Fans of astronaut food and powder-based party favors, rejoice: Powdered alcohol is coming to a liquor store near you. On Tuesday, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) signed off on Palcohol, which markets itself as a "powder version of vodka, rum and three cocktails, with the same alcoholic content." The governmental seal of approval comes a year after the bureau rescinded Palcohol's original, allegedly accidental approval. The company says it plans to have Palcohol on liquor store shelves by the summer.
It's a huge blow to the liquor industry — and sobriety. Each powder pouch of Palcohol is the equivalent of one shot of liquor and comes in two straight alcohol options — "V" is vodka and "R" is rum — and three mixed drinks: "Cosmopolitan," "Lemon Drop" and "Powderita" flavors. Add six ounces of water per packet, the company claims, and you've got one mixed well drink.
Palcohol's approval is largely a victory by default. TTB officials claim that since most laws governing liquor distribution apply exclusively to liquid alcohol, there's nothing the government can do to limit powdered alcohol's distribution.
"We have no real experience with alcohol in a powdered form and don't even know what some of the dangers might be," Pamela Erickson, the former director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, told the Wall Street Journal.
While Mark Phillips, the founder of Palcohol parent company Lipsmart, says he only created powdered alcohol because he likes to relax with a stiff drink after all the hiking, biking and camping he does, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the Food and Drug Administration last year to ban Palcohol before it became "the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking," given its potential for abuse.
It's a valid concern: With the availability of sugary flavors and easily concealed packaging, Palcohol could easily be the next big thing in underage drinking trends, joining the ranks of colorfully packaged beverages like Colt 45's Blast and Four Loko. In the case of the former, pop culture icons like Snoop Dogg are used in marketing campaigns on social media with the slogan "Works Every Time." Four Loko, a highly caffeinated, highly alcoholic "hangover in a can" was banned by individual states after its makers failed to disclose the effects and dangers of combining high amounts of caffeine and alcohol — better known to the FDA as a public health concern — and the makers agreed to no longer produce the product.
Given the swiftness of Four Loko's ban, Palcohol's future is far from certain. With the amount of interest in powdered alcohol, however, Palcohol's government approval could open the door for more well-researched, better-regulated alternatives in the future.
Just don't snort it.