May 29 2014
First he came for our Four Loko, and we said nothing. Then he came for our powdered alcohol. Now New York Senator Chuck Schumer is coming for our Phrosties, the clandestine alcoholic-slushy delivery service that has taken off across the five boroughs over the past few months.
“A 12-year-old can probably buy these ‘sloshies’ online, get it, and enjoy it because it’s filled with fruit juice and fruit punch and all the things that taste sweet and nice,” Schumer said at a press conference Monday. “A few weeks ago, I talked about powdered alcohol. I’m making an effort to prevent that from being sold. I would like to see the same thing happen to these ‘sloshies’” if they’re not regulated.
The remarks, coupled with the news that the New York State Liquor Authority is investigating the “unregulated and unlicensed” slushy merchants, has scared the creators of Phrostie out of business, or at least driven them deeper underground. By Tuesday, the Phrostie Instagram account had been scrubbed clean, its delivery contact details replaced by the warning “WE DO NOT DELIVER.” After that, my texts to the previously listed phone numbers went unanswered, until Wednesday night, when I got a reply from the Brooklyn delivery service saying that if I wanted any more Phrosties, I would have to order “ASAP.”
Twenty minutes later, a delivery guy showed up and handed me a black grocery bag full of slushies. “That’s it for the Phrosties,” he sighed. The service, he explained, was selling the last of its inventory and closing up shop, thanks to “Schumer and the regulations, I guess.”
“It’s all just political propaganda bullshit,” he added, with a wave that was both a farewell and a summary dismissal of the crushing regulatory burden of the nanny state.
It’s a predictable end to New York’s latest summer liquor fad. For starters, Phrosties were never all that secret. To order, customers simply had to text the number posted on Instagram, and an anonymous delivery person would deliver the $10 frozen rotgut to their door. The whole operation worked sort of like a drug deal, except none of the Phrostie purveyors seem particularly concerned about masking the exchange. The business existed under the radar for nearly a year, but once the media caught on this spring, it wasn’t hard for the Man to shut them down.
This is not the first time that Schumer has tried to stifle boozy innovation. Despite having his hands full with issues like immigration reform and extending unemployment insurance, the third-ranking Senate Democrat has made a special issue out of weird alcohol trends, devoting a surprising amount of effort toward putting modern-day bootleggers out of business. In 2010, Schumer led the assault against the original Four Loko, effectively banning the delicious but potentially life-ruining matrimony of caffeine and malt liquor. Earlier this month, Schumer demanded that the FDA ban Palcohol before the freeze-dried packages of powdered alcohol hits the shelves. In the interim, he’s tried to take down bath salts, molly, and even inhalable caffeine, not to mention BitCoin and the Silk Road.
(I called Schumer’s office Wednesday to see if I could find out more about his beef with Phrosties, and also to ask why he’s determined to be such a buzzkill, but so far no one has gotten back to me. The New York State Liquor Authority has similarly not responded to my requests for comment.)
In all of his campaigns against fun, Schumer’s primary concern seems to be all of the “children” who will inevitably mistake boozy gimmicks for candy and juice, overrunning the country with tiny, hopped-up alkies. It’s paternalistic, sure, but in the case of Phrosties, he may have a point. The potent multicolored slushies, which have names like Blue Hawaiian, Dragonberry Colada, and Sugar Rush Margarita, are perfectly engineered for teen binge drinking. The fact that service also delivered in suburban Westchester County seems to indicate that this was at least part of their strategy—hell, for all we know, the whole Phrostie enterprise could have been run out of some 16-year-old’s bedroom. In any event, Phrostie dealers never seemed particularly worried about checking IDs.
Aside from this obvious problem, there are a million reasons why buying unmarked bottles of liquor from an Igloo cooler in the back of a stranger’s sedan isn’t a good idea. No one will say what the drinks were actually made with, but judging by taste, it’s some kind of frozen combination of bottom-shelf liquor and Kool-Aid doused in Everclear. I got through about a third of a bottle before I started to lose my fine motor skills. A few sips later, talking became kind of a struggle, and I settled into a kind of hazy, stupid moonshine drunk that can only end in teary gibberish and vague, lingering shame.
But none of that actually matters because drinking is fun, and an underground, 24/7 slushy-delivery service can only make it better. In fact, any novelty liquor trend is worth trying once, regardless of how painful the results. Until that changes—which is to say, never—Schumer will be trapped in an endless Whac-a-Mole to try to stamp out alcoholic disruptions. In the meantime, any Phrostie copycats should send their stuff my way.
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