Update (12/17): Keurig has discontinued the Drinkworks brand and machine.
Crafting my own cocktails is one of those things that sounds fun in theory, but really isn’t. After collecting bartending supplies, buying the necessary spirits and allotting the time to channel my inner mixologist, I regret not going to an actual bar instead.
But as we all learn at one point or another, buying drinks gets pricey. Plus who wants to leave their house? I certainly prefer the comfort of my own home, especially now that it’s a fully automated DIY smart home. That’s why when I tried out the new Drinkworks Home Bar Classic (opens in new tab) — a $299 smart cocktail maker promising class and convenience — I knew I found the ultimate high-tech hosting gadget.
Smart cocktail makers are nothing new and yes, they’re somewhat of a party trick. You get the “oohs” and “aahs” of the first few pours, then inevitably something stops working as it should. Or it becomes too expensive to maintain. Or you don’t care for the quality of the drinks.
I’ve been wary of smart cocktail machines for a different set of reasons: intimidation and counter space. The versions I’ve seen, including the Home Bar Classic’s Pro predecessor, seemed clunky and complicated. Then there’s the Bartesian, which requires you to provide your own spirits. But Drinkworks' latest offering reminds me more of my beloved Nespresso Vertuo coffee maker than a fussy, on-demand cocktail dispenser. All you need to do is add water and viola — you’re the hostess with the mostest, delivering every guest’s custom drink order with minimal effort.
@tomsguide (opens in new tab) ♬ misery 4 u - Nick (opens in new tab)
Installing a carbonation canister is the most intensive set-up step, and it’s just a simple screw. From there you fill a clear, cylindrical tower with ample water and ice, then insert a pod. Similar to a Nespresso Vertuo pod, each Drinkworks pod features a unique barcode that provides the machine instructions for water measurement, carbonation levels, etc. The machine scans the barcode to initiate the pour.
The online-order pods themselves are alcoholic, so you don’t even need to run out to the liquor store. Drinkworks designs an in-house line of basic drinks, including probably the best sparkling Paloma I’ve ever had. The company also partners with big-name spirits to create cocktails using familiar foundations like Jack Daniels, Absolut, Deep Eddy and more.
And while most of the drinks are ready to drink once they hit your cup, you’re encouraged to add some finesse. I gave the espresso martini (designed in partnership with Kahlúa) a spin in a cocktail shaker after it brewed, since New York City’s trendiest adult beverage deserves a little extra froth.
Do you need a smart cocktail maker?
I skipped on smart appliances for my smart home, but continue to find clever ways to make the space more intelligent. Take my Alexa-enabled smart faucet, for example. Or how about the all-in-one Brilliant smart home control panel? The Drinkworks Home Bar Classic similarly gives the illusion that my house could host the Jetsons, and getting it to work was far less intimidating than you’d think.
The most obvious concern with owning a smart cocktail machine like the Drinkworks Home Bar Classic is the unavoidable pod system. Sure, buying a pod four-pack for $17-$20 is still cheaper than buying rounds of drinks at a bar. But keeping them stocked could be a problem. If the point is that your guests can all have their favorite drinks, you might feel obligated to have a variety on hand.
Still, if you’re often in the company of cocktail aficionados like me (what can I say, my family is fun) the machine makes for a talking subject, reliable bartender and clever gift idea. I’d consider it an awesome present for the techie in your life who “already has everything.” For me, it’ll be my right-hand for holiday hosting. With time I’ll save on drinks, I might actually be able to enjoy my own parties.
As for other holiday gadgets, here are 17 great Christmas gifts the Tom's Guide team wants this year.