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I read it in an anthology from a UK library in the mid to late 1970's but it could have been written much earlier.

Two or three galactic businessmen are sitting in a space bar lamenting about the bartender in there (please note that it could have been a robot but my memory fails) because the bartender can make this unique and wonderful cocktail.

All efforts to copy this fail because certain tiny drops of some alien juice are added during the mixing process, however the mixer does a kind of shuffle as he's adding these drops and doesn't know exactly how much he adds. If he tries to slow the procedure down to analyse it then it comes out wrong and doesn't taste very nice.

The cocktails don't keep so they can't be exported, within a few minutes they go bad and sour so you have to drink them as they're made ....I think they also have to be shook at certain times during the mixing as various alcohols are added so chemical analysis won't help.

Eventually they manage to use some super high speed camera (digital?) and can finally reproduce the drink by carefully programmed robots

  • Your friendly bartender? – Valorum Apr 1 at 19:57
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    @JRE Ain't no robots or space travel in 1943 either – DannyMcG Apr 2 at 5:32
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    Robots and space travel were common concepts in science fiction back in the 1940s and earlier. "Digital" anything wasn't even a concept back then. – JRE Apr 2 at 9:43
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    A relatively contemporary example applied to a different beverage appears as a running gag in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, where the ship is capable of producing a drink described as "something almost, but not quite entirely unlike tea". – Darrel Hoffman Apr 2 at 13:36
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    Ha! @DannyMcG Har! zing! That must ceratinly be why it is called "Science Fiction". Heh. – Occam Shave Sep 12 at 4:20
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That's going to be Quinby's Usuform Robots from 1943 by Anthony Boucher.

Robots are common in the story, but they suffer from various "neurosis" type problems. One robot that only uses one hand to operate the controls of an elevator loses control of its other hand, and it starts flailing around doing strange things. Another robot that never needs to talk to perform its tasks begins to babble nonsense all the time.

Quinby is a robotics engineer (or technician) who realizes that the robots with problems all develop problems with parts (or abilities) they were built with but never use.

He rebuilds some of the malfunctioning machines to have only the parts they need - making them into "usuform robots." After being made usuform, the robots no longer have problems.

Quinby decides to go into business making only usuform robots, but needs cash to get started.

There's some kind of high level political negotiations going on between Earth and Mars. Along with the general difficulties of politics, the main Martian representative is threatening to leave Earth because he can't get a good "three planets" cocktail on Earth.

There is one Martian bartender (named Guzub) on Earth who makes the best "three planets" in the solar system, but he hates the ambassador (or his political party) and refuses to make drinks for the ambassador.

Quinby builds a usuform robot (named Guzub II) that can make a "three planets" just as good as Guzub makes them. He gets the exact recipe (which even Guzub doesn't know because he makes them by feel) by using a high speed camera to photograph Guzub making a "three planets."

The usuform "Guzub II" saves the negotiations, and Earth's government pays Quinby enough that he can build a factory to make usuform robots.


"Guzub II" is nothing more than a box with a mixer jar inside it, a bunch of tentacles for grabbing the bottles of things to mix in the drinks, and a brain.

It pours the proper amounts of each ingredient into its internal mixer jar, then uses its tentacles to shake itself to mix the drink. It then pours the finished drink into a glass.

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    Ninja'd! Good answer. Love that story. – Organic Marble Apr 2 at 10:44
  • Amazing story. Trivial nit: The robot isn't really "named" "Guzub II" in-universe. The epithet "Guzub II" is used exactly once, off-handedly, to identify the speaker of a line; I think it's just the narrator having a bit of a joke. AFAICT, the robots in this particular universe do not get "names" in the Asimovian sense. The closest we get to a "name" is "My beautiful robot! Your A-1-A Double Prime All-Utility Extra Quality Deluxe Model!" [where "your" means "Robinc's"]. – Quuxplusone Apr 5 at 18:07

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