The Gods Must Be Crazy

ShotPaks takes a good idea straight outta South Africa to a liquor store near you

All kinds of liquids come in a bag: juice, soda, urine, goldfish. Why not liquor?

It's this kind of revolutionary thinking that promises to put South Africa on the map—if not for inventing apartheid and typecasting the crafty-yet-gullible bushman, then certainly for being the country to finally put booze in a bag.

And then sell that bag to crafty-but-gullible American connoisseurs of fine liquor everywhere.

So far, "everywhere" means about 60 liquor stores in and around Southern California, and "fine liquor" means . . . well, it just means liquor, 86-proof, vodka and rum: well drinks.

But this isn't just a new way of packaging; it could change the way we think about getting drunk.

The ShotPak is billed by its maker, Newport Beach-based ShotPak Wines and Spirits, as a shot in a bag. Discovered several years ago by South African native Ignus Hattingh, the idea originated in his country's trend-setting liquor stores.

Hattingh is one of three partners who decided to make a good idea better by printing a pinup girl and the legend "Be Tempted!!!" on each ShotPak, as well as by finding an agreeable distributor to schlep the spirits around Cape Horn.

Banging their shoes on the table in a tense interview situation, his people say the ShotPak will crush our mini-liquor bottles—making them as obsolete as Zima or its cousin, Tequiza. No, actually, they kept their shoes on.

They do, however, claim to be the first to offer a shot of booze in a plastic bag roughly two inches by three inches—and who am I to contradict them? They get me drunk. More tangibly, they also claim to liberate the clumsy inebriated from fumbling with those horribly awkward mini-liquor bottles.

"I think the biggest thing is just the convenience," opined ShotPak marketing head Rich Stark, explaining his company's unique niche. "You look at the bulky 50-milliliter bottles—for convenience, it's just the best thing out there."

The ShotPak's already flowing through finer Orange County bottle barns, and soon it may be wheeling its way across the Mojave Desert. Las Vegas—as seen in last week's Time magazine cover story—is listening; the Hard Rock Hotel has signed a letter of intent to start selling ShotPaks in its gift shops and cabanas later this year. Which is curious 'cause the target audience isn't latter-day Benny Binions; it's current-day Shaun Palmers.

"Our marketing strategy is the active lifestyle," Stark said, "people who are out and about on boards—surfers, snowboarders."

Hattingh, according to the company's website, is a snowboarder—but this is a marketing push that works on a variety of levels.

The ShotPak's target audience is twentysomethings—alcohol's youngest, thirstiest, most undiscerning demographic. They're the ones with the stomach for tearing open pouch after pouch of Lilliputian libations (ShotPaks come in rum and vodka varieties now, but cocktails are planned). They're the ones voted most likely to rip off a Japan Air on the slopes after killing a 12-pack.

Appropriately, they're also the ones who will heal fastest after breaking a collarbone, a shin and cracking three ribs. For those about to shred, we salute you.

FOR INFORMATION ON SHOTPAKS, GO TO WWW.SHOTPAK.NET.

 
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