The Promise of a Worse Tomorrow: Why Smartphone-Enabled On-Demand Liquor Delivery Fails


With Memorial Day upon us, we have been granted a much deserved respite during which we can reflect on our progress, reassess our values, and begin to chart our future, both individually, and as a society as a whole. With the groundswell of glamorization behind software engineering on both the big screen (The Social Network) and the little screen (HBO’s Silicon Valley), we dare to dream of a brighter future.

There are those moments when dreamers dream the same dream. This moment is one of them, as several entrants have tackled the onerous challenge, nay, duty, of perfecting mobile-enabled on demand liquor delivery. And I’ve taken on the great responsibility of comparing three of these visionaries, so you can sufficiently meet your holiday boozing needs.

The Experience

Order: Bulleit Bourbon (750ml, $39.99), tax, free delivery, tip: $3.00.
Comparison: Bulletin Bourbon $36.99 (Astor Wines).
Delivery: During the shopping process, it was clearly identified that the order would be fulfilled by 55th Street Wine & Spirits, though the order would arrive in just over an hour via a courier dispatched by Uber Rush. The package was delivered in a Minibar-labeled bag with several coasters that featured recipes for drinks that could be made with the bourbon.
Was the delivery what was ordered? Yes.

Order: Canyon Oaks Chardonnay (750ml, $12.00), Kings County Bourbon (375ml, $28.00), tax, free delivery, tip: $2.00.
Comparison: Kings County Bourbon 200ml/$23.99, 375ml/$41.99 (Astor Wines)
Delivery: After completing the order, the confirmation email indicated that the order would be fulfilled by Vino Fine Wines & Spirits in 35 to 75 minutes. The order arrived in 105 minutes, and, upon inspection, the Kings County Bourbon was the 200ml version, not the 375ml version as expected. Upon contacting customer service, it was explained that the product was mislabeled in the mobile application. A $10 credit was issued.
Was the delivery what was ordered? No.
Order: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (750ml, $24.99), tax, free delivery, tip: $3.75.
Comparison: N/A
Delivery:, an established food delivery service akin to Seamless, requires the user to select the merchant that should fulfill the order. Due to a combination and the most reasonable order minimum ($20.00; some merchants had minimums of up to $200.00), Wine on Nine was selected. Ten minutes after the order was submitted, a call was received indicating that the ordered item was out of stock and a replacement was selected. Though there was no estimated timeframe, the order arrived in 75 minutes.
Was the delivery what was ordered? No.

While it is a privilege to live in a city where on demand liquor delivery is a viable business, the business is nascent and suffers from merchandising and logistics issues. If you must order liquor in this fashion, don’t wait until you’re completely depleted, as it may be a while before your next drink.

Thirstie Minimum: $40
Platforms: Desktop, Android, iOS
Estimated: 35-75
Actual: 105
The most platform coverage of the upstarts, but there are some kinks to be worked out.
Minibar Minimum: $25
Platforms: iOS
Estimated: 60
Actual: 66
Solid branding and professional execution, but the exclusive iPhone/iPad support makes it a private club. Minimum: varies by partner.
Desktop, Android, iOS
Estimated: N/A
Actual: 75
The 800 pound gorilla in the room won’t go quietly.