Four Loko field testing


There’s been a lot of recent press about a caffeinated malt liquor beverage know as Four Loko. Apparently it’s been causing college kids to succumb to alcohol poisoning at higher frequencies than normal. The theory is that the stimulants in the 23.5oz beverage prevent its drinkers from experiencing the sedative effects of the relatively high alcohol content (12%). Hence, they are able to consume more without slowing down and thusly they end up drinking and drinking until their BAC turns off the lights.

I know what you’re thinking. That doesn’t sound all that different from Red Bull and vodka, or Sparks (remember Sparks?), even Irish coffee or any of the other myriad drinks that combine caffeine and alcohol. But there has been a media uproar over this particular product. In the words of Ramapo College President Peter Mercer, “There’s no redeeming social purpose to be served by having the beverage.” This likely because Four Loko’s can is said to have more in common appearance-wise with a children’s refreshment than with Old English. To be fair, the can is brightly colored and the flavors read off like Jolly Ranchers: Orange, Fruit Punch, Lemonade, Cranberry Lemonade, Uva (grape), Watermelon, Blue Raspberry and Lemon Lime.

Critics claim these characteristics are intended to attract underage drinkers. But—as the company owners have been adamant to point out—colorful cans, caffeine and fruity flavors are nothing new in the booze world. And the underage are liable to drink just about anything they can get their hands on (lord knows I did—anyone else recall mixing little bits of everything from their friend’s parent’s liquor cabinet so the folks wouldn’t notice anything was missing for a supermixed drink that was usually syrupy and gag-inducing, but certainly did the trick?). But to hard-core Four Loko opponents, it’s not even an age thing. To quote Harris Stratyner, vice president of the Caron Rehab Center, “Quite frankly, I think adults that are legal shouldn’t drink it either.”

So by all accounts, this stuff tastes like lollipops, has the alcohol content per-can of a six-pack of really weak beer and will give you the pep of a shot or two of espresso. Beyond the obvious reason of getting wasted, while still being able to carouse about, why would any legal adult drink Four Loko? What is the “redeeming social purpose?”

What I came up with? Hangover cure. It’s got a combination of stimulating substances such as taurine, guarana and, of course, caffeine, mixed in with a healthy dose of hair-of-the-dog. So with Halloween weekend approaching, I stocked up on a couple cans.

After a night of rampant enthusiasm, I was feeling about 5 out of 10 come Sunday. Following a light breakfast, I cracked a can and settled in to watch some mindless television, as was my wont. My first thought was that it tasted like someone mixed Steel Reserve with Rockstar. Now this is in contrast to other reports that have claimed the cloying sugar completely masks the taste of the alcohol. Whatever. About halfway through I started to get a heavy feeling in my stomach, reminiscent of the days when I used to consume malt liquor on a regular basis. I also started to feel much more alert. I was awake and amped up but relaxed at the same time. Needless to say, in my less-than-awesome state, this came as a welcome reprieve and my self-rating raised to a 7.5 out of 10.

I enjoyed this feeling of restive tranquility for some time before our takeout arrived. About an hour-and-a-half after I finished the can, I had consumed a hearty portion of dim sum. Maybe it was the food coma; maybe the “Loko” part had worn off, but I soon found myself dozing in a delightful haze. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a perfect hangover cure to me.

The final verdict? Four Loko woke me up, got me drunk, and eventually knocked me out. While that may not be ideal for coeds on a Friday night—for me on a Sunday afternoon, it definitely did the trick.


Passed out girl photo courtesy of iamsilverfox, flickr.