody wanted your robo-bartender to make Manhattans. You'd be running out of bourbon pretty fast, and what then? Unless your liquor store happens to sell Pernod Ricard's bourbon-in-a-book, you're screwed. Maybe you can drill a hole in the top and refill it? That would be tricky at best if it's a pressurized system. Basically, you'd be back to doing it by hand, and no one would want to be your friend anymore.
In a Perfect World...
So, Project Gutenberg may not be the perfect home bar, but it's definitely something one could pull inspiration for if they were trying to design one. So what should we take, and what should we leave?
I love the book design. It's sleek, compact, and it actually looks great. I would have the base be modular. The prototype shown only supports six bottles. I'd like to be able to click two together so it can hold twelve. The bottles would have to be refillable (and washable, obviously). Each time you fill up a bottle, you'd put it in the try, connect the app, and then tell it exactly what it is, category (bourbon) and name (Bulleit), so it would know to use it when you're pulling up a bourbon recipe. Yeah, it'd be slightly more of a pain, and maybe it'd be a little messier, but to have a home bar that truly fits your tastes, that's a requirement. Pernod Ricard could still sell their book delivery system, though, for those who just want something easy.
Level-monitoring is a great idea, and could be easily be done by weight. Precision measurements for cocktails is a definite must. How? Well, each tap could have a its own flow wheel in it, though, if we're refilling, I wonder if that might get hard to clean. Maybe instead, it could be done by weight with a precise digital scale underneath the books? We'll leave that up to the engineers. The app would have all of the technique info you need—with video—so you would be guided through making even an advanced cocktail.
So, that's my dream of the home bar of the future. What's yours? How would you improve it? Maybe you won't be satisfied until there's a robot that will stir your drinks and peel a twist off an orange. Okay cool, but what do you imagine it would look like? How would you make it attractive? How would you make it more functional. Descriptions and drawings done in MS Paint are both acceptable answers.