Just Add Water: Discussing Palcohol

BarnesHave you ever been sat on your sofa watching Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Take Away, tucking into your chicken chow mein, and had that thought? “You know what would make this taste so much better? Vodka. Although I don’t want it swimming on my plate.” Well, thanks to a company called Palcohol, your prayers have been answered. Due to hit the market this summer in the US, and here in the UK in the not too distant future, a revolutionary new powder is going to change the way we not only drink and flavour food, but a raft of other areas with applications for the product.

The brainchild of Mark Phillips, pictured above, Palcohol is relatively simple to understand, and the more you think about it, the more you wonder why it has taken so long to come into everyday existence. Imagine you are standing at the counter of a bar or shop, and you order, say, a Margarita, and as if like magic, with a snap of your fingers – poof! It’s turned into a powder. Palcohol offers these powdered versions of some of your favourite drinks. Launching with a basic vodka and a Puerto Rican rum powder, Palcohol has also concocted three cocktail powders, including the Margarita – rather niftily named the Powderita – the Cosmopolitan, and the Lemon Drop. I, for one, can’t wait to try them, considering they keep their same alcohol content and all you have to add is six ounces of water.

With one package of the powder weighing approximately an ounce, the idea came about by the need for a compact and relatively lightweight way to carry alcohol without all those heavy bottles and the sound of clinking bottles in your bag making you sound like a raging alcoholic. Whilst their website boasts how Mr Phillips is an active chap and didn’t want to carry wine, spirits and beer as he was hiking or rock climbing, I imagine the average user would just be happy not to carry all those bottles as they cram onto a packed Tube carriage as they cross London in the evening rush hour.

After a long battle, approval came in March 2015. Now we simply wait for it to hit the shelves.

With the help of a raft of scientists from around the world, and a significant amount of research in a number of years, Palcohol was born. The secret formula of Palcohol is currently under a patent review, and the road to get it on the shelves has not been easy.

Palcohol had to put the cork back in their champagne in 2014 after the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued the necessary federal approvals for sale in error. Lipsmark, the parent company that owns Palcohol, resubmitted its product labels after a “minor change”. The issue was reported to be a discrepancy over how much powder each product packet contains. After a long battle, the TTB approved labels for the Palcohol flavours in March 2015. Now we simply wait for it to hit the shelves.

Despite the regulatory quagmire across the pond, Palcohol is not the first operation to produce the magic powder. Companies in Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands already sell powdered alcohol products. In fact, Japan’s Sato Foods Industries patented a process that encapsulated alcohol in powder form, and since the 1970s has been selling its product to be used as an additive to jelly, chocolate and other foods.

Some fear the misuse of Palcohol like illicit drugs, in an attempt to attain a rush or accelerated high.

Not everyone is too happy about the idea of powdered alcohol. The main fear is that people will misuse Palcohol and treat it like certain illicit drugs, and attempt to snort it and attain some kind of rush, or accelerated high. To this I would argue that you can in all honesty snort anything you want. For instance, I once watched a friend of mine attempt to snort curry powder through a straw, so unless we ban all powders, this is a pretty irrational fear which is very hard to regulate. Palcohol’s response to this criticism pointes out that to snort its products would be very painful – it would burn just as an attempt to snort liquid alcohol would.

Another potential issue linked to snorting the powder I can foresee is the issue with the powder being mistaken for drugs like cocaine. Palcohol boasts that one of its potential usage points is at music festivals, but with security significantly stepping up its game when it comes to drugs searches, it is not out the realms of the imagination for a vast amount to be confiscated and blanket bans introduced on the substance by promoters.

The wider hospitality industry has had a mixed reaction. Many have welcomed Palcohol with open arms; hotels in remote places could save thousands on shipping fees, especially those relying on imported alcohol. Yet many have declared it just another fad that won’t last – perhaps all this fuss is being made for nothing. Discussion with other bartenders and landlords reveals some are worried about introducing another reason for people to stay at home and drink. With pubs and bars already under attack from big supermarkets, and people still feeling the pinch in their wallets, introducing yet another option to support staying home is not what they need right now.

Uses are not limited to the beverage world. With the formula more secure than Fort Knox, we must wait with bated breath to see where the industry will go, and give it a try.

The uses of Palcohol are not limited to the beverage world. An industrial formulation is also hotly anticipated, with a vast array of promising applications. The medical application is of great interest. Palcohol could be used as antiseptic, especially in remote locations where weight and bulk make it difficult to transport supplies. Palcohol could also be used as a fuel source, from a lightweight alternative to powering a camping stove to an emergency fuel pouch for a vehicle.  There is talk of multiple military applications from transport fuel to fuel in a soldier’s backpack.

With the formula being held in what I can imagine is a safe more secure than Fort Knox and no pre-release of samples, we must wait with bated breath to get our hands on it and give it a try. You can guarantee that here at In Good Taste we will be giving it a go as soon as we can. Personally speaking, as a lover of all things alcoholic, seeing where the industry will go, and all the different and unusual trends, are why many of us never leave our pubs, clubs and bars. I have a feeling Palcohol will be around for a long time to come

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@Barnesy19