By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Nomadic Lass.
The old-fashioned alcoholic beverage isn’t good enough anymore. Clunky glass bottles are apparently too wasteful and archaic, plus liquid is going out of style. We need to invent a new way to consume our booze.
So why not make it into a powder?
That’s exactly what Mark Phillips decided to do. The Lipsmark LLC brand owner and former wino is a “pretty active guy,” whose hobbies include hiking, biking, and kayaking. All of that activity can make him thirsty, but Phillips can’t exactly lug around a thirty rack of beer or a handle of whiskey while he climbs mountains. He only wants to carry his water.
In a move that’s sure to launch a campaign of fretful scowls across the faces of concerned mothers everywhere (if it hasn’t already), Phillips created a powdered version of alcohol.
Quite appropriately, it’s called Palcohol.
It’s as easy to make as a glass of Kool-Aid (more on that later). All you have to do is empty the pouch of powder into a glass of water, stir for one minute, and voila. The water turns to vodka.
Not quite the poeticism of turning water to wine, but according to Phillips, Palcohol’s practicality is not to be underestimated. Each packet only weighs an ounce while a standard bottle of beer clocks in at around half a pound. Besides ensuring that camping enthusiasts everywhere can now get drunk without straining their backs, the product’s website lists other travel applications.
Airlines everywhere could breathe a collective sigh of relief if they choose to serve Palcohol to their patrons. Reducing flight loads might potentially “save millions on fuel costs,” the company speculates on the powdered beverage’s homepage.
The site also encourages ice cream manufacturers to doctor their product with Palcohol to create an “adult version.”
Let’s not forget curious Hawaiians, who could save money on lighter shipments from the mainland.
As if these benefits weren’t enough to sell the product already, there’s variety to spice matters up. Prospective drinkers could choose between V, which is made from “premium vodka distilled four times,” or R, which is derived from “premium Puerto Rican rum.” Palcohol also comes in four cocktail flavors: Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita (basically a Margarita), and Lemon Drop. Each packet is the equivalent to one average mixed drink.
If Palcohol sounds too good to be true, that’s because it just might be. Sadly, if lawmakers can leverage any stake in the matter we might never get our hands on this strange new powdery concoction.
The legal controversy started with a mistake made on the behalf of the federal government. On Apr 8, The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the Palcohol label. Only 13 days later, however, the institution decided to rescind their grant.
“TTB did approve labels for Palcohol,” they wrote in a statement. “Those label approvals were issued in error and have since been surrendered.”
This bizarre turn of events spawned even more confusion. According to Phillips, the production of Palcohol–including manufacturing logistics, distribution channels, and marketing plans–were all flying under the radar. The idea was to debut everything at once in the fall of 2014.
The powder hit the fan, however, when the TTB released the approved labels without first informing Lipsmark, Palcohol’s parent company. As a result, the product’s unfinished website was soon discovered by thousands of curious onlookers who were startled by some of the content, which contained “edgy wording.”
Speculations ensued like wildfires. Media outlets began running misinformed information regarding the product, while political figures began rallying into a riotous field day.
Sen. Charles Schumer requested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban powdered alcohol from stores. He warns that it will surely become “the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking.”
“We’re sitting on a powder keg,” Schumer wrote in his address to the FDA.
He illustrated the potential havoc it could create:
“Palcohol can be easily concealed and brought into concerts, school dances and sporting events, it can be sprinkled on food and can even be snorted.”
As it turns out, the product would take roughly 60 minutes to snort, and yet still only end up being the strength of one standard shot. You’d need a Scarface sized-mountain piled up on your desk just to get a buzz.
Phillips isn’t afraid of Schumer’s backlash, and on May 7 decided to respond to the Senator with his own statement regarding the safety of his product. The result is a demonstrative video in which the founder shows how to use Palcohol responsibly, and reveals why Schumer’s accusations are unfounded.
Be warned: Phillips clearly gives a damn about his product. The video is nearly 17 minutes long.
Hey, at least the guy has a sense of humor.
Both Lipsmark and Palcohol, however, are taking the matter seriously. They declined to answer questions or entertain interview inquiries until after the approval process is taken care of.
BTR got in touch with Lynne, who works on Palcohol’s management team. She was adamant about not granting an interview, but after some gentle coaxing decided to share the company’s opinion on the matter.
“Sen. Schumer’s comments are ignorant and irresponsible,” she tells BTR. “There is absolutely no relation to a sugary drink like Kool-Aid, underage drinking and binge drinking and Palcohol.”
She claims that the drink will be sold in licensed establishments, just like its liquid counterpart, so the same safeguard of providing identification will be required to buy it.
Furthermore, Lynne says that they have written directly to committee members in an effort to better educate state lawmakers to not make any rash decisions.
“I’m aware of one NY lawmaker in particular who is staunchly opposed to Palcohol,” says Lynne, “and that’s Sen. Hoylman who introduced a bill attempting to ban our product.”
We decided to get a second opinion on the matter, and reached out to the Beer Sommelier Matt Simpson. You might remember him as the beer expert that we featured in last week’s article, which focused on questionable ingredients in mainstream beers.
“I don’t know how kids could get their hands on it any easier than bottled beer and liquor,” Simpson tells BTR. “It’s still only going to be available in the same places, and it will be regulated the same.”
He concludes that it’s the same kind of problem that the South faced with high-gravity beer. Once you start offering these altered solutions to intoxication, you kick the conservative doors off their hinges.
“I can buy Everclear,” says Simpson, “so why can’t I buy anything else? It’s all downhill from there.”
Palcohol resubmitted their labels, but they can’t predict yet when they’ll get approved.