‘Alcoholic Tide Pods’: Everyone is very confused about the newest way to drink whisky
By Teo Armus
October 7, 2019
They’re wrapped in seaweed. They’re filled with whisky. And they’re now drawing a collective groan from the Internet, thanks to their suspicious resemblance to a laundry detergent pack-turned-meme-turned-public health hazard.
That’s right: They’re alcoholic Tide Pods.
Well, sort of.
In what is either a highly successful marketing scheme or a inadvertent attempt to launch itself into millennial relevancy, a 195-year-old single-malt Scotch whisky distillery has rolled out three kinds of limited-edition “glass-less cocktails,” available through Sunday at a posh London bar.
These alcoholic amuse-bouche pouches provide “the perfect flavour-explosion experience,” The Glenlivet claims.
But as hundreds of baffled commenters online immediately wanted to know: How do you “drink” them?
“Enjoying them is simple,” said the distillery in a 53-second video last week. “The capsules are popped in the mouth for an instant burst of flavour.”
Then, “the capsule is simply swallowed.”
“Surely this is a sick joke,” said Julia Macfarlane, a foreign affairs reporter with ABC News, asking the Scottish prime minister to intervene. “This is an abomination. What is going on. Somebody do something.”
While the pods might seem a departure for an august Scotch producer, Miriam Eceolaza, the distillery’s director, argued that they actually honor the legacy of The Glenlivet’s founder, George Smith. While illicitly operating the distillery in the 1840s and arming himself with pistols to protect the business from political blowback, Smith “always went against the grain, bucking tradition and doing things differently,” Eceolaza said in an announcement.
The distillery’s latest creation is certainly a different approach to a drink that is meant to be sipped. And in so doing, it has, either intentionally or inadvertently, fashioned a corporate, adult and European revival of an adolescent, American, homegrown meme — one that few seemed to have wanted a reminder of.
But in case you need a refresher anyway: Around January 2018, the Internet lit aflame in its crazed obsession over Tide Pods, as a handful of teens were hospitalized, government officials offered warnings and tech giants took swift action. The culprit? YouTube videos of adolescents biting into the colorful packs of plastic-wrapped laundry detergent.
Now, The Glenlivet wants adult patrons to sink their teeth into seaweed-wrapped whisky pods containing one of three cocktails: a zesty citrus mix (which includes bergamot, sherry and lemon), spice (verjus and two kinds of bitters) and a flavor known only as “wood” (containing vermouth and, aptly, notes of sandalwood and cedarwood).
All three concoctions were created by the Czech bartender Alex Kratena for London Cocktail Week, the city’s annual celebration of alcohol innovation, exclusively available through Oct. 13 for patrons of his Tayēr + Elementary bar, on the city’s bustling Old Street.
Kratena said his bar and The Glenlivet had teamed up with Notpla, a start-up that focuses on putting together alternative and sustainable packages.
“It was very much an exploration of the flavor pillars that are in the Glenlivet. For me, there’s so much more which makes the liquid complex,” he told The Washington Post. “When you insert them in your mouth and gently press them against your palate, you get all the flavors.”
Kratena said that any similarity to Tide Pods, or the meme they starred in, is purely coincidental. He did not intend to find a new way to sneak alcohol into all sorts of situations where a handle or even a flask might be too obvious, as some have suggested.
He suggested that the packaging — a thin, seemingly invisible layer of seaweed that holds up to 23 milliliters of whisky cocktail — is a call for more sustainable consumption of liquor. The seaweed used for the capsule has also been used by Notpla to create water capsules, a handy pouch of liquid for runners in the London Marathon. Besides working to de-acifidy the oceans, that seaweed is also biodegradable.
Most people seemed like they weren’t having it.
“Just put it in an IV bag,” wrote the author Roxane Gay. “Let’s get to the inevitable conclusion.”