After an initial pilot program in Missouri, the Drinkworks Home Bar expanded distribution to Florida in the spring, and to California, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois this fall. The at-home cocktail appliance is backed by AB InBev and Keurig Dr Pepper.
It follows a similar operation to a Keurig machine in that it sits countertop and produces high-quality drinks through flavor pods and tubes sold separately. But instead of coffee, tea and hot chocolate, Drinkworks specializes in Margaritas, Mai Tais and Cosmopolitans.
One pod, one button, one cocktail
Up until now, Drinkworks has mostly relied on its ‘Classic Collection,’ Paradise Collection’ and ‘Simply Refreshing Collection’ of cocktails that are made with generic, un-branded spirits. But the new collaboration with Brown-Forman will bring more well-known brand names to the lineup.
CEO Nathaniel Davis told BeverageDaily that Drinkworks has “been quite transparent about being inspired by Keurig,” and thinks doing similar branded partnerships brings choice, variety and credibility to the cocktails.
“It allows us to co-develop in a creative way for new varieties that match perfectly for the brand, but use them in the way that only Drinkworks can--one pod, one button, one cocktail simplicity,” he said.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack, Chambord, and Herradura will be included in the partnership, incorporated into signature cocktails ready-made for Drinkworks. It will add to Drinkworks’ existing portfolio of about 25 different liquid-filled cocktail tubes, which each contain four pods.
The co-branded cocktail products won’t hit the market until mid-2020, but Drinkworks and Brown-Forman expect there to be pod varieties like Jack & Cola, Lynchburg Lemonade & Tennessee Mule, Gentleman Jack Sour, Manhattan, Margarita, Royale and French Martini.
Davis described many of his customers as the classic host, who invest in the $399 Drinkworks system because they entertain friends and family who can all enjoy the beverages. He is finding that ‘tasting is believing’ and sampling opportunities are critical for bringing in more customers.
But this Brown-Forman partnership and future deals with other brands also bring a “huge amount of credibility” for those who haven’t had the chance to sample it in person yet. Davis said working with trusted spirits brands ‘lowers the barriers’ for new customers and acts as an endorsement of the system.
Decluttering a crowded bar cart
The association with Keurig conveys a lot about how the machine works, Davis said, and that it does more than mix cocktails at home. Like a Keurig, it opens up access to a wide portfolio of drinks without having to purchase and stock all the necessary ingredients.
Even simple cocktails require several steps, and Davis wants Drinkworks to streamline the process with everything included. In the long run he says the convenience and variety outweighs the price tag and gives back time spent mixing drinks.
“These are not super complicated in the world of cocktails, but they’re just complicated enough for people to not know how to make them,” he said.
Drinkworks also offers Stella Artois Cidre on the system, and is working on building out the platform to accommodate beer options. The team is learning about requirements in price, branding and delivery to make it simple, with expectations of beer launches in 2020.
“Elevated experiences are very hard to curate, and [Drinkworks] brings this combination of elevated premium experiences in a simple way. It links brands with signature drinks that are otherwise very hard to bring together and get consistent delivery, all with the freshness of making it right in front of you,” Davis said.
For now the Drinkworks website is its main ecommerce channel, but it is exploring brick-and-mortar options like big box retailers and department stores. The cocktails pods must be sold separately through regulated channels for alcoholic beverages, but it will be similar to other appliance-and-pod retail models.
Erin Schlader, global brand director at Brown-Forman, told BeverageDaily “We’re really excited to have our brands linked to a lot of really appealing cocktails. The team at Drinkworks has done an amazing job at bringing the concept to life.”
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in our R&D department in collaboration with theirs to make sure that we’re delivering high-quality cocktails through the system.”