Imagine: you walk into your favorite bar for a quick drink. Inside you quickly glance around for a friendly face, while you set your personal ID card on the bar’s glowing surface. Immediately the surface responds with information about your previous drink orders, your favorite beers on tap, and the day’s happy hour specials. You hit the screen to order a drink, and voilà—a beer appears before you in seconds. Minority Report meets happy hour?

From digital menus to vaporized drink clouds to robotic bartenders, even “getting our drink on” is becoming a high-tech experience. Oh, and those futuristic-sounding menu tables? Beta versions are already being tested in Hong Kong.

The Bartender:
In the bars of the future, your bartender is more likely to have a science degree from MIT than a bartending class certificate. That is, if they are human at all. Last year, Google introduced KegDroid, a little green robot that turns on when approached, keeps drinking tabs via Google Plus, and pours 1-, 8-, and 12-ounce pours of whatever beers are on tap.

Where to try in San Francisco:
No robots yet. But in SF, bars like AQ, Bourbon and Branch, Alembic, and our nightlife feature, Big, are busy introducing molecular mixology features like smoking ice, foam, and spherical liquor to Bay Area patrons.

The Menu:
In San Francisco, Bay Area–based Coaster is leading the phone-menu market with its app. Download straight to your phone, and use at a variety of local bars. Coaster allows patrons to order drinks and pay from their phones, eliminating the need to wait in line or talk to a bartender.

Where to try in San Francisco:
Coaster is up and working at Public Works, Wish, Jones, Harlot, Eve Lounge, Temple, and 111 Minna.

The Spirits:
From bourbon aged on ocean liners to liquors poured over the naked bodies of models before bottling, specialty spirits are the way of the future. Even “sustainable spirits” are available now with Veev’s Açaí liquor, which is distilled from rare Amazonian fruits. Veev claims to pack a punch of antioxidants with each serving and donates 1 percent of all sales to rainforest preservation.

Where to try in SF: Drink (socially) responsibly with Veev cocktails at Cantina Lounge, Gitane, and The Tipsy Pig.

The Cocktail:
Shaken or stirred? isn’t the question anymore. Try gas, liquid, or solid? Invented by a bartender in Chicago, the new Vaportini eliminates liquid cocktails altogether by vaporizing the alcohol into a cloud, which is then inhaled through a straw. Another edible mist is the cocktail perfume. Mandy Aftel of Atelier Perfumes in Berkeley creates perfume-grade edible extracts for mixology giants such as PDT in New York to spray on their cocktails.

Where to try in San Francisco:
Aftel’s spritzes have perfumed cocktails at Blackbird and our nightlife feature, Big.

The Buzz:
In the bars of the future, it won’t be the bartender who cuts off sloshy patrons—it will be their ice cubes. MIT Media Labs student Dhairya Dand recently created an ice cube, equipped with a sensor and light, that glows a different color based on the number of times the glass has been tipped back. It will even text a designated number when you’ve had too much.

But what if you enjoy ordering drinks from a human bartender, prefer old-fashioned ice to liquid nitrogen, or simply enjoy the act of sipping? Don’t worry—San Francisco is still the city of classically unfussy cocktails and human-populated happy hours.










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This article was published in:
Idea Issue - Released March 2013
Issue 2 / Version 3 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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