The Keurig machine changed how Americans drink coffee — but will it have the same luck with cocktails?
Drinkworks Home Bar by Keurig is going to find out in Florida, where it's launching a new high-tech drink dispenser this month. With a concentrated flavored-alcohol pod and the push of a button, the machine can whip up a craft cocktail in seconds from a Moscow mule or a mai tai to an old fashioned or gin and tonic.
"In our pilot, the response was way above expectations," Drinkworks CEO Nathaniel Davis said during a Tampa product demonstration. "We couldn't keep up."
Drinkworks sold out within hours during its St. Louis pilot in November. The upcoming Florida launch will be Boston-based Drinkworks' biggest yet. The machine will also launch statewide in Missouri. Davis said a lot of Floridians make up their key demographic: people who like to entertain guests and love a mean cocktail. It doesn't hurt that Florida's e-commerce laws allow direct-to-shopper liquor sales online.
Drinkworks is backed by both Keurig Dr. Pepper (the companies merged last January) and Anheuser-Busch.
On May 7, shoppers in Florida can order the machine online. On May 20, select retailers in Sarasota will carry the machine in-store: Best Buy, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Total Wine & More.
Best Buy won't sell the pods, which contain high-proof alcohol. The four-packs of drink mixes can be ordered online or purchased from the participating liquor retailers. There are 22 drinks available now, including a white Russian, cosmopolitan, Long Island iced tea and three kinds of margaritas, and more on the way.
Drinkworks has a mail-in recycle program to keep its plastic pods out of landfills. Plastic waste has been one of the leading criticisms against the at-home bar's caffeinated predecessor.
Drinkworks operates similar to a Keurig coffee machine, but its pods are full of liquid, not powder. The black drink machine looks similar in shape and size to a coffee Keurig. It syncs up with a smartphone, has a large tank for water and a glowing blue "start" button. It shoots out a flavor-infused stream of liquid in three different sizes, depending on the drink type.
Inside, the machine has a small CO2 tank to add carbonation. Its computer reads a unique code printed on every plastic pod so it knows how much water and carbonation to finish off each drink.
"It's all about simplifying a complex drink," Davis said. "It gives people the confidence to try new things."
The added convenience comes at a cost: The machine is $399 and the pods, which range from spirit mixes and wine spritzers to beers and ciders, cost $15.99 for a pack of four.
The machine's launch came with some criticisms: A writer for Slate said the gadget "estranges" users from the ingredients of even simple beverages. Another from The Verge said the experience lacked "part of the magic" that goes into the labor of making a craft cocktail.
Davis contends it's for the cocktail lover who orders craft drinks when out, but doesn't have the know-how or liquor collection to make drinks at home.
"Stick it on a bar cart, and it can become the centerpiece," he said.
Editor's note: A previous story did not mention that Missouri will also sell the machine.
Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.