Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Powdered alcohol is a genius invention. But no one understands how to use it.

Never overpay for airplane beer again faungg / flickr

Palcohol is powdered alcohol. It comes in a pouch. You pour a few ounces of water into the pouch and it becomes a margarita, or a shot of rum. Palcohol is not available for sale. It may never be. It's a brilliant concept, with the potential to save Americans untold amounts of money each year. The problem is, no one — not even its creator — seems to understand how to use it properly.

Palcohol founder Mark Phillips released a 16-minute-long video this week called "The Truth About Palcohol." In it, he claims the product's main purpose is to allow people to drink when they're out camping: "When I hike, kayak, backpack, whatever, I like to have a drink when I reach my destination. Carrying liquid alcohol and mixtures and bottles to make a margarita, for instance, is totally impractical. So I created Palcohol."

This video was meant to silence critics of the product. One of those critics is Chuck Schumer, Senior Senator from New York State. He thinks that Palcohol's main purpose is to allow teenagers to sneak alcohol into school dances. As such, he's urged the government to "stop this product in its tracks."

Phillips and Schumer are both wrong. Palcohol is not for outdoorsmen. Palcohol is not for teens. Palcohol is for adults who are tired of getting ripped off by airlines and stadium owners.

The first rule for frugal travelers is to pack your own dinner. If you show up at the airport hungry and without food, you're forced to either a) buy gross, overpriced food at the airport food court or b) buy even grosser, even more overpriced food on the airplane itself. So bring a sandwich, or leftover lasagna, and you'll eat well and not get ripped off. This rule also applies to frugal sports fans, assuming your favorite team allows outside food into the stadium.

Currently, this rule does not apply to alcohol, which is scandalous. Homeland Security doesn't let you get more than three ounces worth of liquid past security, so forget about stashing a can of beer (12 ounces) or a bottle of wine (about 25 ounces) in your carry-on. And even sports venues that let fans bring in outside food generally don't let people bring in booze. If you want to sip on a glass of wine while flying to Los Angeles or watching the Nationals, you'll have to pay the marked-up price.

This restriction is made in the name of safety and security, but really it's just an excuse on the part of airlines and sports franchises to charge a captive audience way too much for drinks. Jet Blue charges $9 for a glass of sparkling wine and an astounding $6 for a Bud Light. At Nationals Park you can buy one DC Brau for $9 — which is about what an entire six pack costs.

Palcohol would fix this problem. Before heading to the airport or the stadium (or the concert venue, or any other place with ridiculous alcohol mark-ups), you'd just throw a pouch or two into your bag. Sail through security. On the plane, you'd ask the flight attendant for a cup of water. Stir it into the pouch. Sit back, relax, and sip on the sweet knowledge that you are saving money. This is my dream.

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