Four Loko: A Last-Chance Taste Test (and the Key to Its Success)

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I have just tried Four Loko. I have tasted the devil drink, the great poison that has spread through the very veins of America's youth and spurred her lawmakers to decisive action. I wouldn't call myself drunk, so much. I feel off. Or maybe on. There is a pressure behind my eyes. I'm excited, but I'm not sure about what.

The stimulant-laced alcoholic beverage has been making headlines for weeks now for its ability to get kids really drunk without them necessarily knowing it. One torpedo-like 23.5-ounce can contains five to six beers worth of alcohol. But now, the party drink is sure to become an even hotter commodity before it disappears. Responding to threats from federal lawmakers, maker Phusion Projects announced that it is pulling the caffeine, guarana, and taurine—three of the eponymous "lokos," the fourth being alcohol—from its drinks.

Last night, I got a can before Four Loko went extinct.

Like the drinkers of Four Loko, we were under no illusion that this beverage would be anything but horrible, or that it would do anything but make us feel explosively strange.

My Four Loko of choice was lemonade, reminiscent of lemon rinds rubbed in aluminum with a strong aftertaste of vomit. (Taurine is also found in bile.) Yeah, it's gross. Of course it's gross. Telling a consumer that Four Loko is gross would be like be coming to my brother the time I found him and his friend Josh lighting their chest hair on fire in their kitchen and saying "Hey! That's hot!"

Four Loko, like Sparks before it (this whole controversy actually happened before), falls under the category of really gross stuff that kids do because they feel like that's what they do and they need an excuse to do weird shit.

I'm reminded of a drink my college suitemates and I made for a party sophomore year. (Guests were warned that it was dangerous.) It included one handle of grain alcohol, one handle of vodka, one handle of rum, two boxes of white wine, two six-packs of red bull, four two-liter bottles of assorted soda, honey, and the leftover punch from Sigma Nu that was in the Gatorade cooler we borrowed.

It turned a deep mossy green. We named it "Dead Rising," after a zombie video game we were playing at the time. It formed a precipitate.

Like the drinkers of Four Loko, we were under no illusion that this beverage would be anything but horrible, or that it would do anything but make us feel explosively strange. But we did it anyways, because we were craaaazy, and we felt that our actions should represent this fact.

For many people, there is a stigma around actual drugs, and so mixing huge amounts of caffeine with huge amounts of alcohol allows one to feel incredibly strange while remaining within at least some of the legal constraints of the United States of America. Drinks like the original Four Loko make that easy to accomplish. But they're just one small facet of really gross stuff that kids do because they feel like it's what they do and they need an excuse to do weird shit.

So fine, Phusion Projects has taken the stimulants out of its drink. This will engender a brief run on existing stocks in liquor stores followed by an exhaustive, if brief, search for some other weird crap. Red Bull and vodka, I'm told, can be made by pouring vodka into Red Bull.


Recipe for a really horrible beverage:

    • a whole lot of some kind of energy drink
    • 1 handle of grain alcohol
    • 2 handles of other distinct liquors
    • some kind of fruit juice
    • some kind of soda
    • a sweetener, such as Crystal Light, honey, agave, or a whole lot of the sugar that you find at the bottom of Sour Patch Kids bags
    • 2 boxes of wine
    • a bunch of ice
    • some other stuff, probably

Mix all ingredients in a large Gatorade cooler. Add one more ingredient every 15 minutes until bored. Stir with an unwashed hand every half hour.

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Dave Thier

David Thier is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New Republic, AOLNews, Wired.com, IGN.com, and South Magazine.

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