Starring in today’s edition of Technological Innovations No One Needed is a new offering from the minds behind Keurig. Much like the coffee-filter-and-Folgers saps before them, starting Monday, home barkeeps everywhere will be made obsolete by the arrival of the Drinkworks Home Bar, a partnership between Keurig and Anheuser-Busch. The machine works in much the same way as its coffee predecessor, mixing everything from Manhattans to Mai Tais to Stella Artois Cidre with a pod and a press of a button.*
According to the Drinkworks website, the Home Bar is “a new way to elevate dinner with family, late night with friends, or cozy evenings in” for the low price of $299. In other words, for more than the price that it would take to stock a respectable liquor cabinet, you will eventually be able to purchase a fancy machine that takes all the fun out of mixing fairly basic cocktails at home. And of course, cocktail and brew pods are sold separately, for $3.99 and $2.25 respectively. So not only are you paying an inordinate amount of money for a machine that saves you approximately five minutes of light effort, you’re paying two whole dollars for a single Stella Artois when you could pay $10 for a frosty six-pack. Even Drinkworks CEO Nathaniel Davis fully admits that the problem of at-home brews wasn’t one that needed solving and that what comes out of the Home Bar isn’t even really beer. “They’re not technically beers any more once we pull the water out,” Davis said in an interview with the Riverfront Times. “The government considers those ‘distilled spirits.’ When you’re at the edge of this kind of innovation it’s funny, because you’ll see on the label it calls it a ‘distilled brew.’ ”
At the time of writing, there are 24 different cocktail pods, including, for unspecified reasons, a pod for a Gin and Tonic—which is literally some gin and tonic water in a glass. The drink-maker is currently available for preorder and will make its debut in select locations in St. Louis before being rolled out to the rest of the state and Florida by the end of 2019 and California by 2020. And because the innovators can’t stop short of your phone, the Home Bar pairs with an app that shows users how to unbox and set up their drink-maker, “purchase more pods, learn about new drinks, monitor cleaning status, and more.” You know what else there’s definitely a few apps for? Learning how to properly mix drinks with your own alcohol and sometimes a shaker that you can easily wash!
Unlike the original caffeine Keurig, the pods for the Home Bar are entirely recyclable, though through a mail-in service that involves collecting 30 pods in a special bag. That’s nothing to sneeze at, considering the fact that enough K-cups were sold in 2014 that, according to a 2015 Atlantic article, “if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times. Almost all of them ended up in landfills.” Though Keurig is working to move to totally recyclable pods by 2020, for now, that is a profoundly wasteful way to make what is, ultimately, subpar coffee. If the Home Bar ends up anywhere near as popular as its caffeinated sister, at least lazy home bartenders can rest easy knowing they’re not actively destroying the planet for the sake of convenience. That said, the Home Bar exclusively makes drinks that require approximately three or four ingredients, the bottles of which are recyclable most anywhere! A Lime Vodka Soda is just that. A Daiquiri is just simple syrup, rum, and lime juice. A Mai Tai requires a little more effort, but unlike the Home Bar, once you buy all the ingredients, you can actually make many more than one without shelling out double the money.
Ultimately, this thing is just another machine that estranges us from the ingredients that make up the food and drinks that we consume. Mixing drinks at home, with all the tiny efforts it takes, from learning about liquor to measuring to shaking or stirring, encourages a familiarity with and respect for what we’re putting into our bodies. It demystifies ingredients rather than obscuring them behind proprietary pods mixed in a lab. Even watching someone else tip a glass so as to prevent too high of a foam head on a draft beer gets us a step closer to the process than popping a pod and pushing a button. Of course, that brings us to what is probably the biggest benefit for the eventual Home Bar enthusiast: At the end of the night, there’s no need to tip the bartender.
Correction, Nov. 15, 2018: This post originally misspelled Manhattan.