Keurig and Anheuser-Busch are hoping they can remake the success of coffee pods, but with premixed cocktails and beer instead. Their new joint venture — called Drinkworks —is debuting its first product today called the Drinkworks Home Bar by Keurig.
The appliance looks and acts a lot like a Keurig — it takes single pod servings and turns them into cocktails, alcohol and all. It also pairs with a companion iOS app over Bluetooth to tell users what the machine is doing, enable pod refill orders, and troubleshooting. It even includes a touchscreen so users can make drinks without touching the app. (An Android app is in the works.)
The machine costs $299. Each cocktail pod costs $3.99, or $15.99 for four. There will be 15 cocktails at launch, including a Moscow mule, margarita, mojito, and Long Island iced tea. The pods each have a unique barcode on them that the machine will scan to determine the appropriate temperature and carbonation. The time it takes to make a drink varies. A Moscow mule, for example, takes about 50 seconds while a margarita takes 25 seconds. Users will have to physically remove the finished pods from the machine as there’s no garbage bin. Drinks can be made in three sizes: 3.9 ounces, 6.5 ounces, and 8.1 ounces.
Users have to fill the machine with water and also purchase a CO2 tank in order to make it work, although it’ll ship with one CO2 can that can make anywhere from 15 to 18 drinks. Refills cost $14.99 for a two pack. The machine and pods are launching exclusively in St. Louis, Missouri at first. They will be available to preorder online through Drinkworks’ website or at select physical retailers, like all Total Wine & More locations, as well as some Dierbergs and Schnucks stores on November 19th.
The machine can brew beer as well and will launch with Beck’s pods and Bass pods, as well as cider from Stella Artois Cidre. Those aren’t the focus of the launch, however.
Drinkworks’ biggest feat is getting the drinks cold enough that you wouldn’t necessarily need ice to make it palatable, although the company recommends pouring everything over ice to make it “more authentic,” according to Drinkworks CEO Nathaniel Davis. Some of the benefit of working with Keurig was relying on the company’s technology to improve the Drinkworks product, and I imagine at least some of the cooling tech might have come from Keurig’s failed Kold machine that produced cold soda, especially given that the cooling system is referred to as the Drinkworks’ Quick Cool KOLD Technology.
I tried a Moscow mule made in The Verge’s office, and it was nice to drink. It tasted exactly like a Moscow mule typically tastes; Drinkworks brought a copper mug for serving, which added to the appeal. If you had poured the drink into a ceramic mug, the effect wouldn’t have been the same.
Davis tells me the device is designed for people who like to host. Maybe they’ve wanted to create nice cocktails for their friends but don’t have the energy to mix drinks for everyone. They also might not like the fact that bartending takes them away from the party. This solves that problem in his mind.
While the Moscow mule was tasty, as was the margarita I tried, part of the magic of a cocktail is the labor that goes into having it made, as well as the presentation. A machine popping out a premixed cocktail doesn’t do much for me if it doesn’t look beautiful, and I doubt most people will take the time to present it properly. The team could eventually get into selling bar-adjacent accessories, like glasses, garnishes, and spoons, but they aren’t at launch.
I didn’t taste much of a difference between Drinkworks’ margarita and a widely available Lime-A-Rita, which Anheuser-Busch makes. So part of me thinks that if you were really determined to host a party with cocktails, you could make a pretty-looking Lime-A-Rita and serve it. It’ll cost around $2 at your local corner store, and you won’t need a pod or machine to pour it.