This column is a reader submission from hectorhammond. To learn how to make a submission, click here.
Does anyone know where I can get my grubby mitts on some old Four Loko? I’m a bit younger and missed out on when they were on the shelves (READ: I was twelve). I keep on hearing legends about this incredible concoction and want to see what’ll happen by slamming one down before a night on the town. Is it just an overhyped vodka Redbull or is it more like injecting oneself with an epi pen while hammered? Reading through the history of this drink is somewhat terrifying yet inspiring. It really reveals the American Spirit and shows that anyone can accomplish their dream if they have the right resources and drive to succeed.
The way Four Loko began was with four ingenious Kappa Sig gentlemen were making jungle juice in their fraternity basement in the late 90s and early 2000s, way back before social media dominated everything and dudes were looking to create anything to help them get fucked up. “No cellphones. Just people living in the moment.” A time when college students creating new memories was driven by word of mouth and stories that started as interesting second hand accounts transformed into tales of legend, with one common ingredient involved in all of them. The original “Energy Beer” Four Loko.
Reading interviews with the fraternity gentlemen, or entrepreneurial capitalist legends, that created Four Loko provides great insight as to how they created one of the more sought after college beverages in America. From the Four Loko Wikipedia article,
“As students they were active members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, and many of their original drink blends were created in the fraternity mansion’s basement and party room. They had enjoyed caffeine mixed with alcohol, and recalled buying Thai energy drinks from a nearby Asian market to sell to other students at a markup, claiming that they were “importing the stuff from abroad”. They would later describe themselves as “our own target market.””
There’s a lot to unpack here (aka a phrase meant that the class was getting phoned the fuck in when you were in college and the TA was just saying words). First, the basement of a frat house is simultaneously one of the best and worst places on campus and they reveal the absolute dredges of society. Second, saying that they were “importing stuff from abroad” when they were just walking around the corner to the Asian guy who sells booze to underage kids is absolutely awesome. Third, uh yeah, these guys knew that no one in their right mind besides college kids and maybe the occasional 23 to 27-year-old was going to house down caffeinated jungle juice in their spare time that was invented by some drunk kids in a frat basement. However, there’s a shit load of college kids who just wanna party and these entrepreneurial trailblazers helped encourage that.
These guys got a lot of flake for their drink because stupid people did shitty things while drinking it. Is a drink that the White House labeled, “Liquid Cocaine” going to be for everyone? Probably not. Did they decide to innovate and change direction so that they can give the smarter and more responsible college kids something to get hammered “responsibly” on? Yes. That is the American capitalist spirit. Finding a niche, refining it, failing, succeeding, failing and then finally hitting the winning formula and expanding it to make a metric fuck-ton of money. All in all, Four Loko is at the front of a billion-dollar niche market industry. The closest competitor? Snoop Dogg with his Colt 45 Blast drink. Am I saying that original Four Loko should be given to the masses? No, because the masses are stupid and stupid people will just ruin it like they ruin everything.