For everyone who has struggled to get a bartender’s attention – and who hasn’t – Somabar Inc. has a plan to ease your pain.
The Westwood firm launched a pilot program earlier this month for its commercial-grade cocktail machine at Westwood’s House of Meatballs. The company is ramping up production runs in Shenzhen, China, and getting ready to take preorders from eateries.
“It’s the simplest way for you to have professional bartending drinks and you don’t need to know a damn thing about mixology,” said Christopher Hameetman, Somabar’s president, who co-founded the business with Chief Executive Dylan Purcell-Lowe. “Put a glass underneath, press a button, it pours in five to seven seconds.”
Named after the hallucinogenic drug soma from the novel “A Brave New World,” Somabar’s Keurig-like contraption for cocktails started preselling units for $499 on Kickstarter in 2014, taking about 2,000 orders. But the co-founders have opted since then to focus their attention on selling to restaurants rather than individual consumers. The company has received outside capital from 20 investors, according to Hameetman; raising about $1.9 million in total, according to Crunchbase.
To meet commercial standards, the company started using industrial grade pumps, bacteria-resistant piping, and rewired electronics in its products. Those upgrades lengthen each machine’s lifecycle to about 100,000 drinks, according to Hameetman, enough to last for years at a moderately busy venue. The improvements will raise the machine’s price tag, though an exact number has yet to be decided. However, he said the cost should amount to less than the hourly wage of a bartender over a machine’s lifetime.
“We are going to be, (compared) to the equivalent of a bartender, pennies an hour,” he said.
Other cocktail-making machines on the market are priced above $4,000 and rigged with tubes that need to be inserted into various liquor bottles.
Somabar has avoided that by outfitting each machine with six detachable clear-plastic pods to store various spirits and ingredients, such as grenadine or club soda. A smaller pod for bitters is stored in the back. The equipment is preloaded with 300 drink recipes from the International Bartenders Association.
Gennaro Morra, proprietor of House of Meatballs, said he has been testing the Somabar machine in his Gayley Avenue restaurant since May 4 and has quickly taken to the equipment.
“What I like about it is one button, one push, and you get what you want,” he said. “It doesn’t require much training. I have just regular young kids as waiters and they find it very efficient.”