The Barbican hosted a cocktail making competition where humans competed against robots

Real-life bartenders went head to head with robot mixologists

Updated on 21 August 2019 • Written By Kirsten Lee

The Barbican hosted a cocktail making competition where humans competed against robots

In a man versus machine battle, London's human bartenders have come out on top against robotic cocktail makers.

Last week, Barbican hosted a cocktail competition as part of a technology exhibition. The catch? Not all contestants were human.

Some of London’s best bartenders competed against the man-made machine, Makr Shakr, which can shake up an infinite number of concoctions, combining any of the 150 spirits hanging from the ceiling above the robot into delicious cocktails.

The AI: More than Human exhibition brought expert bartenders from around London to shake up the odds against the machine. The mixologists were only allowed to use the same ingredients available to the robot, but could choose their own glasses and garnishes.

Some well-known faces included Every Cloud Bar’s Felix Cohen whose Negroni won Round 1 and Mikey Pendergast from East London Liquor Company who triumphed with his own version of the More than Human cocktail, blending Barbican gin, crème de pêche, gomme syrup and lemon juice during the signature round. Other contestants came from Happiness Forgets, L’Oscar, Do Not Disturb and Oriole, as well as Barbican’s own mixologist Harvey Macaraig.

But how does the AI do it? Thirsty punters use a mobile app to select recipes or create a unique cocktail by choosing their own ingredients. The robot then uses its two mechanical arms to fill its shaker with ingredients and muddles, stirs and shakes the drink to perfection, using dance-like movements. The latest 2019 machine model, named Toni, drew the inspiration for its graceful movements from Italian dancer and choreographer of New York Theatre Ballet, Marco Pelle.

For the duration of the exhibition, the Makr Shakr cocktail making robot will be serving up a range of cocktails and mocktails on Level G of the Barbican Centre, including the aptly named More than Human cocktail. And the best part: cocktails are going for just £7 when pre-ordered online.

The AI: More than Human exhibition celebrates the evolution of technology from both a scientific and creative perspective and explores how the human-artificial intelligence relationship will develop over time. Held at the Barbican centre, the exhibition features immersive art installations, digital projects that explore the theme, and interactive exhibits.   

If all this cocktail talk has got you hankering for a shaken concoction, check out the best cocktails bars in London