Currently, it’s banned in one state, almost banned in two others, the subject of a pending federal investigation and is contraband on numerous college campuses. Some people call it “blackout in a can,” others “cocaine in a can,” but that’s an insult to both blackouts and cocaine. It’s usually characterized as either the Devil’s backwash or the nectar of the bros, but Four Loko is so much more than that. Four Loko is the epitome of generational struggles, the latest incarnation of college drinking as bogeyman, a testament to American capitalism, a potential destroyer of society, but most importantly, Four Loko is sold at Ernie’s on El Camino as well as at the 7-11s off Waverley in Palo Alto and in Menlo Park (who have some of the chillest clerks I’ve ever met, by the way), for $2.69 a can, and holy shit will you feel cracked out and on top of the world if you’re not huddled over a trash can.
It’s been out since 2005, but it took a few reports of people going to the hospital after nights of irresponsible drinking that included consumption of Four Loko (remember, don’t go Twelve Loko), but once they did, people went Eight Loko with hysteria. Media outlets, including our own Stanford Daily, have labeled it “blackout in a can” while simultaneously saying that it contains “up to three or four beers in a can.” Let’s clear the air right now, because only 6-year-olds black out from three beers. Four Loko has 4.8 AlcoholEdu-approved “standard drinks” in it, or 5.6 Coors Lights. Functionally, it’s a bottle of bum wine with caffeine in it. The brainchild of three Ohio State alums who thought buying vodka and Red Bull separately was just too expensive, it now occupies the shelves of every gas station, mini-mart and liquor store across the country (except the CVS in Town & Country. Get with the times, guys.). It’s really the American Dream come to life. Never have I been prouder to be from Columbus, Ohio. O-H!
The Helen Lovejoys over in the Senate keep claiming that the packaging is designed to appeal to children, which is one of the dumber things I have heard this year. Never has a can’s packaging more appealed to the bro/broski/broseph demographic than Four Loko’s. That 12 percent alcohol by volume (displayed seven times) is a badge of honor, and it gets right at the way the cash-strapped college student’s mind works when staring down the beer aisle, and that’s because Four Loko is truly a beverage for our generation. It’s such a product of our time that even Gawker doesn’t get it.
Today’s college student is constantly busy with no time to waste, and that includes drinking, as well. Our older siblings may have perfected the art of the Power Hour, but even that takes an entire hour. You can comfortably drink a Four Loko in 15 minutes or less. We also hate uncertainty. If you’re not careful, a casual drinking of a six-pack can sometimes lead to unexpected sobriety, even as late as 11:45 p.m. That uva-flavored Four Loko in your hands, that right there is insurance that no matter what else happens, at least you won’t be too sober to walk home alone after striking out all night. But above all else, in this age of Obama, our generation hates class barriers, and Four Loko is egalitarian. First-gen students and fifth-generation legacies alike can unite in the celebration of Four Loko, because while people disagree on the taste of various alcohols, taste has never been the issue with Four Loko.
If I learned anything in 10th grade AP Art History, though, it’s that the problem with beauty is that it’s largely ephemeral. MADD, parents’ groups and fun-hating deans all across the country have finally started to martial their forces to put a stop to it. Michigan was the first state to ban it outright, most likely because three Buckeyes came up with a multi-million dollar idea. Four Loko’s days may be numbered, but it doesn’t matter because the caffeine, ginseng and taurine-laced 12 percent ABV floodgates are open, and there’s no closing them. Fellow competitors Joose and Core both have drinks that are exactly the same and the de-caffeinated corporate impostor known as Tilt also upped its content to 12 percent. It’s officially a Hydra.
The president of Ramapo College said, “There’s no redeeming social purpose to be served by having the beverage,” and he’s right, but who said there had to be one? Four Loko is single-handedly supercharging the college experience nationwide, increasing the drunk baseline and giving people better college stories. That sounds like a public service to me. So mosey on over to Ernie’s or 7-11, but just remember two things, kids. Watch yo’selves when you do, and never EVER go Twelve Loko.
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