The Hooch app doesn't want you to drink alone

Ah, 2016, the year we all needed to take a big ol’ drink. Fortunately a flurry of innovation in gadgets, apps, and platforms has helped make that easier in more ways than one. Here are the most notable happenings and advancements in the past 12 months.

Make It From Scratch

People have been home-brewing for decades, but in the past few years it’s reached a fever pitch, with every wannabe hipster (sorry, Mike) fermenting in their basement. The Pico simplifies this process with a plug-and-play model, including ready-to-brew PicoPak ingredient kits and the ability to brew five liters of craft beer in about two hours. Meanwhile Hopsy premiered its HomeTap so you can enjoy the mouthfeel of a freshly poured pint out of a tap, even if you didn’t brew the beer yourself. And just in case there’s not enough foam, get yourself the Sonic beer foamer device to add the perfect amount.

Even big players like Whirlpool entered this space in 2016: In July its crowdfunding project reached over 220 percent of its goal, and soon you’ll be able to buy the Vessi beer fermentor and dispenser for $1,800. (In other words, crowdfunding is finally legit, with Wired even profiling one of the first companies to run a successful crowdfunding campaign — for 3D-printed cocktail ice.) And foodie inventor Dave Arnold launched a crowdfunding campaign for his Spinzall, a small centrifuge designed for restaurant and home use for under $1,000.

Robotic Bartenders

The ready-to-drink (RTD) market is somewhere around $3 billion, and the hottest thing in the smart bar this year was clearly robotic bartenders. There are a spate of different companies vying for space: Bartesian raised an undisclosed sum, reportedly in the “millions”; Somabar raised $1.5 million; and Monsieur raised $1.2 million. In less professional news, the Open Bar robot was submitted to the 2016 Hackaday Prize contest and is actually open source, so all you eager coders can help perfect it.

Expect the playing field to become even more crowded in the next year with lookalike companies proving our eternal interest in robots.

Pour Yourself the Perfect Drink

Apps for the perfect cocktail, beer, and so on abounded this year. Competing with the Perfect Drink smart bartending platform, the Bernooli device and app make it easy to make a balanced drink, and even Alexa can help you figure out how to make a cocktail or give you wine recommendations. And Spanish chemists have created an app that will tell you if your beer is, for lack of a better word, skunked.

Meanwhile Hooch doesn’t want you to drink at home, alone: The company raised $1.5 million to expand its subscription platform that gives you one drink for free at bars all over New York and Los Angeles.

Totally Unnecessary Technology

What kind of year would it be without some totally ridiculous, over-the-top technology that we don’t need? A boring one, that’s what.

Enter the data cocktail machine that makes cocktails from tweets. Yes, the Arduino-powered robot pulls the latest five tweets from around the world that mention ingredients and then mashes them into a cocktail. Surprisingly, there aren’t any plans to commercialize the machine.

But who knows: 2017 is a whole new year.

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