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Drinkworks Home Bar mixes up pod-based cocktails from AB InBev and Keurig

The Home Bar squeezes high-end cocktails and craft beers into single-serve pods.

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Drinkworks

The Drinkworks Home Bar wants to make you a mean Old Fashioned. All you'll need to do is insert the proper pod into this new countertop appliance and hit start. Think of the Home Bar as a Keurig for cocktails, an apt comparison in this case as Keurig collaborated with brewing giant AB InBev to launch the Drinkworks company as a joint venture. 

Besides cocktails, the Drinkworks Home Bar can also make beer and cider. Eventually it will make mixers as well, but not at launch. The pods will contain all of the ingredients for your drink of choice in concentrated liquid form. Put one in the main chrome tower, and the Home Bar adds chilled, sanitized water along with any necessary carbonation for your drink. A blending mechanism at the nozzle puts the finishing touch on the mixture. The Home Bar can make drinks of 3.9, 6.5 and 8.1 ounces. 

It will prompt you if you need to add water or carbon dioxide. You add the former just by filling an attached tank, and the Home Bar draws the water into a separate internal tank to chill and sanitize it. For carbon dioxide, you need to buy separate cartridges from the company and attach them to the exterior of the device.

Limited release

Hopefully the end result will indeed taste like a high-end, well crafted cocktail, as investing in the Home Bar won't be cheap. The machine itself will cost $300 at launch. A two-pack of carbon dioxide canisters will be $15 -- and each canister will be able to make roughly 15 drinks. You can get a four-pack of cocktail pods for $16 and a four-pack of beer pods for $10.

Preorders start Tuesday and the first machines will hit stores starting Monday, Nov. 19. You won't see machines on shelves unless you live in St. Louis, however, as Drinkworks is launching with a limited pilot program for now. The company wants its product in the hands of passionate early adopters who will be willing to offer feedback. Supposedly, the Home Bar has 2,000 recipes stored within its memory, but the pilot program will only launch with 24 available pods -- which include 15 cocktails, a cider from Stella Cidre, English beers from Bass and German-style beer from Becks.

Here's the full cocktail list:

  • Margarita
  • Classic Margarita
  • Strawberry Margarita
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Gin & Tonic
  • Daiquiri
  • Long Island Iced Tea
  • Mojito
  • Moscow Mule
  • Old Fashioned 
  • Red Sangria
  • White Russian
  • White Wine Peach Sangria
  • Lime Vodka Soda
  • Mai Tai

Looking inside the pod

Depending on where you live, a four-dollar cocktail might seem expensive, or perfectly reasonable. Nevertheless, we're not talking about a simple Jack and Coke. Given the initial investment and the regular cost of carbon dioxide canisters, Drinkworks will need to make great, high-end cocktails to feel worth it. 

I have trouble imagining a Cosmopolitan from concentrate that comes anywhere close to what I'd get from a knowledgeable bartender. I'm also a little disappointed that staples like the Manhattan are missing and three of the starting 15 are Margaritas. I'm guessing most people would struggle to tell the difference between Drinkworks' "Margarita" and "classic Margarita." 

Even with more complex drinks, it will still be more cost-effective to buy all of the ingredients yourself. The Home Bar seems particularly aimed at those who have tried making good cocktails themselves without much success. Perhaps your bottles of vermouth and triple sec have been collecting dust for years as you don't trust your own skills as a mixologist enough to break them out.

Drinkworks sourced many of its ingredients directly from suppliers, or crafted its own. It got barrel-strength whiskeys that the distillers haven't yet cut down with water for bottling. It made its own triple sec at a greater intensity so the flavor evens out when you add water. For beer, it brewed its own and then distilled it to remove the water for the sake of compressing the essence into a pod.

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Concentrated skepticism

Barrel-strength whiskeys and directly sourced ingredients sound promising, but I have a lot of trouble getting behind beer from concentrate, even if the methodology seems sound.

The Drinkworks Home Bar costs as much as a high-end coffee machine. The pods themselves aren't cheap and you'll need to regularly buy more carbon dioxide canisters. This product sounds more like two companies trying to generate a recurring revenue stream than a convenient drink maker. This feels more like another bust in the style of Keurig Kold -- which asked you to pay a bunch of money for the privilege of drinking a poor imitation of a soda. 

The Drinkworks Home Bar isn't striving to make ordinary or mediocre drinks. Even if you have trouble as a mixologist, I'm sure you're capable of pouring Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola into the same glass. Instead, it wants to make the complex process of crafting a high-end cocktail more accessible. That's a lofty goal, and nailing it is the only way this machine is worth the price. Paying $4 for a mediocre or bad cocktail will get old quickly. Nevertheless, I'd be delighted if the Drinkworks Home Bar can make a decent Old Fashioned. 

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