Michigan Liquor Commission Bans Nonexistent Product


Last week, when the Michigan Liquor Control Commission banned "alcohol energy drinks," its list of newly forbidden beverages included Smirnoff Raw Tea. There are a couple of problems with that:

1) Smirnoff Raw Tea, a malt beverage similar to Mike's Hard Lemonade but with a flavor reminiscent of iced tea, was never marketed as an "energy drink." According to a spokewoman for Diageo, which owns the Smirnoff brand, it contained "a negligible amount of caffeine—no more than a can of soda."

2) Smirnoff Raw Tea, which was "taken off the market more than a year ago for commercial reasons," does not exist anymore.

A perusal of the commission's three-page list (PDF) reveals a few other curiosities. In addition to fruit-flavored, caffeinated malt beverages like Four Loko and Joose, it includes MateVeza, an IPA brewed with the caffeine-containing herb yerba maté; 808-brand products that contain vodka, cognac, and fruit liqueur as well as caffeine; and Black Jack Cola, the Jack Daniel's Country Cocktail that is supposed to taste like Coke with Tennessee whiskey (although it does not contain any of the latter). But the list does not include any other craft beers that contain caffeine (such as Lagunitas Brewing Company's Cappuccino Stout or Founders Brewing Company's Kentucky Breakfast Stout), and it omits caffeinated distilled spirits such as Pink Vodka. Even if it were true that caffeinated alcoholic beverages posed a uniquely intolerable threat to public health and morals, there would be little rhyme or reason to the liquor commission's targets, especially since nothing it does can stop drinkers from mixing Red Bull with vodka (or coffee with Irish whiskey).