The Next Four Loko War

by Robert VerBruggen

David, it may have been premature of you to pronounce the end of Joose-blogging on Phi Beta Cons. Jacob Sullum predicts the nanny-state war on Four Loko will continue, because removing the energy ingredients will only make it taste better to college students:

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.

I don’t completely agree with his assessment of the drink’s taste; fruit punch and watermelon aren’t half-bad.

However, to mourn the end of the drink when the ban was announced, I stopped by a neighborhood convenience store and bought one of every flavor they had (just three, and no, I didn’t drink them all at once). That night, with a heavy heart, I drank a can of the lemon flavor and played Call of Duty Classic. That flavor is disgusting, and the smell makes it even worse — it sort of wafts around the room when you open the can, a pungent mix of lemon, energy drink, and alcohol.

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