Power Pitch

Alcohol “in the rocks"

Alcohol in the rocks
Alcohol in the rocks

A new start-up is trying to raise the bar for drinkers by creating a machine that turns any type of alcohol into ice.

Inventor Jason Sherman, who founded Beyond Zero, says, "Whether you're a wine, spirits or beer drinker, let's not water it down anymore."

Liquid fusion

Sherman said drinks he ordered at bars often tasted watered down and unsatisfying. The culprit? Ice.

He said he wanted to stir things up. So he founded his start-up Beyond Zero, which makes a machine that turns any liquor into ice. Pour the liquid booze in one end and within minutes the machine freezes and dispenses it as cubes of ice. Sherman says he's literally putting liquor "in the rocks." And compared to a regular ice cube, the Beyond Zero cubes are up to 76 degrees colder.

"Once you mix the ice cubes with more liquor or a mixer, they melt and you have this incredible drink that has removed the ethanol bite leaving behind great flavors regardless of the type of spirit," the founder told CNBC.

For now, Sherman plans to get his machines in restaurants and bars. But Benchmarc Restaurants wine and beverage director David Lombardo said his main issue is keeping up with customer demand. "My concern with this machine is how long does it really take for these ice cubes to freeze and to be able to be served to the guests?"

According to the founder, the start-up's fully automatic machine produces enough ice for a single drink every two minutes. But Sherman added, "it constantly makes ice throughout the day and can keep up with the demand."

In addition to its fully automatic machine, the start-up has created two other models. These smaller devices both work as single-serving units and only hold one bottle of liquor. He has also built storage units to keep ice.

Currently, Sherman projects the fully automatic unit will cost $10,000, while the single serving and storage units will run between $3,000 and $5,000. He said that all units will be for sale for commercial-use by the end of 2015.

The founder told CNBC he expects the price to drop as volume ramps up. Once that happens, he said he may go after retail customers in 2016.

A cocktail with liquor ice cubes.
Source: Beyond Zero

Breaking the ice

Billionaire businessman John Paul DeJoria, who happens to be the co-founder of Patron Tequila, called the Beyond Zero concept a "gimmick" and "a cool little fad."

Cool or not, Beyond Zero's longevity and success still comes down to functionality. Alicia Syrett, a member of the New York Angels, has mentored more than two dozen start-ups, and she wondered just how practical and easy to use these machines really are.

Sherman said he's designed the machines so that "you'll be able to put them either in a sink or dishwasher to clean everything."

Beyond Zero is currently taking requests for pre-sales, expected in September, pending regulatory approvals. The company launched in October of 2008 and is headquartered in Louisville, KY with two full-time employees. The start-up has raised $1 million in funding from angel investors, friends and family.

—By CNBC's Kelly Lin & Heather Schnepf

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