Powdered-alcohol creator shares 'the truth about Palcohol'

The creator of "Palcohol" gives a full-throated defense of the powdered alcohol, and a demonstration, in response to criticism and calls to ban the product.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
3 min read

St. Phillips, patron saint of powdered liquor. Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Last month, to the delight of those, like myself, who love imbibing and all things "instant," a modern-day hero emerged. But rather than vanquishing poorly dressed supervillains, he promised something far more valuable: lightweight, portable powdered liquor in a convenient pouch.

This 21st-century saint goes by the name Mark Phillips, and his transformative invention is called Palcohol. But to my shock, not everyone viewed Phillips and his invention with as much reverence.

Palcohol was met with a sensational cocktail of criticism upon the discovery of an early version of the website, which Phillips admits contained some "edgy" copy about snorting the powder and other ill-advised potential uses. The backlash even led Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer to call on the US Food and Drug Administration to ban Palcohol.

On Wednesday, Phillips hit back with a forceful and lengthy video response (embedded below), offering a demonstration of Palcohol, calling Schumer "completely ignorant about the truth of Palcohol," and describing the politician's press conference and letter to the FDA as "riddled with inaccuracies and irresponsible statements."

Phillips went on to demonstrate how easy it is to just add water and drink directly from the pouch. Just as I was getting thirsty while watching, he moved on to directly address some of the main criticisms of Palcohol, starting with the suggestion that snorting it could be a great way to get schnockered almost instantly. To the contrary, he says, this would be a long and painful process.

"It burns (when snorted)," Phillips explained. "A lot. It hurts." He says it would take about an hour to snort the entire pouch of Palcohol to get the equivalent of just one drink into your system.

Phillips also debunked the notion that powdered alcohol could be easier to sneak into a venue like a ballpark or movie theater, or to surreptitiously spike a drink with. He points out that the pouch is actually significantly more bulky than a single-serving bottle of liquor.

"The bag is too big to conceal," Phillips pleaded.

Well, not really, especially considering the existence of other storage options the powder could be transferred to, but point taken on the comparison to those little liquor bottles and on how slowly dissolving a powder in a drink isn't a very sneaky spiking method.

I applaud Phillips for taking his critics head on, and for making next year's campouts a little more lively, but he buries the lead a bit in this video. He waits until the very end to point out his new plans and the potential for Palcohol. He says the response to the concept from industry has inspired him to pursue a new, industrial version of powdered alcohols for myriad uses including as fuels, antiseptics, and even in windshield wiper fluids.

Phillips says he was also contacted by a hotel in Hawaii and by airlines who are interested in the lightweight properties of Palcohol to cut down on costs. Perhaps we could soon be paying way too much for a pouch rather than that tiny bottle of liquor on future flights.

"We want it approved, taxed, regulated... just like liquid alcohol," Phillips said.

I'll raise a pouch and drink to that.