Four Loko: A Sweet Texas Speedball

It's cheap, it's potent, and it's lame to drink it.

At its simplest, Four Loko is caffeinated booze dressed up in little-girl flavors—a stimulant and depressant in one. The caffeine (and taurine and guarana) get you up and mitigate the immediate effects of the alcohol—making you feel less drunk. And while the stimulants are all up in your forebrain messing with you, the alcohol is working behind the scenes, doing all the stuff alcohol traditionally does: making you better-looking, funnier, more relaxed, and a better dancer. Unfortunately, when the stimulants wear off, the alcohol is still there. Which is generally when the puking and blacking-out starts. Four Loko was at least one of the reasons for the ambulance rides that marked the end of the October 8 party in Roslyn at which several Central Washington University students ended up drinking themselves rather close to death. Blood-alcohol contents among the partygoers ranged from the reasonably wrecked (.12%) to the near-lethal (.35%). In a statement on Tuesday in response to the incident, the makers of Four Loko, a Chicago company called Phusion Products, stated: "Our products contain less alcohol than an average rum and cola, less alcohol and caffeine than an average Red Bull and vodka, and is [sic] comparable to having coffee after a meal with a couple glasses of wine." Only here's the thing: That Four Loko you're tipping? It's about 24 ounces. A college girl accustomed to putting away six wine coolers at a frat party drinks two of these and she's about 10-beers wrecked. Some of the less-wise among the student body were also spiking their Four Loko with rum and vodka, which is just nine different kinds of stupid. We used to drink beer-with-coffee-chasers in the kitchen. Called them Texas speedballs. This is kinda the same thing, only concentrated, and in a rainbow of nauseating flavors like watermelon and blue raspberry. (As Caleb Hannan put it in a Daily Weekly post this week: "Imagine a can full of Thor's piss after the Norse god has just chugged some Dimetapp.") This, actually, is my major problem with Four Loko: not that it caused this Roslyn party fail (God knows that Boone's Farm, jungle juice, Everclear, and cases of MGD have been responsible for far worse catastrophes), and not its cheapness ($3 a can) or potency. My issue is that anyone would drink the stuff at all. It's not that I expect college kids to have much taste when it comes to choosing their poison, but having a little bit of class shouldn't be out of the question.

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