Craft cocktails are in the midst of a renaissance, buoyed by rediscovered classic recipes, higher-quality ingredients, and increasingly talented bartenders. Pre-made mixes and artificially-flavored spirits are declining in popularity, as freshly-assembled natural flavors are ascending. But once you’ve had a truly great cocktail at a restaurant or bar, making one by yourself at home may seem challenging. The latest version of Perfect Drink ($40), Brookstone’s (and developer Pure Imagination’s) “app-controlled smart bartending” solution for iOS users, is here to help.
Perfect Drink has been through a few hardware and software revisions, but the latest-generation accessory and just-released version 3.0 app elevate it to greatness. The core of the product is a precise digital scale — recently upgraded from the original hardware — that works in tandem with your iPad or iPhone to eliminate the need for measuring cups. You call up a recipe in the Perfect Drink app and just add liquids until the scale and app tell you to stop, dynamically adjusting the recipe if you overpour. A just-released update enables the app to store a list of all the spirits, fruit, and mixers you have on hand, helping you quickly choose from recipes you’re capable of making…
The Perfect Drink set comes with five key parts: a digital scale with enough precision to measure down to the hundredth of an ounce, a washable clear plastic plate, a stainless steel cocktail shaker, a basic plastic stand to hold your iPad, and a set of two optional pouring spouts for your bottles (not shown). To set everything up, you’ll need to install three self-supplied AAA batteries in a screw-protected battery compartment on the scale’s bottom, place the clear plate on top of the scale, and connect the scale to your iOS device.
Rather than using Bluetooth, Perfect Drink includes a 3.5mm cable to connect to the headphone port of your iPad or iPhone — a quaint design decision that helps the scale conserve power. The app listens for signals sent through its headphone port and registers the weight of whatever’s on the scale, deciding whether what’s on there is too light, too heavy, or just right for the recipe. You press “on” or “off” buttons to turn the scale on or off, and a “zero” button to make the scale ignore the weight of the clear anti-spill plate and the cocktail shaker or glass you’re using to assemble ingredients. A “units” button can switch between milliliters (measured to ones), grams (ones), pounds/ounces (tenths) or just ounces (hundredths) if you want to use the scale without the app; the original Perfect Drink scale didn’t have quite as much precision.
But the key to Perfect Drink’s appeal is that the app is there so you needn’t worry about the numbers at all. Regardless of whether your recipe calls for ingredients to be assembled in a shaker or a glass, you’re presented with a “virtual glass” that starts at the bottom, visually filling up each ingredient’s progress indicator as you pour the specified liquid, then moving on to the next step.
When you come to an ingredient surrounded by dashed lines, an on-screen warning pops up: “this item is small, be careful measuring.” This isn’t an issue for 0.5- to 2-ounce pours, but for quarter-ounce pours, attaching one of the included spouts to a bottle will slow the pour down and give you greater precision. If you pour too much, the app will automatically adjust the rest of the recipe so you can get the right proportions. Resting the bottle against the edge of the glass or shaker can change the measured weight, so you need to pour from a slight distance to avoid inaccurate measurements.
After upgrading the Perfect Drink scale to a new model with greater precision, Brookstone updated the Perfect Drink app to add a highly useful new feature: “Cabinet.” The app now stores a list of all of the ingredients you have at home, ranging from spirits to fruits, vegetables, and even ice, so you can quickly see which of the app’s recipes you can make with what’s on hand. An “In Cabinet” sort feature organizes the list of recipes using 10/10 to 0/10 markings, while over 20 additional categories such as “Simple to Make,” “Modern,” and “Prohibition Era” parse the recipe list for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users. Brookstone includes a great diversity of recipes within the app, as well as instructions for every element of the cocktailing process.
It’s also worth noting that Brookstone sells a version of Perfect Drink called Perfect Bake ($55), a highly similar scale-and-app combo that includes plastic bowls and an oven thermometer rather than a cocktail shaker and pouring spouts. Although the scales are virtually identical to one another and both apps are free to download from the App Store, the Perfect Drink scale can’t be used with the Perfect Bake app (or vice-versa): the Perfect Bake app refuses to show ingredient quantities unless it’s connected to a Perfect Bake scale. That’s basically the developer’s way of saying that the software’s not really free, so pay for an additional scale if you want the complete solution to work.
The question of whether Perfect Drink will be a good fit for your home bar really comes down to two questions. First, are you a beginner to the world of cocktails with an interest in learning more? Second, are you actually a perfectionist?
If your answer to the first question is yes, Perfect Drink is highly likely to be worth the investment for you. Between the great recipe database and the simplicity of making drinks by following the app’s pouring guidelines, you’ll quickly be making delicious cocktails at home with no prior expertise. The drinks I’ve made with Perfect Drink have ranged from fun and fruity to serious and strong. However, “perfection” is another story: the system works well and offers great convenience, but as you get more serious about cocktails, you may begin to appreciate the value of an inexpensive but precise measuring cup to achieve more consistent (if slower) results.
|Manufacturer: Brookstone/Pure Imagination||MSRP / Sale Prices: $50 / $40||Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch|