My Loko Night: Testing Black-Market Original-Formula Four Loko

First they came for Sparks, and I didn't speak out because I didn't drink Sparks.

Then they came for Four Loko, and I didn't speak out because I didn't drink Four Loko.

Then they came for Moonshot '69, and I didn't speak out because I didn't drink Moonshot '69.

Then they came for...well, nothing yet, aside from a few other caffeine-spiked sweetened malt beverages, but is it really so unthinkable that nanny-state lawmakers might next try to outlaw other caffeine-and-alcohol combinations? Red Bull and vodka, Irish coffee, Kahlua, even coffee porters?

I named Four Loko as the Hophead 2010 Beer of the Year simply for the controversy it created. The hysterical prohibitionist panic that ensued after reports of a few hospitalizations and drunken-driving deaths was a sad reminder of just how ridiculously ignorant the media can be, solemnly parroting terms originally termed by binge-drinking hyperbolizing braggarts such as "blackout in a can" and "liquid cocaine" with a straight face, as if they were accurate descriptions of the drink's physiological effects.

Yet I, as part of the media, had my own ignorance to deal with. After all, if I was going to defend the beer, I should have some first-hand experience with it, right?

After ruling out buying it by the case from a couple of Dallas-area sellers on Craigslist, I went about obtaining a can much in the same way that a square would, hypothetically, go about scoring an eighth of 'dro or a gram of blow: hinting to friends that I was interested and would, y'know, reimburse them for their trouble, but y'know, no big deal if nothing happens. But seriously, if you know anyone...

And I had a can of Blue Raspberry Four Loko in my hands in less than a week.

My first thought on pouring Four Loko into a pint glass was that it probably would have been better sight unseen. It looked like Nehi Blue Cream soda, a bright and cheerfully artificial azure tone with not even a hint of head. The taste was sickly, syrupy sweet, with a bitter medicinal tang. It was clear that it wouldn't warm very nicely. Yet, it wasn't as revolting as I expected. Not at first, at least. Just super-sweet. Yet the only good thing about it was how remarkably well the alcohol taste was masked. If it weren't for the outlaw appeal, it would be an irredeemably girly drink. By the time I was halfway through, though, I was struggling to continue, shuddering with every sip.

Afterward, I felt half-drunk and somewhat more awake than I might have been without the caffeine. In other words, I felt exactly the same as I do after a fourth beer and a cup of coffee or a shot of Five Hour Energy. Granted, I had only one. A second can would have certainly gotten me undeniably intoxicated, but by the last sip, a second can of Four Loko was the last thing in the world I wanted. No wonder so many Four Loko stories involve vomit. After one, I wasn't tempted to do anything wilder than rough-house with my son -- though play-acting as comic-book superheros came a lot easier than it does completely sober. I've got to hand it to the iron-stomached fans of the stuff who can force themselves to drink more than one. Or could, I should say...eventually, the supply of original-formula Loko will dry up (and I have a feeling it ain't gonna cellar very well).

Those cans that haven't been horded by fans and opportunists, though, will be recycled into ethanol. How perfectly appropriate: A bullshit drink is being turned into a bullshit fuel after a bullshit ban. It comes full circle.

Then they will come for Jäger bombs, and I won't speak out because I don't drink Jäger bombs.

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Jesse Hughey
Contact: Jesse Hughey