Aside from actual matters of importance like the South Korean ferry disaster and the crisis in Ukraine, the issue on the tip of everyone’s tongue for the past few days has been Palcohol: a patent-pending line of powdered cocktails (just add water!) in varieties like Cosmopolitan, Lemon Drop, and Kamikaze.
News of the product broke via booze industry blog BevLaw, which reported that the product had been approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The original website (cleverly cached thanks to Eater) had a slightly cheeky tone and included some you-definitely-didn’t-clear-this-with-legal information on snorting the powdered booze (more on that later).
The main concern is that, like Four Loko, Palcohol will open a Pandora’s box of problems when people inevitably smuggle booze into places where they are normally not supposed to have it (transatlantic flight turn up!), and also do stupid things like put in their butts (you know someone will).
The story on Palcohol is still developing, but here are the most important things we know so far:
The dude who invented it really loves “hiking, biking, camping, [and] kayaking” (and, duh, getting hammered.) Grub Street digs into the man behind the product, Mark Phillips, a serial drifter (he has had “more than 80 jobs” in his life) who wanted to find a way to make booze more portable, not to mention easier to smuggle into sports games, concerts, and other events where alcohol is wildly expensive. Based on this video, he also has the highly enviable skill of being able to make a room full of old white people laugh.
The state of California saw it coming like Nostradamus. Entrepreneur reports, “In 1978, California passed a law stating that alcoholic tax laws will ‘apply with respect to powdered distilled spirits in the same manner and to the same extent as with respect to other distilled spirits.’” That makes sense—after all, it’s the job of lawmakers to understand human nature, which means understanding that people will go to any lengths necessary to get wasted (even vaporizing martinis). Gizmodo also points out that the first patent for alcohol powder dates back to 1974.
It’s basically like Emergen-C, but instead of sugar and vitamin C, it delivers sugar and alcohol. Gizmodo investigates the chemistry of Palcohol, which is a little beyond the limits of our unscientific brains. But they chatted to food-design Sam Bompas of Bompas & Parr, who took a stab at a layman’s-terms explanation: “[A process like this] typically involves enrobing the liquid in fat molecules that can be dissolved in solution or through physical abrasion (it’s a process used to give longer flavor release in chewing gum).” So basically, it’s an ethanol-delivery system not unlike the one used to produce powdered Gatorade, Emergen-C, and other “just add water” drinks.
The company claims that each packet is equivalent to one standard mixed drink. The question on every boozehound’s mind was obviously how f**ked up this stuff will get you. Initially, many outlets mistakenly reported that each packet was 65% ABV based on early labels, which would be somewhere between whiskey and Everclear. But that figure actually referred to alcohol by weight for the powder in its solid form—once a half cup of water is added, the result is a drink that’s 12% ABV, more like a glass of wine.
Snort it or not? The original version of the website had some language that was very much in the “we’re not saying you should do this, but it might be kinda awesome” camp about snorting Palcohol:
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room….snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.
As Eater points out, the makers have not only deleted that copy on the site, but also changed the Palcohol formula to discourage people from snorting lines of booze: “We’ve added volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. You would feel a lot of pain for very little gain.”
Yes, you can booze up your food. The creators even recommend it, offering some tips on their website: “We’ve been experimenting with it like adding Powderita powder to guacamole, Cosmopolitan powder on a salad, V in a vodka sauce, etc. It gives the food a kick.”
But wait: Powdered alcohol may not happen after all. In a bizarre twist to this story, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has come out of the woodwork following the brouhaha over Palcohol and seems to be claiming that the whole thing is a big mistake. A spokesman from the bureau told the AP that the approval was a mistake, so maybe we won’t actually be seeing it on shelves by “Fall 2014″ as promised. Say goodbye to your next-level tailgating plans!
But wait, part deux: You can make your powdered alcohol. And, of course, someone on the Internet will show you how to do it.
As of yet, there’s no word on whether Jamie Foxx will release a remix to “Blame It.” She did it for the Pa-ah-ah-ah-ah-alcohol!