You may soon be able to serve cocktails to yourself and your friends by putting a pod into a Keurig-style machine and pushing a button. Drinkworks, a joint venture of Keurig and Anheuser-Busch, is selling its first product, the Drinkworks Home Bar, by mail order and at a few select retailers, exclusively in St. Louis. Expansion to other markets is planned for 2019. (The daunting legalities of shipping alcohol between or even within states means they can't just sell the pods on Amazon, for example.)
For those who can get them, the machines cost $299, and the pods cost $3.99 each, or $15.99 for four. Users put in water, and also have to install a CO² cartridge (the machine comes with the first two) that can make an average of 12 drinks. At launch, the Drinkworks Home Bar can make 15 different cocktails, ranging from a G&T to a Long Island Iced Tea to Sangria to a White Russian or Mai Tai, or three different kinds of Margarita. It can also produce a couple of brands of beer and even a hard cider.
A lot of the technology inside the Drinkworks machine likely descended from Keurig Kold, Keurig and Coca-Cola's attempt to challenge Pepsi-backed SodaStream's dominance of the at-home soda market. The Keurig Kold had the advantage of making drinks one at a time, and of offering Coca-Cola as well as other Coca-Cola-owned beverages, such as Sprite. But those upsides couldn't overcome the Kold's significant price disadvantages. The machine cost $299 and up, and the pods started at $3.99 for a pack of four, with each pod producing an 8-ounce beverage, smaller than a standard can, at least in the U.S. Keurig had to give up on the Kold after less than a year.
Keurig and its beer-behemoth partner are betting that the calculus will be different for alcoholic beverages. The product has met with skepticism in the press so far, but I think they might be on to something. Coffee and soda, and for that matter beer, are beverages people often drink at home, and they usually only want one or two kinds. But the Keurig and its pods really come into their own in places like waiting rooms and lobbies, where many different people can each have the hot beverage they like most.
Likewise, I don't see much reason for the Home Bar for just me if I always drink the same cocktail every evening--it would be cheaper and simpler to go out and buy the appropriate ingredients (or, even easier, a mix) and make it myself. But if I'm having a party with 30 or 40 people who each want a different drink, then the Home Bar has a lot of appeal. Plus, it's fun. It even has its own iPhone app, so you can monitor its progress while it makes your drink. (The process is different for different beverages--the machine reads a bar code on the pod to figure out what to do--and most or all drinks can be made in a minute or less.)
I've never wanted a Keurig machine, but if the Home Bar goes on sale in my area, I might be seriously tempted to get one before my next big party. Or even my next book group gathering. Will other consumers feel the same way? We'll have to wait and see.