Alcohol—So Yummy It Ought To Be Banned


One of the bedrock principles of alcohol regulation in the United States is that alcohol ought not be sold in a form that makes it too yummy when consumed. If alcohol is too yummy, its harsher and more bitter qualities mitigated too much by some sort of enticing (often sweet) delivery vehicle, it may be too attractive to young palates.

It’s the “Good-But-Not-Too-Good” theory of alcohol control.

The anecdotal evidence for this theory is sound. Just think back to your days in college or your days as a teenager when you first stated to experiment with alcohol. What did you and your peers drink. Chances are something like “Jack and Coke” or some other sugary concoction was the go-to drink for you and your friends. Additionally, note that among the young, something fairly easy to get down like beer is far more popular among young drinkers than the harsher more bitter wine. These days, mixing Red Bull and other sugary concoctions with alcohol is another example of a popular drink that allows consumption of alcohol without having to actually taste much of the alcohol.

A perfect example of the concern that if alcohol is too palatable it will appeal too much to youth is the case of the “Jello Shot” and currently, the issue of whether or not such a unique alcohol delivery vehicle ought to be legally sold is playing out in Ohio.

Ohio currently has a law on its books that states the sale of food and confections containing intoxicating liquor of more than one-half of 1 percent alcohol by volume is illegal. But there is a proposal in the proposed budget now under consideration to allow the sale of solid food products that are produced by mixing any type of whiskey, neutral spirits, brandy, gin, or other distilled spirits with water, juice, or other flavorings and that contain between one-half percent and 21 percent of alcohol by volume.

As you might imagine, some very concerned citizens believe allowing such a thing is the end of the world:

According to a story in the Columbus Dispatch “the Columbus chapter of the Drug-Free Action Alliance opposes the budget provision, arguing that it would ‘legalize and legitimize’ products generally unavailable in Ohio that appeal to young people.”

Says Marcie Seidel, the executive director of the Columbus chapter of the Drug-Free Action Alliance, “When you insert language like this, it opens Pandora’s box for food items that are very enticing to kids and can be confusing to parents. People think there is money to be made on this.”

The thing is, the cat is already well out of the sack where jello shots and other yummy alcohol-concoctions are concerned. In fact, in Ohio it is legal to sell Jello shots in bars and one can legally mix up a batch in the home. However, it’s illegal to sell these types of things in stores.

The corollary to the “not-too-yummy” form of alcohol control is the “not-too-fun-or-funny” form of alcohol control that many states have adopted. In this form of alcohol control it is generally the principle that if the marketing of an alcohol product tends to appeal to a youthful mind (think a cartoon character peddling vodka) it too is an illegal act or highly discouraged.

I recently saw a recipe in a well-known food magazine for how to prepare a Mojito Popsicle. “Damn,” I thought. What a brilliant idea for a summer pool party. Plus, the visuals of a bunch of adults walking around a pool in Hawaiian shirts and shorts with sunglasses, sucking on alcohol laden popsicles made me grin. Then I thought, “Wow, what an interesting new product to sell”. Then I thought, “wait, how do I convince grocery stores to install freezers in the alcohol section?” Then I wondered, just how many of these things would sell if you put them in the section of the freezer where bagged ice cubes are sold and where people go to pick up some ice to fill their coolers when heading to the beach or boat or backyard summer party.

Then I thought of children! The dear children.

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5 Responses

  1. Leeann Froese - June 18, 2013

    Another great post Tom. This is an issue indeed – making boozy treats seem appealing to youths well before they should be interested. In Canada where I live it’s a moot point, as children do not go where alcohol is sold, beyond restaurants where liquor is served. In other jurisdictions where alcohol is sold in grocery stores, it could be a bit trickier.

  2. Kurt Burris - June 18, 2013

    Tom: I agree with your point but I have a visceral distrust of products like the Three Olives vodka flavored to taste like Fruit Loops (I believe it’s called loopy). If that isn’t made for the date rape underage drinker crowd then I don’t know marketing. Mind you, when I was underage, and sneaking into bars I found ordering a dry Tanqueray martini, up with a twist was a good way not to get carded.

  3. Paul Moe - June 18, 2013

    What are your thoughts on the vodka based Whipped Creams available in the market? Chocolate, Vanilla, Key Lime Pie, Pina Colada, Strawberry, and Caramel are some of the flavors available. 14% ABV, and the product is not to be kept cold.

  4. Tom WArk - June 18, 2013

    I can imagine some interesting recipe uses for the stuff.

    • Paul Moe - June 18, 2013

      Me, too, but I always thought kids liked whipped cream.

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