Four Loko Is Not Evil, Just Vile


Yesterday, while picking up some newly forbidden Four Loko at a Dallas liquor store, I asked the clerk at the counter whether there had been a run on the stuff in light of the FDA's determination that it is "adulterated" and therefore illegal. She said yes, adding that she heard the drink was banned because of a recent local incident in which a drunken 14-year-old went on a joy ride in his parents' SUV with two friends and slammed into a guard rail, killing one of his passengers. That understanding of the motivation for the Four Loko ban was not precisely accurate, since the FDA's decision was more or less determined a year ago. But the clerk was right about the general style of reasoning driving the moral panic over this drink category: If something bad happens and Four Loko is anywhere in the vicinity, blame Four Loko. Here is the headline that the Dallas Fox station put on its initial story about the car accident that the clerk mentioned, which involved a 14-year-old who was drinking beer as well as the notorious alcoholic energy drink and who broke the law in several different ways (by stealing a car, by driving without a license, by drinking, by driving while intoxicated, etc.): "'Four Loko' Found in Deadly Teen Crash."

At a poker game last night, I cracked open a couple of Four Loko cans and distributed samples. We all agreed it was one of the vilest drinks we had ever consumed. It was not as syrupy as I expected and in fact had a bitter edge that is characteristic of energy drinks containing caffeine and taurine. The one in the purple can tasted like a grape soda with crushed aspirin mixed into it. Even a test subject who has a fondness for Mike's Hard Lemonade could not abide it (or the cranberry-lemonade variety, which had the same unpleasant aftertaste). In terms of psychoactive effects, it was indistinguishable from wine; I did not notice any extra kick from the caffeine. (One can has about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.) I suspect that the reformulated version of Four Loko, which will not have caffeine, guarana, or taurine, will taste better and will therefore be, if anything, more appealing both to underage drinkers and to the "young adults" that the FDA is so worried about. Hence the moral panic will continue, with Four Loko demonized as an especially potent "alcopop" (having a 12 percent alcohol content, compared to 5 percent for Mike's Hard Lemonade) instead of an energizing intoxicant that makes you crazy, drives you to suicide, or keeps you awake enough long enough to drink yourself to death.

NEXT: Heeding the Sage of Baltimore

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.


  2. We all agreed it was one of the vilest drinks we had ever consumed.

    Perhaps you should stick with Irish coffee

  3. Four Loko for everyone!

  4. The dumb coed on NPR’s coverage yesterday about 4L on college campuses:

    “Every time someone wakes up and regrets what they did the night before, it’s because of Four Loko.”

    The previous ten generations would like a word with you, young lady.

    1. Here it is:

      Ms. ALI BURAK (Student, Boston College): It seems like every time someone wakes up in the morning and regrets the night before it’s usually because they had Four Loko.

      1. Her email is publically available through BC’s website, if anyone cares to enlighten her.

    2. If you can remember what you did enough to regret it, you didn’t do it enough.

    3. If we ever catch bin Laden, he should say the following in his defense: “I would’ve never supported such a thing, but I was addicted to Four Loko at the time and was taking Accutane for my poor complexion. I have since converted to Christianity and pray daily to Jesus for forgiveness, even though my mind was not my own thanks to those evil substances I ingested.”

  5. Nest time I get caught robbing a liquor store, I’m blaming it on the four loko on the shelf next to me.

  6. So they had a 12 pack of beer but the Four Loko was to blame. Plus the girl was killed because she wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the truck.

  7. “Where did the Four Loko touch you?”

    They must be selling a shit-ton of this stuff right now.

  8. Kids these days . . . .

    1. That’s what I was thinking. Back in my clubbing days in the mid-00’s, Sugarfree Red Bull & vodka was the drink of choice for getting fucked up while still energetic enough to dance. Until all the controversy, I’d never even heard of this ghetto shit.

      1. You rang?

        1. You’re a genie in a bottle, baby.

          1. I used to be a genie in a can.

            ** sniffs back tears **

          2. I do lounge around in harem pants a lot.

  9. The Four Loko of a century ago was absinthe. In fact, those who wanted it banned used many of the same arguments. When I lived in Europe, I tried quite a bit of it and found it no different than any other liquor, just perhaps a little more vile.

    1. Absinthe isn’t vile. Goes down smooth.

      1. Agreed, absinthe is delicious. You really don’t need the whole sugar cube.

        1. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

  10. Even a test subject who has a fondness for Mike’s Hard Lemonade …

    A tragic case. War veteran: Taste buds shot off near Basra plus PTSD.

    1. What the heck is wrong with Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Good stuff.

  11. Ms. ALI BURAK (Student, Boston College):

    …illustrating the pernicious Islamic doctrine of taqquila.


  12. SUV drives off of road, killing passenger. Four Loco to blame.

    Did someone put the stuff in the gas tank?

    1. Worse. Someone gave the can the keys.

  13. Oh, sure. I’m this week’s It Girl at H&R, but I know you. You’ll discard me like a Tijuana whore for that TSA hussy!

    1. Really it’s not so bad…

      1. You get used to it.

  14. If you’re on the road with a drunk driver, wouldn’t your rather that drunk driver also have ingested a lot of caffeine and be “wide-awake drunk?”

    1. Remember back in the day when the cure for drunkenness was to give the guy lots of coffee?

  15. We all agreed it was one of the vilest drinks we had ever consumed.

    Jacob, I gots to know: What is *the* vilest?

    1. I once had a quad bock that went bad in the bottle. It tasted like maple syrup, ammonia, and Worcestershire sauce all mixed together.

      Although the worst taste ever was gasoline. Cold and burning at the same time, with a sharp metallic taste, like you might imagine a mouthful of mercury might taste.

      1. Were you siphoning gas??? Why on Earth did you have gasoline in your mouth?

        1. Yes, I was siphoning gas. In the middle of a snow storm. Ugh.

          1. The worst “it’s supposed to taste like that” beer I ever had is Three Floyd’s Gumballhead. It was like drinking atrocity. Grapefruit and Pine-Sol.

            1. I made the mistake of trying Rogue’s Deadliest Ale.
              It was so over-hopped it was undrinkable.

            2. I’ve only had Three Floyd’s Dark Lord; pretty amazing stuff.

          2. Having done this myself (sans snow storm), just reading your post and remembering that, uh… taste, has me nauseous to the point of drooling over my office wastebasket. That was the worst experience I have ever subjected my mouth to, bar none.

            Now that I’m totally put off my lunch, I think you should write a diet book. Siphon Your Way To Weight Loss! I’d do it myself, but I can’t stop these waves of nausea long enough to get started.

      2. I’ll have to disagree with you on gasoline. The one time I accidentally got a mouthful I thought it tasted about like how it smells (although roger the cold & burning) — so, not that bad. IMO kewra is worse.

        1. I will concede that the metallic taste might have been the rust particles dissolved in the gas from the rotting tank on my MG.

          I’ve never given clean gas a fair shake, I guess.

      3. You just described my reaction to a non-expired Sam Adams Triple Bock, so I can imagine what you had would be even worde.

    2. Jacob, I gots to know: What is *the* vilest?

      The black juice they pump out of the belly of a stage-4 cancer patient.

      1. Ewwww!

        1. Ever seen a grown man naked?

  16. Makes me want to make some bacon bourbon.…..r-bourbon/

    Mmmmmmm… bacon…

  17. I know it’s hard to taste things through the internet, but here’s my impression of 4L: like someone melted a jolly rancher. So sweet it makes your fillings hurt.

  18. Man I love this shit. Don’t just try a can, drink the can. It makes me feel like a fighter jet made of biceps… I could probably even survive a Lilith fair concert wearing a “show me your tits” T-shirt

  19. Until all the controversy, I’d never even heard of this ghetto shit.

    I was first introduced to the mysteries of 4-Loko by a homeless guy in Jackson Square in New Orleans who asked me to buy him a can, and assured me I would love it if I tried it. I bought him one, abstaining myself as it was around noon, and still haven’t had the urge to try it yet.

    1. By the way, thanks again, man.


    2. I, too, have a good homeless-guy-in-Jackson-Square story. But then again, who doesn’t?

      1. I don’t.
        Though I’ve plenty of good homeless-guy-in-Pearl-Street stories.
        Red Rocks probably does as well.

  20. Reminds me of the time I tried Grape Mad Dog 20/20.
    It’s ghetto trash for a reason. One step up from drinking cough syrup.

  21. Good point, Jacob. They’ll have to make it illegal to mix sugar and alcohol together in drinks as well. No more soda, or even fruit juice, with your booze. This dovetails nicely with the War on Sugar.

    1. Let me know when they stop subsidizing the hell out of sugar and I’ll believe there’s a war on it.

  22. At a poker game last night, I cracked open a couple of Four Loko cans and distributed samples.

    Poker and Four Loko? You’re just asking to be raided, aren’t you?

  23. First they came for the heroin,
    and I didn’t speak up because that’s nasty and dangerous and those people are gross.
    Then they came for the cold medicine,
    and I didn’t speak up because ew, gross, methheads.
    Then they came for the salvia,
    and I didn’t speak up because I got a great shroom connect anyway.
    Then they came for the Four Loko,
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.

    You can email me later and we can talk about royalties.

    1. Dude, you just raped that quote. Father Needlemeyer would be pissed.


  24. [Insert Yoko Ono joke here]

    1. Four Yoko? Jesus, that’s great! I can see the commercial now.

      1. I can hear it… *shudder*

        1. It’s like the singing of a whale, dying alone on a beach.

  25. I remember the tasting party for Durk & Sandy’s smart drinks in Manhattan about 24 yrs. ago when Ralph Fucetola co-owned Life Services. I confided later how awful they tasted, but I didn’t say so on the spot.

  26. Four Loco sounds like a Facebook Ap.

    The answer to this problem is that schools should focus on teaching good taste, music and art and literature. That way adolescents looking to get drunk and act stupid at least will be going for a nice Bordeaux or decent Burgundy.

  27. “I suspect that the reformulated version of Four Loko, which will not have caffeine, guarana, or taurine, will taste better and will therefore be, if anything, more appealing both to underage drinkers and to the “young adults” that the FDA is so worried about.”

    I don’t agree with this analysis because I know of nobody who started or continued to drink Sparks when Miller removed the energy drink components from it. Sure, it’s anecdotal, but also along those lines I never see Sparks cans in the gutter, but finding FL cans is a fairly common occurrence.

    I’m not saying I support the ban, just that component of your analysis.

  28. I tried this 2 days ago and think it’s about the scariest alcohol beverage I have ever consumed…I totally blacked out about 2 hours after my last drink and even felt drunk the next morning….this s**t is wicked….I don’t think I will drink it again….

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.