Bar Fight

Humans vs. Machines: The Battle for Cocktail Mastery Is On!

Axelrad hosts month-long competition to see if AI can best human bartenders.

By Daniel Renfrow March 1, 2023

The human-created Zeldarita (left) will go head-to-head with the AI-created Triforce Tonic (right), both cocktails inspired by the video game character Zelda.

The age-old battle between man and machine rages on—and it was only a matter of time before the two ended up in a bar fight. Axelrad, a beer garden located in Midtown, is hosting a month-long competition to determine who comes out on top in the cocktail-making arena: humans or machines. It's like the Terminator movies, but with much less danger to society. And a whole lot sweeter. 

Throughout the month of March, Axelrad will pit cocktails crafted by human bartenders against those created by AI (in this case a bot who goes by the not terribly warm or charming name of ChatGTP). Axelrad patrons can taste test both (offered as half-pours) and then vote—either humans or machines—for their favorite.  The winner will be announced at the end of the month. 

According to Axelrad owner Adam Brackman, the competition is part of an effort to explore what AI can do in the cocktail-making world. “We’ve been seeing different things happening with ChatGTP, like how it passed the Bar Exam and the medical exam, so we decided to see what it could do as a bartender,” he said. “This thing has a database of every cocktail that has been published on the internet, so it knows how to pull from that to make something creative and tasty.”

ChatGTP's response when prompted to make a cocktail inspired by the game The Legend of Zelda.  

Indeed, ChatGTP creates cocktail recipes with relative ease. All you have to do is type something along these lines into the prompt: “Create a cocktail recipe inspired by X.” ChatGTP then does all of the work for you, including writing out the steps on how to create the cocktail. If you ask, it will even write out an explanation at the end of the cocktail recipe on why it created the cocktail the way that it did. 

Brackman and his team asked ChatGTP to create versions of some of Axelrad’s classic cocktails. The results include AI-refreshed spins on their Zeldarita, MangoRada, Blackberry Bramble Jam, and their Spicy Paloma Mocktail—which, we must note, is a perfect way to experience the robot takeover without having to worry about a hangover. All four of the drinks will be presented for the competition alongside their original recipes. 

Adam Brackman and his team are worried the AI-generated cocktail might win this round. 

So are AI-created cocktails actually any good? According to Brackman, it’s a bit hit or miss, but when it does hit, the results are often pretty compelling. “As we were working on this menu, we did a couple of comparisons, and in our opinion ChatGTP created a drink that was better than what we had created,” he said. “With the [ChatGTP version of the] Zeldarita, we’re concerned that the AI may be on to something.” 

While this has all been a fun project for Brackman and his team, he believes that it is still important to maintain the human connection when it comes to creating cocktails—at least until Skynet takes over his bar. “I don’t see AI replacing bartenders, but it can certainly help with creating descriptions of drinks,” he said. “And it can also serve as the inspiration for a new drink, where you start with a ChatGTP-created recipe and then tweak it to taste. Certainly if you ever hit a stumbling block in your creativity, you can use it for inspiration.”

Man or machine? Head down to Axelrad this month to cast your vote.

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