After a decade of technological advances in drink-making and millions of dollars in research and development, St. Louisans will be the first to test the stuff of beverage science fiction.
“What about the ‘Keurig of Beer’? What about the ‘Nespresso of Cocktails’?” said Nathaniel Davis, CEO of Drinkworks, which launched at the beginning of 2017. “This is a concept that has lived a long time.”
Yes, a machine that needs only a liquid-filled pod and water to mix up cocktails in seconds is now a reality. What else would you expect from a joint venture of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Keurig?
It’s not the volume of alcohol we consume that convinced Drinkworks to try St. Louis as the pilot market for the Drinkworks Home Bar by Keurig. Rather, it’s our “hosting” culture, said Davis, who lived here for a decade when he worked for Anheuser-Busch.
“You set this up and spark a happy hour,” Davis said.
Pop in a pod of concentrated ingredients and barrel-grade spirits, and the Drinkworks machine reads a code to know how much water to add, whether it needs shaking or stirring, and what amount of carbonation is required to produce said cocktail.
Drinkworks, based in the Boston area near Keurig’s headquarters, will first offer 24 drink pods that create most classic cocktails, such as a Moscow Mule or an Old Fashioned. It also has partnered with Bass and Becks (both A-B InBev brands) to create pods that mix up flights of beers exclusive to the Drinkworks machine.
But for now, it’s mostly a cocktail machine designed for in-home use targeting the serial entertainer.
“If you were to invest in a bar that has all the ingredients of the drinks we have represented, that’s a $500 investment,” Davis told the Post-Dispatch during a demonstration of the technology last week.
And though there are just 24 cocktail pods now, the machine is programmed with 2,000 drink recipes to be ready for Drinkworks to release new pod flavors.
“We designed the thing to have huge variety,” Davis said.
The Drinkworks machine retails at $299 and a pack of cocktail pods, with four to a pack, costs $15.99. A flight of beer, with four pods, will retail for $9.99. The machine also requires a canister of compressed carbon dioxide — which holds enough CO2 to mix up 15 to 17 drinks.
A-B InBev launched a home draft beer system, Draftmark, in 2011, but discontinued the $50 product in 2016.
The brewer’s new joint venture with Keurig will face competition from other in-home drink systems, including Synek, a countertop beer dispenser that launched in St. Louis in 2015.
Drinkworks is eschewing “a massive national push,” Davis said, offering a limited release in St. Louis to work out any kinks in the product and gather customer feedback. Even its website will restrict orders to those in the St. Louis area.
St. Louis-area Total Wine & More stores, as well as some yet-to-be-disclosed Schnucks and Dierbergs locations, will begin offering the Drinkworks Home Bar by Keurig and the associated drink pods for sale starting next week.
At some point next year, Drinkworks hopes to expand beyond St. Louis. It’s looking at Florida and California, though there’s no set timeline, Davis said.
“The feedback we’re getting so far is huge,” Davis said. “It’s people who are hosts, generous people who want to step up.”