Last November the Food and Drug Administration warned 27 companies that they probably were breaking the law by selling beverages that contain alcohol and caffeine, since this combination has never been officially approved. Today, after a year of review, the FDA is expected to announce that it was right; caffeinated alcoholic beverages are illegal. Rather than seize all existing stocks of Four Loko, Joose, etc., the FDA probably will send more letters, warning the manufacturers that they are producing "adulterated" beverages. At that point the companies can either stop producing the drinks or mount an expensive, time-consuming, and uncertain legal challenge to the FDA's determination.
Staying one step ahead of the FDA, Phusion Products, the Chicago-based manufacturer of Four Loko, yesterday announced that it is removing caffeine, guarana (which contains caffeine), and the amino acid taurine from its product, which henceforth will essentially be a sweet, fruity malt liquor with the potency of wine, rather than an alcoholic energy drink. Surely that move will eliminate all of the controversy surrounding the product.
For those who are worried about what will happen when their stockpiles of genuine Four Loko run out, BuzzFeed has instructions for making your own at home. For those who want to stay awake while they're drinking but would not touch a declassé drink like Four Loko with a 10-foot tongue (why am I thinking of Freddy Krueger all of a sudden?), New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni reviews hoity-toity coffee cocktails served by boutique bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Something tells me these drinks, despite providing a pharmacologically identical experience, will never inspire a moral panic like the one that drove Four Loko and its ilk from the market.