I’ll Take the Bourbon Slurpee

Watching the NBA Playoffs and Stanley Cup Finals on the web has introduced me to a relatively new and disturbing development: sweet, fruity distilled spirits.

No, not a distilled spirit made out of fruit, such as applejack or grappa: the products I’m talking about are things like Jim Beam’s Red Stag, which is black cherry flavored, or Jack Daniels’ Honey Jack, a honey-flavored Tennessee sour mash. Jim Beam’s product has been out for two years, and now Jack Daniels has just gotten into the game.

The distillers, of course, are saying that it’s just a great new product that combines new tastes for discerning customers. But it seems to me that this is a pretty transparent attempt to get people who normally don’t like whiskey to start chugging the stuff. It’s designed to cover up the edge or the bite of traditional whiskey, and before you know it, you’re face down on the pavement, perhaps covered in your own vomit.

And who would these people be? Teenagers, of course. To be sure, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam would never market them to teenagers, and the ads I’ve seen don’t do so. But that’s all part of the point: teenagers want to drink “grown-up” drinks. Ditto with tobacco: Philip Morris put ads in Maxim, not Boy’s Life. I suppose that this is just following up on wine coolers, which are bad enough. But distilled spirits have a lot more alcohol in them, and can thus be a lot more dangerous.

Oh — and now distilled spirits are advertised on television. Can’t have regulation or anything like that.

It will be interesting to see whether evangelical Protestants, yoked to the Plutocrat wing of the GOP, put up any fuss about this. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has happily thrown over its social justice teaching so it can go after Teh Gay, and I imagine that evangelicals will do the same. And of course the drug warriors will have nothing at all to say. I hope I’m wrong.

What do we know about the marketing and incidence of consumption on products like this?

[Cross-posted at Same Facts]

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Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.