Powdered alcohol is a real thing, and a new product called Palcohol transforms a shot of vodka or rum into a pocketable pouch of powder. Sobur investigates…
You may have heard about the recent fiasco with the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, in which they approved the sale of powdered alcohol, in a bold move that was bound to sow panic among parents of teenagers and sports/event venues everywhere.
A tiny pouch of powdered mix called Palcohol, is touted to instantly turn any drink — water, juice or soda — into an alcoholic cocktail. It could even be added to food: Just sprinkle it on your pancakes or cereal for a delicious (if not a little worrying, who has alcohol with their cereal) boozy breakfast.
Unfortunately, a beverage law blog has revealed that The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is now saying the powdered alcohol product was approved in error, predominantly due to a labelling discrepancy.
You can follow the progress on Bevlaw.com, who first noticed documents on the government bureau’s website that Palcohol was given “label approval” on April 8th 2014.
A spokesman for the TTB informed the public that the approval was actually in error. The company behind Palcohol elaborated in a statement that there seemed to a problem with how much powder is in the bag and that labels would be resubmitted for approval.
The bureau backpedalling like this seems very odd. One news outlet commented that the correction might be due to political pressure:
Robert Lehrman, who runs a beverage law website that initially reported on the product, noted that Palcohol had to have gone through an extensive process before reaching the label approval stage.
“An oversight of this nature does not ring true to me,” Lehrman said in a phone interview. He suggested that the bureau may have heard back from lawmakers wanting more information on the powdered alcohols.
We are excited by the approval of our powdered alcohol product, Palcohol. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) actually approved it some time ago. However, we were caught off guard by the TTB making some of our approved labels public which we now know is standard procedure. As a result, people visited this website that we thought was under the radar because we had not made a formal announcement of Palcohol.
There was a page visible on this site where we were experimenting with some humorous and edgy verbiage about Palcohol. It was not meant to be our final presentation of Palcohol. Also posted were labels that were incorrect.
The Real Story Behind Palcohol
Mark Phillips is the genius behind this recent powdered alcohol craze, a wine critic and event organiser, he starred on a nationally broadcasted TV show called “Enjoying Wine with Mark Phillips” and wrote a book on the subject of wine called Swallow This that counters the traditional snobby approach to the alcoholic delicacy.
Mark’s reasons for creating palcohol are that he “is an active guy…hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, etc. After hours of an activity, he sometimes wanted to relax and enjoy a refreshing adult beverage. But those activities, and many others, don’t lend themselves to lugging heavy bottles of wine, beer or spirits. The only liquid he wanted to carry was water.”
“So he thought? Wouldn’t it be great to have alcohol in powder form so all one had to do is add water? Since powder is light and compact, it wouldn’t be a burden to carry.”
“Mark searched for powdered alcohol and it wasn’t available. So he began his quest to create it. After years of research, experimentation and consultation with scientists around the world, he finally came up with powdered alcohol and called it Palcohol.”
If you’re wondering about the products alcoholic content, the website claims that when adding five ounces of liquid to it, it is equal to a standard mixed drink.
The powdered mixes contain alcohol, of course, and in the cocktail versions, natural flavourings and Sucralose as a sweetener. All product variations are gluten free.
How Is It Made
In nature, alcohol, aka ethanol, exists as a liquid, so how do you make it into a powder? According to Sam Bompas, half of the food design and research team Bompas & Parr, the ethanol is probably “micro-encapsulated” in some kind of molecular container, kind of like a teeny gelcap. Or a mountain of them.
“The alcohol molecules themselves will still be liquid, they are just enrobed in a microscopic shell,”
“This tiny shell is mixed with sugar and other powders, which you seal into Emergen-C-like packets that contain all the flavorings you’d expect for a particular cocktail. The process by which you micro-encapsulate is Palcohol’s secret sauce so we don’t know exactly how it’s done. But according to Bompas, “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).”
Essentially, when you add the encapsulated ethanol to water and stir it up, all the the alcohol gets released.
Palcohol Is Not The Only Powdered Alcohol Product Out There
A little bit like powdered milk, the idea for powdered alcohol has been around forever. The earliest US patent for similar product is from 1974, for “Flowable powders having up to 60 percent ethyl alcohol content.” A patent by the same authors describes how you might make this magical booze dust.
In the last decade, we’ve seen several similar powdered products appear. In Japan, a 3.48% alcohol powder is marketed by Sato Foods Industries Co. ltd.
As recently as 2007, Dutch students invented a powdered alcohol called Booz2Go. They argued that because it was a powder and not a liquid, you wouldn’t need to be 16 to buy it.
Can you snort powdered alcohol?
As if highlighting concerns over the Palcohol’s potential for abuse, the company’s website has an FAQ section that asks: “Can I snort it?”
Their answer is: “Don’t do it! It is not a responsible or smart way to use the product. To take precautions against this action, 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. Just use it the right way,” the website states.
“We want to emphasize again, when Palcohol is available, to use it responsibly and legally,” the website adds.
While the concept of powdered alcohol might be perfect for time-strapped adults, critics fear that same convenience will appeal to teens. Fuel was added to the fire when the Palcohol manufacturer suggested uses for the product including bringing to college football games.
The posts on the company’s website have since been taken down. Officials with the company say the marketing attempts were not meant to go public.
“As with anything ‘new,’ this product may be attractive to youth, so MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] encourages parents to talk with their teens about the dangers of underage drinking — because alcohol is illegal for those under 21, no matter how it’s packaged,” according to a blog post on the MADD website.
Check Out The Palcohol Website For More Information on Powdered Alcohol.
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