Four Loko

If you don’t know what Four Loko is, you soon will. It’s a fruit flavored malt beverage that packs in to its aluminum walls the equivalent of 5 beers, and 3 cups of coffee. Mixing caffeine and alcohol isn’t anything new, we saw Lohan mixing Goose with her Redbull in 2008.

Before that, you’d be hard pressed to meet many people who haven’t heard of a rum and Coke. Four Loko is fundamentally different for many reasons, and it has created the perfect storm of popularity surrounding it. Consider the following, and you’ll know why Four Loko is on the path to popularity.


You can buy Four Loko at your local bodega or gas station convenience store for about $2.50. It comes cold and ready to drink. The cans are not the tiny energy drink cans we’ve all become so accustomed to. They are 23.5 ounce aluminum monsters ready to unleash the beast inside of them. Not to mention, the cans are colorful. They’re meant to be seen, and be seen with. Walking around college parties for the last couple months Four Loko has gone from an oddity to a staple.


You’ll often find that certain drinks have stigmas relating to gender. Smirnoff Ice, while delicious, doesn’t particularly bode well for your masculinity. Mikes Hard lemonade, though recently undertaking an ad campaign specifically targeting men, is still primarily a woman’s drink. Four Loko, largely fueled by the [accurate] perception that it’s an extremely powerful drink, doesn’t suffer from any of the gender bending stigma as other drinks. You’ll see college aged guys and girls proudly sporting their cans at any party. The ubiquitous appeal also increases it’s utility. A drink that can be shared with a member of the opposite sex is a potentially useful ally at a party.


Four Loko has 12.5% ABV. This is the same volume as your average wine. In a 23.5oz can, it holds the same amount of alcohol as roughly a 6 pack of beer. Combine this with the equivalent caffeine as 2-3 shots of strong espresso and you’re dealing with a potent combination. College students, who are known for their thrifty ways to have a good time, have embraced Four Loko for it’s high value and potency.


The Millennial generation was a generation raised on high fructose corn syrup. Where previous generations might have opted for the more “authentic” flavors found in beer, or the “comfort” in a nice glass of Rye, the Millennials are all about enjoyment. This is a generation that has had beer and liquor demonized to them by the public education system. DARE, short for Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education spent copious amounts of classroom time in the 1990’s extolling the virtues of sobriety, and the danger of beer and liquor. Four Loko doesn’t look anything like the demon swills they were taught to “just say no to” as children. Instead, it’s 5 flavors offer a beacon of individuality, and it’s caffeine, guarana and energy supplements means they can keep the party going.


I’m willing to accept corrections on this section (Or any section for that matter), but I’ve never seen Four Loko served in a bar. Instead, it’s a badge of authenticity letting others know that you’re young, and part of the scene. Walking around a house party with a craft beer may yield some nods from the better classed members of the party, but it’s not a way to silently communicate you belong. Four Loko’s ubiquitous appeal and reach to college aged adults means that it’s instant social proof you’re in the fold.