Everything You Want to Know About Palcohol, the Powdered Alcohol Approved by Feds

Palcohol turns water into wine (sorta), but not everyone is pleased.

ByABC News
March 12, 2015, 11:20 AM

— -- A product is expected to hit shelves this summer to turn water into wine -- well, into vodka, rum and a few cocktails -- but not everyone is happy about it.

Palcohol, or powdered alcohol, was approved this week by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, part of the U.S. Treasury Department. But the powder packets that can turn water into a mixed drink have already been banned by several states amid fears that Palcohol can be easily abused.

"As a parent, it's one thing to patrol for cases of beer or bottles of booze," said ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, who is also a pediatrician. "But having to look for little packets, I worry that it could lead to more underage drinking, making it easier."

He said he wasn't happy with the federal approval and explained there isn't much the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can do it about it right away. The FDA can only take products like this off shelves if they find a problem, he said.

Here are a few questions ABC News viewers asked Besser on Twitter:

As with other alcohol products, people must be 21 years old to drink Palcohol, Besser said. He added that each state handles that with its own system.

One Palcohol packet has the same alcohol content as a mixed drink, he said.

He said he was. "We will have to see what happens," Besser said.

Though it's not yet on the market, here are a few of the questions the company has already answered.

How do you use it?

You stir a packet of Palcohol into six ounces of liquid, according to Lipsmark, the company that owns Palcohol. To dissolve, it takes a minute of constant stirring, so it wouldn't be easy to spike someone's drink without them knowing, according to the company.

What's the point?

Lipsmark says Palcohol was dreamed up for people who love the outdoors but don't want to travel with heavy alcohol containers -- such as people who are going camping.

Does it come in flavors?

Yes. It comes in vodka, rum, cosmopolitan, "Powderita" (a margarita flavor) and lemon drop. All but lemon drop were approved this week.

How about the calorie content?

It's 80 calories per bag, but some are sweetened, Lipsmark said. So a completed drink's calories depend on the mixers added to it.

Is anyone against it?

Yes. Several states, including Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia want to prohibit the sale of powdered alcohol.

Can you sneak it into sports and concert venues?

Critics fear that people will sneak the packets into sporting venues, concert halls and schools.

But Lipsmark says the 4-by-6 inch packet would be larger than a small bottle of liquid and therefore harder to sneak in. But they acknowledge when there's a will, there's a way -- but that's the case with any alcohol, not just the powdered variety.

Can you snort it?

Lipsmark says the potential to snort Palcohol has been one of the complaints it's heard, but that Palcohol would be hard to snort. Not only does it have the burn of alcohol, but it would take an hour to snort a "shot" of vodka, according to the company's statement this week addressing concerns about the product.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story implied that the FDA took Four Loko off store shelves. Phusion Projects, which makes Four Loko, announced their intention to retool their formula before the FDA sent a warning to the company asserting that caffeine added to an alcoholic beverage was an "unsafe food additive."