You read that right: You can now “print” instead of pour cocktails using a modified 3D printer! We have seen variations on drink automation before, from multi-bottle cup fillers that run tubes to a nozzle (like a soda dispenser) as well as more advanced robotic arm-style mixology machines. But this is the first time we have come close to anything that resembles the iconic Star Trek replicator that can build your drink, the glass and even ice, right before your eyes.
We were a little skeptical of this innovation given the high temperatures involved in glass-making before we realized that a decent coupe can be extruded from clear acrylic filament. Printing objects like cocktail glasses is straightforward enough, and most shapes work well without excessive overhang. The true innovation happens in a lab where classic recipes are deconstructed into constituent flavor components and documented in a unique database. The results of such analyses are more like reverse mixology—unlike anything resembling a cocktail book.
Not surprisingly, the main components of a 3D printed drink are water and ethanol. What makes this process unique is how every spirit and liqueur has been cataloged into alcohol-soluble “flavor paste”. This paste dribbles out of the extruder as the cocktail gets built, like pigment getting added to a can of house paint—only instead of vigorous shaking at the end, a 3D printed cocktail is gently stirred by the sloshing motion of the print bed. Once you setup a decent 3D printer with a good inventory of base flavor tubes, it is possible to print any drink except ones with Chartreuse.
Yet, seeing is believing, so with these details we embarked on an experiment to try it first-hand. At the end of last year, we ordered a 3D printer and started collecting the flavor pastes. After just a few modifications to our printer—most of which can be done over a weekend—we were printing Manhattans! The photos speak for themselves, but we decided to make a rare video of the process to show the steps involved and the incredible results. Check it out here: 3D Printing Cocktails.