An American entrepreneur has become the modern equivalent of Jesus with his invention – he has Palcohol, alcohol in powder form that can turn water into rum or vodka. Mark Phillips, who lives in Phoenix, USA, expects to sell Palcohol from September but already he is swamped by business inquiries.
Apparently Palcohol has set off a boozequake of sorts after the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the product. Phillips says he was surprised that the Bureau went public with the information and label names of the product before he was ready to market it.
The buzz is growing with sobriety experts wondering where this could take the battle against alcoholism in the United States and elsewhere. The connotations are huge.
Palcohol is white powder. It comes in pouches that can easily be carried. There is no breakage or tonnage issue. All you need is water to mix it in. It could potentially alter the liquor industry as it stands today.
A packet weighs an ounce [about 28 grams]. Add five ounces [about 142 grams] of water and you have a standard drink. Palcohol contains alcohol and, for cocktail versions, natural flavour and sucralose as sweetener. Palcohol is gluten-free.
Phillips says he plans to market six Palcohol versions in a pouch equivalent to a drink. V makes vodka; it is powder made from premium vodka distilled four times. R makes rum; it is powder made from premium Puerto Rican rum.
V and R can be added to Coca-Cola to make Rum and Coke, or to juice to make Vodka and Orange Juice. They may also be added to water and flavour added later. It ought to be child’s play for a drinker.
Four cocktail versions are ready: Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita [which Phillips says tastes like a Margarita] and Lemon Drop. They form instant cocktails when added to water.
Lipsmark, the company that owns Palcohol, says it would be sold everywhere that liquor is. A buyer has to be of legal drinking age to buy it physically. The product, however, will be available outside the United States and can also be bought online.
There is no clarity yet on how age limits may apply to online buyers.
The makers of Palcohol say it can be added to food just as beer, wine or spirits would be. The catch is that is works as alcohol and not as flavour. Says Phillips: “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.”
He says they don’t yet know the full effects and uses of Palcohol in food except that it should not be served to minors.
The focus right now is on the American market but in a wired world, everybody would be just as keen on experimenting with Palcohol. The makers are using the tagline: “Take your Pal wherever you go.” This is exactly what could happen if the product succeeds.
Phillips isn’t telling on how he makes Palcohol; he hasn’t yet got the patent for it. Apparently he got onto it because he wanted to relax after hiking, biking, camping and kayaking. He couldn’t carry liquor bottles with him on these activities because they are weight-sensitive.
He wanted it alcohol in powder form without the weight issue. This is how work on Palcohol began.
Here’s my take on it. Many humans tend to overdo things. They have difficulty moderating anything that causes excitement or pleasure. Alcohol in liquid form has not been conquered. The ravages of alcoholism continue to hurt the United States and other countries.
You make it easier, in powder form, and there’s no saying where it would lead us to. Reports say some youngsters have said they would like to snort Palcohol for additional kick.
It has alarmed Phillips. He says: “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.”
Such messages rarely work. Everybody wants to be the first human to master drugs. Everybody wants to have as much as they wish – with only euphoria and no agony. It doesn’t work that way.
The Indian government may be expected to take a conservative approach to Palcohol. They will probably not allow it at first and then go with the tide. There is no thought yet on this in India.
Alcohol is the most consumed drug in India, far more than any of the illegal drugs. Alcohol abuse is about ten to fifteen times more than marijuana or heroin. Indians – like everybody else – would love the extra ease of carrying Palcohol.
Comfort zones can be tricky. They are difficult to emerge from.
There is also the possibility that Palcohol could fail, although it might only make Phillips, and others like him, work harder. For the rest of us, it would be business as usual. Until the next worry.
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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.