Here’s What You Need to Know About Cocktail Machines

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Turn your home into the best bar on the block with some help from the Drinkworks and Bartesian cocktail machines.

With most bars still closed for imbibing, the need for a high-quality craft cocktail at home has never been higher. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stock up on a bunch of cocktail making tools or ingredients that you’ll only use sporadically. Cocktail machines are an all-in-one device that use specialty pods to mix alcohol, juices, bitters and water for a perfectly balanced cocktail with just a press of a button. It’s like having your own personal bartender at home!

Since these machines are an investment, we reviewed the top two brands, Bartesian and Drinkworks from Keurig, to help you find which cocktail machine is best for you.

By the way, here’s how you can support local small businesses like your favorite bars and restaurants.

Bartesian & Drinkworks Cocktail Machines

While Bartesian and Drinkworks both make delicious cocktails, there are some key differences between the two machines. Here’s how each one works:

Bartesian

bartesian-margarita stuff we lovevia bartesian.com

The Bartesian cocktail machine is the more customizable of the two systems. To get it started, fill each of the glass reservoirs with your favorite brands of vodka, tequila, rum, gin and whisky, place them in their designated spot on the base and then fill the water canister in the back.

When you’re ready for a drink, simply insert your choice of cocktail capsule and close the lid. The machine will read the barcode on the capsule, the digital screen will prompt you to place the suggested glass type under the machine and have you choose between a mocktail, light, regular or strong cocktail. Then, the Bartesian pulls the proper alcohol from its reservoir, mixes it with water and the capsule contents and pours the mixture into the glass below. Once your cocktail is done, the machine automatically rinses, so you can go from dispensing a vodka cocktail to whiskey and back, without having to wash anything or have lingering flavors.

The Bartesian doesn’t have a cooling element built in, so for a chilled cocktail, you’ll have to fill the water basin with cold water and/or add ice after the cocktail has been poured. For drinks that are usually straight up, like a cosmo, martini or aviation, you might want to cool the cocktail in a cocktail mixing glass with ice or a shaker to get it to temperature before pouring into your glassware. From start to finish, a cocktail takes about 20 seconds to make with the Bartesian.

To clean the Bartesian, wipe down the machine with a damp cloth. Remove the capsule holder, water container, spirit reservoirs and drip tray from the machine, wash with warm, soapy water and allow to dry before replacing. There is also a “Rinse/Clean” setting on the machine that you can run if you haven’t used your Bartesian in a while.

You can keep the machine plugged in at all times; there is a sleep setting which automatically activates after 30 minutes of not being used, or can be activated from a button on the home screen. To wake it up, just tap the screen.

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Editor’s Note: Since there are five alcohol reservoirs and only four spots for them to go on the Bartesian, the rum and gin reservoirs share a spot. When you insert a cocktail capsule that uses gin or rum, the screen will prompt you to check that the correct alcohol is connected to the machine before it starts to pour the drink.

Drinkworks by Keurig

Drinkworksvia drinkworks.com

Drinkworks, like a Keurig coffee maker, is an all-in-one cocktail machine as the pods already contain alcohol. To get the Drinkworks system set up, add the filter, water and ice to the water container and screw in a CO2 cartridge.

To make a drink in the Drinkworks cocktail machine, fill the water chamber with ice and water and turn the machine on. It will then continue to chill down the water, which can take upwards of 30 minutes (if you keep the machine plugged in, it maintains the cooled water and you won’t have to wait). Load the drink pod of your choice into the pod basket, close the top and place the glassware of your choice underneath. Once the button on the front of the machine turns blue, press it and the machine will mix the water and pod contents, cool the mixture and carbonate it (if needed) before pouring it into your glass. The machine knows how much water to add and whether or not to carbonate the cocktail by reading a barcode on the back of the pod.

As indicated above, this cocktail maker’s pods contain alcohol which means you aren’t able to control how much or which brand of alcohol the cocktail contains. The Drinkworks machine does, however, have built-in cooling and carbonation capabilities, which lessens your need for separate ice. Also, the carbonation allows you to make more types of drinks, like a rum and cola, beer or cider. Not including the initial cooling period, you can have a cocktail from the Drinkworks machine in about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on if it’s carbonated or not.

When you want to clean the Drinkworks machine, you can do so by removing the pod basket, water container and drip tray and washing them with warm, soapy water. Every so often, wipe the outside of the machine down with a damp cloth and run a cleaning cycle with the included cleaning tabs. If you forget to clean your device, the machine will prompt you to run a cleaning cycle.

As mentioned above, Drinkworks suggests that you keep the machine plugged in at all times to keep the water cool. The machine will automatically go into sleep mode when not in use.

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Cocktail Machines’ Drinks

The cocktail capsule or pod that you use with your cocktail machine will determine most or all of what your drink will taste like, so it’s important to get to know what’s in them and how many options you have. Since the mixes depend on which cocktail system you’re using, we’ll cover the Bartesian and Drinkworks separately.

Bartesian

Bartesian cocktail stuff we lovevia bartesian.com

As previously mentioned, the cocktail capsules for the Bartesian cocktail machine do not contain alcohol; you load your own alcohol into the reservoirs and when pouring a cocktail, choose how much alcohol goes into the cocktail. The alcohol content for each level varies depending on the cocktail capsule being used, but the range is about 1-3.5 ounces per cocktail. The box the capsules are delivered in will state how much alcohol is in each level.

Each cocktail capsule is instead filled with a blend of real fruit juices, extracts and bitters mixed by “experts in mixology,” according to Bartesian. Depending on the drink, the capsules are between 15-120 calories and most are gluten-, dairy-, nut-, fat- and soy-free. The capsules’ full ingredient list and nutrition facts can be found on the box they come in and on the Bartesian website. When stored at room temperature, cocktail capsules are best when mixed within 2-8 months, depending on the cocktail, or 4-10 months refrigerated. You can even store the capsules in the freezer indefinitely.

Bartesian currently offers 32 seasonal and permanent cocktails, available to be purchased individually (in multiples of 6, 8, 32 or 36) or as one of three sample packs. The classic collection pack is a good pack to get you started and includes staples like whiskey sour, margarita, and old fashioned. The poolside pack comes with fruitier libations like Mai Tai and ginger peach iced tea. Some of their seasonal capsules include fun flavors like apple pie or additions like glitter.

The cocktails are fresh, clean-tasting and not at all syrupy. The flavors are balanced in each of the cocktails and they’re consistent with the quality you’d get from a bar. We suggest taste tasting new cocktails with the “regular” strength alcohol, and then adjust the amount of alcohol to your taste. As expected, the “strong” alcohol setting is quite sprit-forward.

Bartesian also offers a monthly subscription of 18-36 cocktail capsules which are automatically shipped. You can customize which cocktails you’re getting in each order and pause or cancel the subscription at any time.

The plastic cocktail capsules are recyclable, so you can toss them in your recycling bin after they’ve been used. Capsules cannot be refilled or reused.

Drinkworks

drinkworks stuff we lovevia drinkworks.com

Drinkworks offers a large selection of alcoholic pods, including cocktails, wine spritzers, cider and beer. Since there are a lot of different types of beverages that the Drinkworks can make, there’s also a pretty big range in alcohol content. Each pod contains between 4.3-20% alcohol by volume (ABV), with the alcohol-forward cocktails like a martini or Manhattan skewing on the higher end, and non-cocktails, like the Stella Artois Cidre, on the lower end. The exact ABV of each pod can be found on the pod’s packaging and on the Drinkworks website.

The beverage pods for the Drinkworks machine are filled with alcohol, juices, soda syrup, liqueurs, bitters and/or natural flavorings depending on which drink is being made and are developed with mixologists. Drinkworks has a “Top Shelf” line of cocktail pods which are made with brand-name spirits like Jack Daniels, Chambord and Herradura, while their standard pods are made with generic spirits and liqueurs. Each pod will have somewhere between 90-190 calories per serving and are best when enjoyed within a year of purchasing. You can refrigerate the pods, but you don’t have to.

As we touched on before, Drinkworks has a lot of options when it comes to beverages. In addition to the 14 cocktail pods (which boasts classics like a margarita, gin and tonic, Moscow mule and old fashioned), you can also get wine cocktails like red and peach sangria and rose spritzer. Plus, Drinkworks partnered with the LA brewery Golden Road to develop pods of their popular taproom tropics beers and Stella Artois for a European-style cidre.

You can order pods in packs of 4, or the mojito, old fashioned and Moscow mule in a pack of 12. Additionally, you can order a starter sampler pack that comes with 16 classic, paradise, refreshing and wine cocktails, a brunch variety pack of 12 pods or a “fireside” collection of 12 holiday-themed pods.

Overall, Drinkworks’s pods taste typical of what you’d get from a bar and have enough flavor to satisfy a cocktail craving. One of the pluses of this machine is it will automatically carbonate certain beverages, depending on the pod that is inserted, so you don’t need to worry about having sparkling water, tonic or soda on hand. And since the cocktail is chilled as it’s coming out of the unit, you don’t have to worry about it getting diluted when you add ice.

The plastic pods are recyclable through Drinkworks’ partnership with Loop Industries, a plastic sustainability company. Each pod purchase comes with a prepaid envelope, which can be filled with up to 20 pods and then mailed out to Loop for recycling. Used pods cannot be refilled or reused, and you’re not able to use any K-Cups in the Drinkworks machine.

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The Bottom Line

When deciding which of these cocktail machines to gift to a friend, family member or yourself (it’s been a stressful year, treat yourself!), consider how much you’re willing to invest, what kind of drinks you want to make and how much customization ability you want. While both machines make great-tasting beverages, getting the machine that better aligns with what you or your loved one likes to drink is most important. We put together a summary for each cocktail machine to help make choosing a bit easier:

Bartesian

  • Cost: $349.99, available on the Bartesian website, Amazon and local retailers.
  • Warranty: Yes; 12-month limited warranty.
  • Recyclable: Yes; curbside recycling.
  • Drink options: 32 permanent and seasonal cocktails and three variety packs. Can customize the brand and amount of alcohol.

Drinkworks by Keurig 

  • Cost: $299.99 available on the Drinkworks website, Amazon and other online retailers.
  • Warranty: Yes; 1-year coverage of defects in materials or workmanship under normal home use.
  • Recyclable: Yes; mail-in recycling program.
  • Drink options: 20 cocktails, 4 wine cocktails, a cider and beer variety pack and three cocktail variety packs. Can cool beverages and make carbonized drinks.

After you’ve selected which cocktail machine is best for you or who you’re gifting it to, don’t forget to pick up some gorgeous vintage-style glasses to serve your cocktails in. Cheers!

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Caroline Stanko
As an Associate Digital Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.
James Schend
As Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversees the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and manages all food content for Trusted Media Brands. Prior to this position, James worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, he has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.