If you’ve ever wanted to learn to make cocktails at home or simply expand your repertoire, the Perfect Drink PRO Smart Scale + Recipe App (about $90) promises to help. A free app guides you as you pour and mix each ingredient on the Bluetooth-enabled smart scale, eliminating the need to measure. The scale, which has a maximum capacity of 13 pounds and can be used as a stand-alone kitchen scale, comes with a 750-milliliter stainless-steel cocktail shaker and a small plastic stand for your phone or tablet. First we paired the scale with the app, which was a straightforward process, and then we tested its accuracy using laboratory weights. While it wasn’t perfect, it was acceptably accurate.
We enjoyed browsing through the app’s 400-plus recipes—many of which are attributed to famous bartenders, bars, or cocktail books—and reading a bit about each drink’s history. We made a variety of alcoholic and nonalcoholic cocktails and created a virtual cabinet of ingredients that we had on hand. (For any missing ingredients, you can create an in-app shopping list.) We then made recipes suggested by the app based on our cabinet inventory; the app lets you save customized versions of recipes, so we tweaked and saved a few. We also tried to input our own cocktail recipe into the database. And after learning that you can set up the scale and app for guests to mix themselves drinks at a party, we hosted a mock cocktail hour where volunteers used and evaluated this function. Finally, we stained the scale and display with sticky grenadine, let this dry overnight, and evaluated how easy it was to clean.
The good news is that even the most novice among us enjoyed the process of choosing and following cocktail recipes using the app and scale, and the resulting cocktails were quite good. Even a former bartender on our staff was begrudgingly impressed.
To use the device, you put a vessel on the scale—whether it’s the basic cocktail shaker that’s included or your own glass (or blender jar if you’re making a frozen drink)—as directed by the recipe. Then the app guides you through adding each ingredient; sets a timer for shaking, stirring, or blending; and tells you how to garnish and serve the finished drink. Instead of measuring ingredients, you pour them directly into the shaker or glass while the display and app both show a graphic of a cup filling. This visual and the “ding” of a bell in the app indicate when to stop pouring, and the app automatically proceeds to your next step.
We found it fairly easy to pour accurately, but if we didn’t, the recipe would rapidly adjust proportions so we could add more of the other ingredients to keep the right ratio. We had disliked this particular function when we previously tested Perfect Bake, an app for baking from the same company. (There’s also a blender app called Perfect Blend, with guided recipes for smoothies and other blender fare. All three apps work with the scale we tested here and can be downloaded for free.) The problem with overages in baking is the excess batter, which either gets wasted if it doesn’t fit in the prepared pans or risks causing an overflow. Plus, baking times wouldn’t match up with the app-adjusted recipes. It’s far less of a problem to have a little extra of a cocktail.
Overall, the process of using the Perfect Drink PRO Smart Scale + Recipe App was fun and intuitive, and we enjoyed learning by using the how-tos on essential bar techniques such as muddling, swizzling, and using a shaker. One minor quibble: A few recipes had spots where it was unclear how to advance to the next step, but we quickly figured out what to do. For instance, after muddling cucumber slices in the shaker as instructed, we weren’t sure how to get the app to move to the next step, but after we’d tried a few possibilities (in this case, the solution was to tap the words “cocktail shaker,” which were not highlighted), the app responded. When this situation came up again in another recipe, we knew how to handle it. Other functions went much better: Adding ingredients to the virtual cabinet was easy, and while the app doesn’t deduct any quantities you use, the big benefit is that it suggests cocktails you can make based on what you have on hand. We also found that adding items to the shopping list was simple. Inputting a personal drink recipe was very frustrating, however; there was a steep learning curve. By contrast, it’s very easy to customize the app’s recipes and save your version alongside the original. We made one nonalcoholic cocktail less sweet and added bitters to another, and the process was fast in both cases.
The smart scale has its own display, but we found the app’s display on our phones and tablets much clearer and easier to follow. With its colorful step-by-step graphics, the app kept our attention—in fact, we never looked at the scale readout as we made the cocktails. However, the display does make it easier to use it as a kitchen scale.