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Powdered alcohol concept stirs up the internet

That story turned out to be false, although the Phoenix-based brand owner, Lipsmark, is still working with The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to obtain approval for its labels and the amount of powder in each bag, and hopes to launch its product this US autumn in a range of six different flavours.

Palalcohol is the brainchild of Mark Phillips, a popular maverick wine fundi/journalist/TV presenter. In addition to variants dubbed “V” and “R”, which are made from vodka and rum respectively, Palcohol will be offered in four cocktail versions: Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita and Lemon Drop.

With an abv of 10-12%, the pocket-sized sachets currently contain one ounce of powder, which its producers recommend mixing with five ounces of liquid to create a serve “equal to a standard mixed drink”, and “a great convenience for the person on the go”.

Lipsmark also suggests that Palcohol can be added to food. According to its 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.”

The company’s enthusiasm may be over-reaching. Legal commentators say the powdered quaff has months, maybe years, of legal hurdles ahead before it reaches liquor stores.

Lawyers at Lehrman Beverage Law are skeptical that it will ever be realised: “I am not astonished that this is a real product,” a lawyer from the firm wrote on their blog. “But I am absolutely astonished that this is approved … The product seems highly likely to raise a large number of legal issues and controversies.”

For starters, each state has to set regulations for the sales and distribution of the powdered alcohol. It could take some states a while to get all the rules and laws on the books although California is well prepared for such innovations. It already has laid out for “powdered distilled spirits”.

And some in the business are unlikely to welcome the competition.

“Most of this stuff would need to go through licensed wholesalers with a strong stake in the status quo,” the lawyer writes. “So don’t assume they will be eager to carry this.”

Just in case you don’t get the idea, the product’s motto is “Take your Pal wherever you go!” It’s not hard to come up with ways kids could get in trouble with this one, with Palcohol initially offering s a few suggestions on its website ranging from sneaking booze into places like movie theatres and college sporting events (where alcohol is banned) to sprinkling it directly onto food so teens don’t even have to stomach the bitter alcohol flavour.

Those suggestions have been erased subsequently, and as part of its wider message about using the product responsibly, Lipsmark specifically warns customers against snorting Palcohol, warning: “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.”

How do you make powdered alcohol?

So while it appears Palalcohol’s move to market has been stalled, it still begs the question: considering how quickly liquid alcohol evaporates, how do you make it powdered?

Palcohol, it turns out, is not the first attempt at a powdered alcohol. Powdered alcohol products are already available in countries including the Netherlands, Japan and Germany, and even in the US a number of patents already exist.

According to patent data, General Foods Corporation (now a subsidiary of Kraft) patented a couple of ways to make “alcohol-containing powder” in the early 1970s. In their process, they took a carbohydrate and broke it down through a process called hydrolysis, rendering it into a white powder.

John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State University and spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists, says they then combined that powder with pure liquid alcohol, which stuck to the powder, essentially capturing the alcohol in white dust.

“It would feel dry to your hands,” Coupland says.

According to the Kraft patent: “It has now been discovered that certain carbohydrate materials, when suitably modified with respect to physical form, will, in the presence of significant amounts of water, absorb large quantities of alcohol to form stable, flowable carbohydrate powders containing up to 60 percent by weight ethanol,” the patent request suggested. “Significantly, certain of these alcohol-containing powders will readily dissolve in cold water to form low-viscosity, clear, colorless, alcoholic solutions.”

In other words, powder + water = booze. According to the patent, when the powder is sealed correctly, it’s “stable for extended time periods.” Take it out, and all the ethanol vapours will seep out, leaving you with a flavourless, alcohol-less powder. The patent also notes that the “alcohol content of the products is sufficiently high to ignite and support combustion and the products may be used as flaming agents for appropriate desserts.”

The Palcohol makers are not revealing how they make their product. “They say that they are trying to patent it at the moment, which suggests they have something novel, but I have no clue what that could be,” says Coupland.

Sources: The Drinks Business,, TIME