Opinion | Four Loko is a legendary college drink

By Jameson Keebler, Staff Columnist

Some people might cringe at the name Four Loko. It probably brings back memories of sitting in your friend’s basement in high school drinking whatever your older sibling left behind. It even makes some people cringe, either at the strong smell, metallic taste or whatever madness happened while consuming it. 

It’s easy to see Four Loko as just a cheap, bad tasting drink. But for college students, it was a cultural phenomenon. College life is different at every institution, but every campus has some sort of drinking culture. This culture is about thrill and fun, which is encapsulated in drink trends. 

Drinking in a South Oakland basement doesn’t seem incredibly fun, but for many it is part of being a Pitt student. It’s special because you can be with your classmates and make the college memories that everyone talks about when they are older. This gross drink brings people together. 

Recently, Four Loko has resurfaced on TikTok because some people are trying it for the first time and others are saying they miss the old version that contained caffeine. I don’t think it’s the original drink that people miss. They miss the memories that they made while drinking it. 

When the company Phusion Projects started selling Four Loko in 2008, it became extremely successful, and was known as the “blackout in a can.” This nickname was hardly an exaggeration. Excessive drinking is normalized in college, but the dangers are real. About 2,000 college students die from alcohol related accidents every year. 

After the hospitalizations stacked up, universities began cracking down on Four Loko. In October 2010, Ramapo College banned the drink after more than 20 students were hospitalized. This ban caused an uproar among college kids who were furious that their blackout recipe was taken away from them. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Association sent Phusion Projects a warning letter about the caffeine added to their drinks in November 2010. Memorials sprung up on the streets of New York City where people gave their condolences to their favorite blackout recipe. Phusion quickly announced that they would remove the caffeine and they re-released it in December 2010. This change did not go unnoticed.

Young partiers will constantly innovate and find new ways for getting as drunk as possible. A recent trend on TikTok among college students is the borg, or the blackout rage gallon. It’s a jug that’s part water, vodka, caffeine and electrolyte powder, and it’s common to scroll through the For You Page and see college kids drinking them.

While borgs come with their downsides, such as how filling such a large container with alcohol can encourage binge drinking, there are positives. One pro is that people actually know what they are drinking rather than drinking whatever is offered to them. In that way it is Four Loko’s opposite, but they have a similar popularity on social media. 

Four Loko, like many other drink trends, shined bright and quick in its original form, but it lives on. Although it was beloved, I can only be grateful that the original mixture is gone, and perhaps borgs are here to stay. 

Jameson Keebler writes primarily about pop culture and current events. Write to her at [email protected].