Vetoing Vicious Vodka

The government's paternalistic war on alcoholic energy drinks

Wisconsin calls itself America's Dairyland, and anyone who travels there soon learns the unofficial state motto: "You want cheese on that?" In the old days, it tried to discourage the use of nondairy spreads. You could buy margarine, which is naturally white, and you could buy yellow food coloring. But you could not buy margarine that contained yellow food coloring.

If that sounds like a sensible policy, you will have no trouble with a campaign to stamp out beverages that contain both caffeine and alcohol. Some people like a combination of the two ingredients, in the form of bourbon and Coke, whiskey and coffee, or NoDoz with a beer chaser. But professional paternalists think the government should stop beverage-makers from offering a product that, shockingly, satisfies both demands at once.

This may be hard to believe, but it's true. Recently, the attorneys general of Maine, Maryland, and Connecticut wrote the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that alcoholic energy drinks "are unsafe products that pose serious health and safety risks to consumers, particularly youth, and should be removed from the marketplace."

Left unmentioned was that alcohol all by itself qualifies as an unsafe product, in that its misuse can cause illness, death, and waking up next to people you don't recognize. So far, at least, these officials are not pushing for the return of Prohibition.

Earlier, some attorneys general had coerced Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors to stop making caffeinated alcoholic beverages. When other companies stepped in to satisfy the drinking public, the AGs went after them. The Food and Drug Administration is examining whether it also needs to act.

As a matter of logic, this approach is the equivalent of trying to prevent obesity by telling restaurants they may not offer a cheeseburger-and-fries entree, forcing diners to order the two foods separately. It would not have much effect on eating habits. Like Brad and Angelina, or beaches and bikinis, some pairings are just inevitable.

Wisconsin, by the way, utterly failed in its efforts to halt the use of margarine within its borders and to prevent the general rise of products that don't require a cow. Today cheeseheads can even buy Cool Whip and soy milk.

The lesson is that there is no point in passing laws at war with human nature. If people want to employ caffeine to keep them from dozing off at the bar or ethanol to calm Starbucks-induced jitters, they will find a way to do it. Lately, college kids have devised their own 21st-century version of Irish coffee by mixing Red Bull with vodka. Or they can buy pre-mixed concoctions with names like Vicious Vodka and Liquid Charge.

Scaremongers think these latter beverages promote alcohol abuse among young people, presumably by letting drunks stay conscious long enough to get even drunker. But if putting caffeine and alcohol in one convenient container generates wild excess, you would expect binge drinking among college students to be soaring. In fact, it hasn't budged since 1993.

Critics claim the mixture vastly increases the dangers of youthful boozing, citing a Wake Forest University study published last year. Researchers found that students who downed drinks with both caffeine and alcohol were more likely than other student drinkers to suffer injuries, to ride with drunken drivers and to take sexual advantage of others.

Those findings are a flimsy excuse to stamp out pre-mixed cocktails. The study was not limited to those drinks, after all. Students paired caffeine and alcohol before the invention of Liquid Charge and would continue to do so if it ceased to exist.

Nor did the study demonstrate that this type of drinking actually causes the bad effects. Just as plausible is that students prone to do reckless things are more likely than their peers to knock back Jager bombs. Or, as the study itself acknowledged, "sensation-seeking individuals may be drawn to energy drinks, heavy alcohol consumption and risky behaviors."

Take away this type of product and maybe those consumers will switch to chocolate milk. But probably they'll just find another way to get the buzz they want.

Instead of declaring war on Vicious Vodka, maybe disapproving government officials ought to try kicking back with an ice-cold glass of the stuff. With its ingredients, it might help them do a couple of useful things: 1) relax, and 2) wake up.

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  • Gabe||

    Has anyone clicked on the hilarious advertisement in this article to the anti-drug propaganda campaign?

    Priceless stuff.

  • OneSTDV||

    In the age of Obama, anything is possible. It was considered a fringe perjorative to equate Obama with socialism during the election.

    Only six months in, I think we're starting to realize how accurate that characterization was.

    Did none of these people have parents growing up? What's up with these paternal issues?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    I like Chapman's last paragraph in this article.

  • ||

    Well, that makes pretty good sense to me dude!

    RT
    www.anon-web-tools.net.tc

  • Tomcat1066||

    Just win I think the nanny staters have limits, a story comes along to remind me that they don't. Just for that, I'm hitting up a red bull and vodka when I get home this afternoon...just as a bit "fuck you" to turdnuggets who want this kind of thing!

  • Spartacus||

    Vodka with Red Bull? What ever happened to Jagerbombs?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    anonymity guy, you kick the diacetylmorphine yet?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Jäger makes me want to vomit. I think it's an emetic to black people.

  • ||

    Art,

    I'm half German. It doesn't help. Blorch!

  • Xeones||

    Art, everybody i know has some horror story about Jäger from the college years and can not touch the stuff with doing emesis.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    Art,

    Anonymity guy isn't even ready to admit he has a problem yet. Once he hits rock bottom, maybe he'll be ready for help. Mr. Brownstone is a mean MF.

  • Steven||

    But I Dont like the combination of alcohol and caffeine...........

  • Spoonman||

    I've never even had Jager. Smells like crap and the people doing it are always on the far side of questionable.

  • Rich||

    Alcoholic energy drinks "are unsafe products that pose serious health and safety risks to consumers, particularly youth ...

    It's for the children; it's for the youth; it's for *everybody*. Why, oh why, can't you people accept our help?

    The creeping nannyism is astounding. Anybody know who is lobbying the AGs and FDA?

  • Rich||

    But I Dont like the combination of alcohol and caffeine...........

    Then don't use it.

    I wanna see 'em try to go after Geritol next.

  • ||

    First energy-alcohol drinks, next my precious bourbon and coke. Never! Imbiberty or death!

  • Tim||

    Just remember, Irish coffee has all four essential food groups, alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat. Seriously, if it is "for the children", does it not even occur to them that children CANNOT LEGALLY BUY ALCOHOL.

  • squarooticus||

    Whenever some supposed "public interest" group decides to focus their energy on some new supposed evil, I recall the George Carlin bit where he wonders when cigar smokers are going to "move on to their next abomination".

    I suspect the types of people who advocate prohibition of anything are unreformable: they derive satisfaction from thinking they've done good through their advocacy for the restriction of individual rights, so stopping their efforts in one area will simply cause them to focus their efforts on the next abomination.

  • Zhonnehpeeg||

    Coca-Cola is so named because originally coca extract was among its ingredients, as was alcohol. Around 1883, the Bible-Beaters in Georgia prohibited alcohol, so the makers of Coca-Cola made their beverage with soda water instead. They continued to include coca extract until the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed in 1912.

  • ||

    "I don't like this trend or product".
    does not logically infer that
    "The government ought to do something about this".

    A Xeonesian salute to the Maine, Maryland, and Connecticut AGs.

  • ||

    squarooticus: your second point sums it up nicely, and is why i detest those do good biddy types.

    my g/mother told me when i was a kid that years ago you had to mix the color in the "oleo" to make it yellow, i'm pretty sure that was everywhere. so did WI actually ban yellow margarine after it's advent? i would never waste my time adding food color to margarine. of course i only by real butter. with extra fat if possible, like my milk. i don't even like light bulbs.

  • ||

    Vodka with Red Bull? What ever happened to Jagerbombs?

    Jager? Absinthe and Red Bull, with just a splash of lemon juice. Goes down smooth, hits like a friggin' sledgehammer.

  • edna||

    caffe corretto is one of the finest drinks on the planet.

  • Eric||

    Great read! Any link to the statement of binge drinking staying constant since '93?

  • ||

    Prohibition unrealistic? Try telling that to my GP. He keeps demanding that cigarettes be banned. I try explaining to him that people would just buy 'em from the black market, but then I get this "does not compute" look. :/

  • Spartacus||

    Disclaimer: I personally think that Jagermeister is loathsome crap. But Jagerbombs seem to be really popular among college students. To me, a serious Jager puke while awake enough to remember it would have to be worse than waterboarding.

  • ||

    Can't switch to chocolate milk because it has high-fructose corn syrup. And besides, most chocolate milk is of the moo-cow variety which is not as good for you as the kind derived from our friend the soy bean.



    Or we can drink whatever we want and the politicians can go screw themselves.

  • ||

    Bourbon and Coke -- god that's an awful combination. If you're gonna drink Coke with alcohol, at least use rum. Better yet, buy a bottle of soda water to mix with the bourbon, and use it to wash down an Excedrin.

    /caffeine and alcohol -- a great idea.

    //raises an imaginary glass of Buzz Beer in honor of Drew Carey

  • ||

    Dare you insult the bourbon? I reply thus to you with--

    Scorn and defiance; slight regard, contempt,
    And any thing that may not misbecome
    The mighty sender, doth he prize you at.
    Thus says my king; an' if your father's highness
    Do not, in grant of all demands at large,
    Sweeten the bitter mock you sent his majesty,
    He'll call you to so hot an answer of it,
    That caves and womby vaultages of France
    Shall chide your trespass and return your mock
    In second accent of his ordnance.

  • squarooticus||

    Astro: Coke with bourbon does not taste very good, but *good* root beer with bourbon is very yummy.

  • ||

    Buzz Beer.
    makes me have ta pee just thinkin about it.

  • hmm||

    Brothers bachelor party: Matt drank Vodka and Redbull for 3 straight days. Awake the whole time, hammered the whole time, gambling 90% of that time.

    Alcohol and caffeine = living like a rock star in Vegas

    One of the more impressive benders I have seen.

  • mr simple||

    I used to love the Jagerbombs. Taste like sweettarts and they keep you up long after you black out.

  • ||

    my g/mother told me when i was a kid that years ago you had to mix the color in the "oleo" to make it yellow

    Heard this same story from my mother, and had always wondered why the didn't just add the coloring at the factory.

    Wasn't sure whether they were using margarine because of poverty (great depression) or food rationing (WW2). However, the Wikipedia article on margarine says that the dairy lobby was responsible for laws banning yellow margarine.

  • ||

    Coca-Cola is so named because originally coca extract was among its ingredients, as was alcohol. Around 1883, the Bible-Beaters in Georgia prohibited alcohol, so the makers of Coca-Cola made their beverage with soda water instead. They continued to include coca extract until the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed in 1912.



    You're right about the alcohol ban, but it was 1885, though I guess "Around 1883" is close enough, so I shouldn't be picky. Also, it was called Coca-Cola yet, but "Pemberton's French Wine Coca".

    And they started removing the cocaine in 1903. It was in response to perceived consumer demand not a government ban. The maker's read the pulse of the public and judged that they didn't want cocaine in the soft drinks.

    However, the Wikipedia article on margarine says that the dairy lobby was responsible for laws banning yellow margarine.



    the only place I ever saw that was in Saskatchewan in the 1960s, though I know it was done elsewhere.

    There was a widespread belief in the 60s that margarine was bettwe for you, but then people started to realize that except for a few exceptions vegetable oils were just as cholestoral laden as animal fats.

    With the knowledge that there was no health advantage (in fact, quite possibly the opposite) and no price advantage to the one's that were "healthy" (though no taste advantage), going back to delicious buttery goodness has been a no-brainer for me.

    If I baked pies I'd use lard in the crust too.

  • ||

    Mmmmm, lard. My great aunt, who is the Queen of Southern cooking, told me that she stopped using lard for biscuits way back in the 60s, because she thought Crisco worked better and left less aftertaste. However, I think she's still using lard for pie crusts, as God meant her to. And, since she also used to make fried pies, the healthy goodness of the pie is indisputable.

    I miss her cooking (she's 90-something and doesn't cook that much anymore), especially breakfast.

  • ||

    Correction "Also, it was'nt called Coca-Cola yet,..."


    ...but "Pemberton's French Wine Coca".




    Imagine, there was a time in America that merchants put "French" in a product's name to attract customers. :)

  • JB||

    Vodka with Red Bull? What ever happened to Jagerbombs?

    Showing your age, youngster. Vodka with Red Bull was popular long before Jager bombs. Started in Europe in the 90s and moved to the States.

  • JB||

    Astro: Coke with bourbon does not taste very good

    So wrong. Wild Turkey with Coke is great.

  • ||

    Wisconsin - come smell our dairy air!

  • ||

    Pro L, my grandmother never stopped using lard, and lots of it, in her chili. Good New Mexico style chili, that started life as a ristra.

    From helping her make it, my recollection is that the sum total of ingredients was:

    Dried chili pods
    Cubed pork
    Water
    Lard
    Flour
    Cumin
    Oregano
    Salt

    If she had a measuring cup or spoon, I never saw it.

    Ruined me for life, it did.

  • Spartacus||

    Vodka with Red Bull? What ever happened to Jagerbombs?

    Showing your age, youngster. Vodka with Red Bull was popular long before Jager bombs. Started in Europe in the 90s and moved to the States.



    Actually, I went to my 30 year high school reunion last month. I just spend a lot of time around college students. But thanks for the info--I didn't realize Red Bull had been around that long.

  • ||

    My aunt is the same way. When I ask her how she makes something, say cornbread, she tells me to use iron (skillet or pan) and tells me the ingredients. Somehow, measurements and everything else are built in instinctively. Unfortunately, I don't have the instinct.

    I love that kind of food.

  • ||

    ... except for a few exceptions vegetable oils were just as cholestoral laden as animal fats

    Actually, cholesterol only comes from animals, not from plants. Vegetable oils are cholesterol-free.

    I enjoy a decent bourbon and a decent root beer. I suppose I could try the mix. I'm thinking it would taste like Southern Comfort.

    JB - I'll take your word that it does.

  • ||

    R C Dean - sounds like some good carnitas!

    Pro Liberate -Gotta agree on the cast iron, nothing beats it.

    Also, when I fry beans i use lard and some bacon grease! Awesome. Learned it from Grandma; so it's gotta be good!

  • ||

    As I've aged, I've tended to eat healthier, but one thing I still eat fairly often is green beans (usually pole beans) with a chunk of pork fat.

    My favorite cornbread recipe involves fat, eggs, cornmeal, and buttermilk. Oh, yeah.

  • Justen Robertson||

    @Isaac: Margarine that is made purely with vegetable products does *not* contain cholesterol. Cholesterol is not produced by plants. Most margarines do however have some dairy mixed in, thus a small cholesterol content. Vegetable fat products do tend to be hydrogenated which produces high levels of "trans" fat, inducing increased LDL cholesterol production in the body.

    Coca Cola also still contains coca leaf extract for flavor, but it's processed to remove the cocaine content.

    On topic, to be fair, there are some significant health risks involved in combining certain stimulants with alcohol in high quantities (the famous red bull vodka liver failure, etc). That said, it's still stupid to ban. All libertarian principles aside, it's *still* stupid to ban a product that meets a certain demand and has the capacity to be much safer via product testing than random concoctions people put together at a beer kegger.

  • Justen Robertson||

    @Astro: drink soco instead? :/

  • ||

    Vegetable fat products do tend to be hydrogenated which produces high levels of "trans" fat, inducing increased LDL cholesterol production in the body.



    Of course, I misspoke. That's what I meant, sort of.

    Coca Cola also still contains coca leaf extract for flavor, but it's processed to remove the cocaine content.



    I know that. I wrote, "they started removing the cocaine in 1903", I said nothing about removing any coca.

    My larger point on the issue of Margarine and chlesterol was that it was once believed that margarine was somehow "better for you" than butter. Turns out, it's not.

    And my larger point on the issue of cocaine in Coca-Cola was that the cocaine was remove as a response to perceived consumer demand, not government action.

  • ||

    isaac: did not, ironically, the previous incarnation of the FDA cause Coca Cola to put the cocaine back in the drink due to labeling issues, prior to 1912?

  • ||

    Couldn't say, never heard that one.

  • ||

    Hey folks, stick to the topic.
    While we all love lard, the government is not trying to interfere with our lard consumption...that is scheduled for next fall, when we start cooking for the holidays.

    This idea of banning a combination of two readily available items is just so "committee meeting" it makes me laugh. Can you imagine the meeting where they cooked up this goofy crusade- there must have been some 19 year old intern in there, silently holding his tongue, thinking:
    "Do they know you can just mix Redbull and Vodka? If I mention that will they think I'm not a team player? Are all these big shots totally f-ing stupid?"

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books.

  • nike shox||

    is good

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