11/22/10: Four Loko? Anti Loko

When Friday evening struck, I was at a cravings impasse: An upper or a downer? A red or a blue? Coffee or wine? It was tempting to be propped up by the buzz of a strong cup of overpriced coffee. But oh, what I wouldn’t do for a good glass or two of Rioja.

So I did what any discerning adult would do. I compromised. I walked down to the nearest 7-Eleven and grabbed a lemon Four Loko.
Until a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t even heard of this monster-sized 23.5 ounce beverage. But then the “Blackout-in-a-Can” made the news again and again again as New York and Michigan banned it. College campuses decried the strong-as-wine elixir. The FDA scrutinized the beast that combined the punch of a tall Starbucks coffee and malt liquor. The common consensus: College kids were drinking Four Loko with the purpose of getting, oh-god-it-hurts-to-even-write-it, drunk. There, I said it: College kids are getting drunk, but not JUST drunk, they’re also getting caffeinated. Experts have weighed in, blaming the caffeine for worsening the drunk. It’s an ungodly, immoral combination, almost, in some eyes, as unnatural as gay marriage.
I won’t bore you too much with stories of my days in college, when kids would drink Everclear milkshakes and light Bacardi 151 on fire–while it was in their mouths. Anyone who’s ever been to a college campus knows that one thing those kids excel at is escape. But this, this, they say, takes it too far.
So in mid-November, the FDA wrote to six different companies, including Four Loko, telling them they could no longer include the uppers in their downer. Which means the gravy days of prepackaged caffeinated drinks are coming to a close. Now kids will have to pack the Red Bull with the Old English and make their own brew.
All of which has created a run on Four Loko. Sales, according to liquor store clerks, have skyrocketed. In part, I’m sure it’s because these collegiate entrepreneurs are stocking up so they can sell the juice once the juice is off shelves. But it’s also been the best advertising campaign that any of those companies could hope for. Sure, the loud and angry teetotalers are swarming. But so is a thirsty pack of revelers who had, until the bans, never heard of this racketeering devil in a can.
Which is what led me to Four Loko Friday night. How bad can it be? I thought. I cracked the can open and tipped it back, expecting to find a nectar so delicious it SHOULD be illegal.
What I found tasted like a combination of Mountain Dew, Old English and glass cleaner. One sip was enough. The rest went down the drain to all my homies who couldn’t share in the evening’s festivities.
Then I went down to the wine shop for a nice bottle of Rioja. It cost seven times the amount of the Four Loko, but I have no regrets (and no memory loss).


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