Alcohol Powder
June 14, 2004 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Alcohol powder is a new product on the US market. It is classified as a flavoring, despite being 60 proof, and doesn't require any kind of license or special handling for purchase. You can apparently use it as a flavoring for many different recipes. I'm not sure if it will actually get you tipsy since the page mentions that it is "denatured". (courtesy of the Vice Squad).
posted by rks404 (19 comments total)
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:28 AM on June 14, 2004



1) A commercial term used to describe ethanol that has been rendered unfit for human consumption because of the addition of harmful ingredients to make it sales tax-expempt.

2) A spirit to which a substance is added to render it unsuitable for consumption, with the aim in mind to avoid the heavy taxes which are imposed.
posted by quonsar at 8:28 AM on June 14, 2004

Not taxed as a beverage (product is "denatured" with slight addition of salt).

aha. it's just rather expensive salt.
posted by quonsar at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2004

they are both bewildered and dumbfounded

Really? Both?

Strictly speaking it seems like it's not powdered alcohol, but a powder which contains alcohol.

If you sold a bag containing a pulverized mixture of 70% cement and 30% cornflakes, I think you'd probably get in a bit of trouble calling it "powdered cornflakes".
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2004

If you sold a bag containing a pulverized mixture of 70% cement and 30% cornflakes, I think you'd probably get in a bit of trouble calling it "powdered cornflakes".

But if you called it Muesli, you'd make a mint! *ba da dum*
posted by headspace at 8:45 AM on June 14, 2004

I can see the hysteria in the works already: next sweeps week we'll be seeing a very special Dateline investigation into the trend of junior high students snorting up pounds of powdered alcohol, blowing each other, and then jumping off rooftops.
posted by spilon at 8:46 AM on June 14, 2004

This is more an AskMe thing, perhaps, but... how does adding salt to booze (e.g., the rice liquor for sale in Chinatown shops) make it physically harmful? Does it just dehydrate you so much that drinking it would give you an insane hangover? And couldn't a determined boozehound buy this stuff and distill 'good' ethanol out of it?
posted by stonerose at 8:47 AM on June 14, 2004

Sounds like that Steven Wright joke: "I bought some powdered water, but I don't know what to add..."

But seriously, it doesn't say "ethanol" specifically, just "alcohol." Maybe it's some kind of organic alcohol that is a powder at room temp and could possibly degrade to ethanol when in water? (grabbing at straws here)
posted by titanshiny at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2004

The measures are confusing, it's a powder, it's alcohol content is 30% by dry weight so it's not really 60 proof. When you buy a bottle of Jack Daniels the alcohol content is by volume, maybe 40% or 80 proof.

If you take an 1/8th of a one ounce shotglass of the powder and add 7/8th of an ounce of water then what's the alcohol content by volume? It'll depend on the density of the powder which isn't listed. If the powder has the same density as water then your shotglass would be 3.75% alcohol or 7.5 proof. If the powder had 2X the density of water then your shotglass would be 7.5% or 15 proof.
posted by substrate at 8:50 AM on June 14, 2004

Also, usually one is not always looking for the flavor of alcohol per se in foods where you add an alcoholic beverage. Generally, one wants the alcohol to boil away, leaving the flavor of the other ingredients.
posted by briank at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2004

I guess that whole "water into wine" miracle wasn't so miraculous after all, was it?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:10 AM on June 14, 2004

If you sold a bag containing a pulverized mixture of 70% cement and 30% cornflakes, I think you'd probably get in a bit of trouble calling it "powdered cornflakes".

Not if you labeled it "Chunky Style!"
posted by jonmc at 9:27 AM on June 14, 2004

stonerose, titanshiny: the "quotes" make me think they mean denatured for tax purposes only -- i.e. there's enough salt added to qualify it legally as not a taxable alcoholic beverage, but not enough to make it actually unpalatable (if alcohol-flavored powder is your idea of palatable).
posted by ook at 11:52 AM on June 14, 2004

Here's a new york post article that alludes to this product being real...something about an inhalable alcohol anyways.
posted by nomisxid at 2:26 PM on June 14, 2004

The only way I can see this working is if the alcohol is suspended/trapped in a water dissolvable gel. Something like the stuff you get packed in little sachets with electronic equipment. I don't believe Theres a way it can actually be "powdered alcohol".

Maybe some MeFi chemists could put there 2 cents in.
posted by seanyboy at 3:21 PM on June 14, 2004

Ethanol content is measured "by weight" or "by volume" depending on what product you are selling. Beer for example is measured by weight, and wine by volume. These two measures will give you different results since ethanol is less dense that water. So, if they say that this stuff is 30% alcohol by weight, mixing 10 grams of it into 97 grams of water will give you 3% alcohol by weight, almost what your 3.2 beer is. mixing 100 grams into 70 grams of water will indeed give you a 60 proof libation, but with the salt content, I doubt that it would be palatable. Sure, alcohol feels wet, but "dry" generally means anhydrous rather than the physical nature of the substance. And no, you can't have powdered alcohol anymore than you can have powdered water, unless it is pretty butt cold.

It certainly isn't denatured alcohol in the sense of it's toxicity. Cooking wine, which can be sold by stores with no alcohol license, has enough salt added to it so that it is unpalatable, but it certainly isn't poisonous. Listerine is 21% alcohol (42 proof!), available widely, and known to be consumed by alcoholics and underage drinkers looking for a buzz.
posted by Eekacat at 4:52 PM on June 14, 2004

I absolutely cannot see how one could "dry" regular drinking ethanol. You could make a powder from another, higher molecular-weight alcohol, but if people wanted glycerol gummy bears are much better buy.

Some clever colloid or gel might indeed get you a "dry ethanol", for varying degrees of "dry". Glycerol is the first thing that comes to mind, vis wine gums. Sterno's also a possibility. Dry, as in powder, ethanol seems exceedingly unlikely.

On the other hand, maybe it's antimony. It could easily be made into a nice shiny powder. I find that killing your customers tends to limit repeat business somewhat, however.
posted by bonehead at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2004

Yep, pure ethanol in solid/powder form would have to be pretty dang cold: -114.1 C to be exact.

Many organic processes result in powders that seem to be dry, but aren't. Some flowable powders can be 50% liquid (or more), and still behave like a dry powder. The bulk of the material is something solid which more or less acts like a sponge, trapping liquid along its crystal surfaces. The powder in this case would have to be sealed extremely well, however, or else it would lose the ethanol over time due to evaporation. The "dry weight" just means anhydrous, as mentioned.
posted by titanshiny at 7:22 PM on June 14, 2004

man, talk about a dream of a merchandizing product team-up for Jello
posted by Peter H at 12:37 PM on June 15, 2004

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