3D-PRINTING COCKTAILS IS PART ART, PART SCIENCE
Benjamin Greimel is the robotics pioneer behind Print-A-Drink, one of the first technologies to combine robotics with design and mixology, and one of the key features of The Bulleit 3D Printed Frontier. Greimel’s idea to combine 3D printing, robotics, and mixology actually began as a one-off grad school assignment using a robotic arm with a micro-dosing attachment, but Greimel quickly realized that there was a need for this type of tech in the entertainment scene. Mostly because, as far as he could tell, no one else was utilizing 3D printing technology this way.
Usually, 3D printing happens in vertical layers, essentially the same way you would make a lasagna, but with thermoplastics rather than gooey mozzarella. The cocktails, Greimel says, are printed in a way that’s similar to how medicine would be created in lab, via micro-injections (and no thermoplastics, obviously). The designs are created by precisely injecting microscopic dots of liquid into the drink in a pre-set pattern, which is all done by a robotic arm.
The designs stay in place thanks not only to the chemistry of the drink (more on that in a bit) but also because the tiny dots are actually small droplets of edible oils, like lemon, hazelnut, or even vegetable. Because the droplets are so small, they don’t typically affect the mouthfeel or taste of the drink, unless a mixologist is using a more pronounced oil to accentuate the cocktail. Think of them as edible garnish -- but way cooler.
But not everything can be a robo-cocktail, and it took the team over 100 recipes to find that out. The drinks need to be semi-transparent for the design to shine through, so no stout beer. Sparkling drinks are out, since they go flat when cooled to the printable temperature. Lastly, the printed oil drops don’t maintain their position in spirits with a high alcohol content (they still aren’t sure why).
Once the recipes are locked in and printable, it’s time to prepare the cocktails in big batches. Why batch? Besides the need to follow the cocktail recipe exactly (seriously, no improvising here -- otherwise it could throw off the print) the actual printing process takes about 60 seconds per drink, which is perfect for a thirsty crowd.