Sunday, December 19, 2010

I drank Four Loko (and survived) and all you get is this lousy review!

Four Loko (Loko Watermelon Flavor)
Price: $2.49
ABV: 12%

Alcohol and caffeine are no strangers to each other, and have shared space in many a highball glass over the last one-hundred or so years. I imagine people have been mixing whiskey and cola about as long as cola has been around, while the introduction of Red Bull to the market opened up a whole 'nother can of worms, giving us some of the worst drinks in the history of man. (Yes, some even rivaling this.) While cola as a mixer was rather innocuous on account of the caffeine level being relatively low, Red Bull, Monster and the like contain amounts of caffeine, taurine and B-vitamins to have received the side-eye at least a few times throughout their existence from nutritional experts. And that's for the energy drinks without the alcohol. Add alcohol into the mix (vodka and J├Ągermeister being the most popular), along with a few idiots who don't know when enough is enough, and we get the occasional story about a guy who wrapped his car around a tree because the pink elephants in his head (read: caffeine, taurine and B-vitamins in his bloodstream) told him that he was "still cool to drive, bro."

For those of you just joining us, I fancy myself a considerably seasoned veteran when it comes to alcoholic beverages. My first foray into the world of caffeinated alcoholic beverages was some time in 2002 or 2003. Back in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, we have a bar called Dendrino's, or as the locals refer to it, "The Drain." It's open until 4am, so it tends to be a pretty popular drinking venue after the majority of the other bars in the area have closed for the night. I'm sure it was a pretty happening spot back in the day, as the leather upholstered booths recall decades past. However, in this day and age, the building is in deplorable condition, the parking lot is worse for your car than a minefield, and the bouncers are usually in their seventies and older. It's a complete dive in every sense of the word, but it's got liquor, and that, ladies and germs, is what keeps the people a-comin'. I stopped going when they started charging a cover, but before I took my business elsewhere, I tried a new beverage called Sparks. It was a sixteen-ounce can of flavored malt liquor that contained six percent alcohol, caffeine and taurine and tasted like Nerds. It wasn't really my cup o' tea, but I tried it and moved on with my life. Little did we know that this would be the gateway to more extreme takes on the alcoholic energy-drink trend. Actually, no... we should have seen this coming from a mile away. Of course someone else had to make a drink like this, but with more alcohol, more caffeine and more taurine. This is America, and if we do one thing very well, it's one-upping each other.

Unfortunately, the high levels of caffeine and all that other jazz do something to the brain, telling it that you're not nearly as drunk as you actually are (canceling out feelings of fatigue and loss of coordination, which tend to act as a good indicators that it might be time to drop the drink and find some White Castle). As a result, you drink more, and more, and more, and in some cases, operate heavy machinery... with less than sexy results.

If you've been watching or reading the news lately, you know that this Four Loko stuff (a.k.a. "Blackout in a Can") is being blamed left and right for several poor kids who didn't know when it was time to drop it. This includes nine freshmen at Central Washington University, all of whom had to be hospitalized after hitting the can a bit too hard, and a group of Texas teenagers who got into a fatal car accident after consuming the stuff. As a result, Four Loko has been banned in Washington, Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan and New York, and Massachusetts and Delaware are looking to ban it in the near future. As the head of Physical Education and Public Health at Central Washington University says, "Essentially what you have is [...] about a six pack of beer... and five cups of coffee in one of these cans."


I was on a hunt for this stuff after hearing that Texas retailers are beginning to phase it out of their inventories, so the only can I could find was the watermelon flavor. I would have preferred the cranberry lemonade, but I digress. As the 23.5-ounce can reads, this is a "premium malt beverage with artificial flavors, guarana, taurine, caffeine and FD&C Red 40," and is twelve percent alcohol.

So, it packs about the same punch as wine, but it tastes like sickly sweet watermelon Jolly Ranchers with a considerably raunchy aftertaste. I started to feel sick about halfway through the can, not because of the alcohol or even the other ingredients, but rather because the saccharin sweetness gave me a stomachache. The first thing I tasted was the watermelon, and then the alcohol, and then that aftertaste. I killed the can in just under thirty-five minutes, and I can safely say that, as far as gas station alcohol goes, I would rather take down a forty of Old English any day over this garbage. Not only does it taste better, but it gives you instant street cred!

But here's what everybody wants to know... how do I feel after taking down the whole can? Well, in regards to one can of this containing as much alcohol as a six-pack of light beer, That's about half of a Friday night for me, give or take. I've got a little buzz, some minor numbness in the face, but nothing serious. If not for the caffeine, taurine, etc., I would probably be sleeping well in a few minutes. I'll probably make some chorizo-and-egg tacos, eat them, and then fall happily asleep. I definitely don't intend on waking up face down on someone's front lawn without my pants — at least not until my birthday next weekend.

(And as for the 43-year-old guy from Philly who went into a "hallucinogenic frenzy" after one can, he must have been on some meds or something. Otherwise, I'd like to know what he was smoking and/or injecting beforehand.)



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