People love going out to a bar and having a nice cocktail with friends. Your favorite might be a Margarita, Moscow Mule, Daiquiri, or even a classic Old Fashioned. Bartenders are experts at making these, and hundreds of other drinks. But, it is a significant challenge to provide these same cocktails to friends when you are hosting a party in your own home or are simply stuck in your home because all the bars have been closed.
If it were only as simple as having a bar stocked with the six basic liquors including brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, and whisky. First, there are many different types of whiskeys including scotch, Irish whiskey, bourbon, rye, and many more. In addition, many drinks include one, or more, liqueurs including Bailey’s Irish Cream, amaretto, kahlúa, compari, cointreau, frangelico, and sambuca; to name just a few. And, we can’t forget that cocktails also include:
- Juices (lemon, lime, orange, etc.)
- Carbonated mixers and soda (cola, tonic water, etc.)
- Sauces (Tabasco, Worcestershire, etc.)
- Syrups (grenadine, simple syrup, etc.)
- Garnishes (celery stalk, olive, lime wedge, etc.)
- Milk, Cream, Egg Whites, Sports Drinks…
Trying to keep all of this on hand is a daunting task and we won’t even talk about acquiring the necessary knowledge for correctly preparing each different type of cocktail.
Fortunately, technology has come to the party host’s rescue. Today, there are several different machines available that can automatically prepare a variety of different cocktails.
The Drinkworks Home Bar by Keurig takes the coffee pod concept and extends it to cocktails. Simply choose the drink you want, drop the appropriate pod into the machine, place a glass onto the base, and press the button. When the machine has completed making the cocktail (in less than 60 seconds) all that is required is to add the appropriate garnish and drink it. The built in display will even instruct the user which type of glass to use so the drink looks like it was prepared by a trained bartender. Garnish and serving tips, for each cocktail, are available on the company’s web site, www.drinkworks.com.
All the alcohol and other ingredients required for a drink are contained in each pod; in a highly concentrated mixture. Water is automatically chilled by the Drinkworks Home Bar in the reservoir and is then purified and filtered before if it is dispensed. If the chosen cocktail requires carbonated water, then the water from the reservoir is automatically carbonated using a replaceable CO2 cartridge installed in the side of the unit.
Pods are currently available for twenty-five different drinks including:
- Old Fashioned
- Long Island Iced Tea
- Whiskey Sour
- White Russian
- Mai Tai
- Gin and Tonic
- Rosé Spritzer
- And more…
Drinkworks has even partnered with Stella Artois for pods that produce their traditional Belgian cider.
Drinkworks has tried to make the Drinkworks Home Bar as simple to use as possible. The unique bar code on each pod drives the entire drink making process. In addition, the machine will even prompt the user when they need to add more water to the reservoir or when the CO2 cartridge needs to be replaced. All pods are recyclable through the company’s free-to-consumer mail back program with Loop Industries. Empty C02 cartridges can be recycled through standard curbside recycling programs. The Home Bar is also a connected system which pairs with mobile devices (Apple and Android), through Bluetooth, to monitor the overall performance and status of the appliance to ensure a seamless user experience. The Bluetooth connectivity also allows it to receive firmware updates.
For optimal taste, Drinkworks recommends that the pod basket be removed and cleaned after every 3-5 drinks. A full cleaning is also simple to perform and should be done every month. You just put three cleaning tablets into the external water reservoir, fill it with water, place a container onto the base and select the cleaning cycle from the on-screen menu. Once the cleaning cycle is complete you just refill the external water reservoir, again place a container onto the base, and follow the on-screen instructions to rinse the inner workings of the machine with clean water.
The Drinkworks Home Bar, Drinkworks proprietary pods, replacement CO2 cartridges, replacement filters, and cleaning tablets are all available directly from Drinkworks through their web site, www.drinkworks.com as well as from select e-commerce and brick & mortar partners. A full list of participating retailers is available on the Drinkworks web site.
However, Drinkworks currently ships its products to California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania. The Drinkworks Home Bar is also available for pre-order for residents of Arizona, Washington state, Maryland, Nevada, Minnesota and Washington, DC, with fulfillment beginning in March of this year. Drinkworks will continue to work with additional states to expand this list.
Bartesian also uses small, recyclable, pods to prepare drinks. However, unlike the Drinkworks, there is no alcohol in the pods. The pods just contain fruit juices, non-alcoholic versions of liqueurs, herbs, and other similar ingredients required for making a specific cocktail. By not including any alcoholic ingredients in the pods Bartesian removes the distribution issues that keep Drinkworks from being sold everywhere.
Instead, you fill the four glass canisters with favorite brands of vodka, tequila, whisky, and gin or rum. Next you fill the water reservoir, place a drink pod into the machine, select the strength of the drink you would like (mocktail, light, regular, or strong), press the button, and it mixes the selected drink for you.
Bartesian currently offers fifteen different drink pods including:
- Old Fashioned
- Gin Martini
- Long Island Iced Tea
- Rum Breeze
- Sex on the Beach
- Uptown Rocks
- Whiskey Sour
- Mint Julep
- Paper Plane
- Spiced Coffee
Pods can also be purchased in a classic variety pack or as part of a subscription where three, six pod packs, of your favorite cocktails are automatically shipped to you each month.
It should be noted that Bartesian doesn’t provide a way of carbonating the water; which limits the types of drinks it can produce. However, the ability to use your favorite brands of liquor instead of having the alcohol prepackaged in the pod is a unique advantage.
Bartesian is designed so it is easy to clean. There are four cleaning cycles.
- First Use – This cycle rinses the machine before it is used and primes the Bartesian to make sure it will properly pump the different types of liquor a customer will be installing
- Switch – This cycle is used when a customer changes one of the liquors installed in the machine. It assures that there won’t be any contamination from one bottle to the next.
- Rinse/Clean – This cycle is used when the Bartesian will not be used for an extended period of time.
- Transport – This cycle will clear all liquor and water from the Bartesian.
In addition, a user is provided with instructions on how to clean the capsule holder as well as how to descale the machine if a user lives in an area with hard water.
Barsys is the closest to providing cocktails with the equivalent quality to what you would receive at a bar in the comfort of your own home. Barsys doesn’t use pods or packets. Instead, you install up to five bottles of your favorite liquors into the top of the machine and up to three different mixers of your choice into special canisters that insert into the side of the machine. Finally, using the Barsys smart phone app, you configure the machine so it knows what liquors and mixers it has available in each slot. Barsys then provides you with the choice of making any cocktail, in its recipe database that uses the liquors and mixers you loaded into the machine.
The difference in cocktail quality comes from the ability to choose your favorite liquors and the ability to use fresh ingredients for the mixers. Instead of the mixers coming from a manufactured pod/packet you can, for example, fill one of the Barsys mixer canisters with freshly squeezed orange juice. It is important to understand that Barsys canisters are insulated, but not refrigerated. So, while many mixers don’t require refrigeration, something like, fresh squeezed orange juice does and you’ll need to plan accordingly.
However, because the only ingredients that Barsys can add to your cocktail are the liquors you have loaded into the top of the machine and the mixers loaded into the canisters in the side of the machine there is a burden placed on the user to stock, and add, any other ingredients required to complete the cocktail manually. This might include bitters, Tabasco sauce, etc. The Barsys app will instruct you on what extras need to be added to complete the cocktail but it does force the user to stock these ingredients and there is the risk that the desired cocktail requires an ingredient you don’t have on hand.
Because Barsys isn’t limited by the pods/packets the manufacturer has chosen to produce, the number of different drinks you can produce is almost limitless. Barsys includes a database of hundreds of different cocktails. The app also provides you with the ability to:
- Add your own drink recipes
- Customize the included recipes
- Download recipes from social media
The Barsys also includes a variable speed, wireless mixer. The mixer speed is controlled by the Barsys and can even simulate shaking a drink in a shaker with ice.
Cleaning the Barsys is very simple. You simply fill each of the canisters with warm water and run the automated cleaning function.
Unfortunately, the Barsys also comes with a much higher price tag than the Drinkworks or Bartesian cocktail machines. I expect that part of this is due to the fact that Drinkworks and Bartesian have a built in, ongoing, revenue stream from selling a homeowner the pods and packets required for the machine to operate. All the profits from Barsys come from the sale of the machine itself.
All of these machines make cocktails easier to produce at home. The Drinkworks provides the simplest operation with all the liquor, mixers, and anything else required for a cocktail recipe included in a single pod.
The Bartesian takes a different direction by combining the ease of use of packets and allowing the homeowner to use their favorite brands of liquors. But, in both cases, with the simplicity of using a pod/packet you lose the ability to make a cocktail with fresh ingredients.
The Barsys overcomes this limitation. It:
- Allows a cocktail to be made with the same fresh ingredients that make it taste so good in a bar
- Allows a homeowner to choose from hundreds of different cocktail recipes instead of just those that the manufacturer has chosen to make pods/packets for
- Requires the homeowner to stock their own mixers, liqueurs, and the other ingredients needed to make cocktails
- Has a much higher price tag.
However, the biggest competitors to these machines are the pre-made cocktails available in the same stores that liquor is available in. A homeowner can buy their own bottles of pre-made long island ice tea, mud slides, margaritas, and much more. While these pre-made, bottled, cocktails don’t use fresh ingredients they do provide a very convenient way to provide a variety of cocktails at a party without worrying about buying all the individual ingredients.
It is also important to remember that more complex cocktails require more preparation than any of these machines is capable of. For example, a Gin Fizz requires an egg white and an extensive amount of shaking to create the requisite creaminess and froth. Another example is a Dark Express where fresh blackberries, along with other ingredients, are placed in a shaker with ice and everything is shaken until the berries are crushed.
But, for those looking for something with a high “cool factor”, and the ability to easily create a wide variety of cocktails, a mechanical cocktail machine offers a unique alternative to asking Alexa how to make a Commonwealth and hoping you have all 71 ingredients on hand.