Remembering Four Loko, Alcoholic Energy Drink Known as 'Blackout In a Can'

August 14, 2018

By Max Godnick

Remember Four Loko?

If you drank enough of the stuff, you might not. The caffeine-infused alcoholic beverage, sometimes referred to as a "blackout in a can," skyrocketed to popularity in 2010. Packaged in 24-ounce cans decked out in neon-colored camouflage patterns, the drink was loaded with three kinds of caffeine stimulants and 12 percent alcohol by volume.

The party quickly ended when New York lawmakers pushed the company to change its formula after widespread health concerns and a surge in underage drinking. An 18-year-old woman in Long Island died after drinking Four Loko and 16 students at New Jersey's Ramapo College were hospitalized in incidents related to consumption of the drink.

"You never really realized how drunk or impaired you were getting because the caffeine and all the other stimulants were kicking in and making it harder to judge your edge," said Maxine Builder, a writer for The Strategist, who reported an oral history of the drink for GrubStreet.

The creators of Four Loko unleashed their high-octane recipe on the public in 2009 with flashy flavors like Fruit Punch and UVA Berry. The company's founders told Builder that their revenue went from $4.5 million in 2008 to as much as $150 million in 2010. The drink quickly became a staple of the New York social scene and college campuses.

In her article, Builder describes how the Four Loko party ended in November of 2010, when the New York State Liquor Authority reached a voluntary agreement with its producers to halt shipments of the drink and end sales by December of that year. The FDA also warned consumers about alcoholic energy drinks and specifically mentioned Four Loko had "unsafe food additive."

The drink remains on shelves nationwide, but without the caffeine.

"You can still buy Four Loko," said Builder. "It's still there in bodegas in that big 24-ounce can."

Four Loko's legacy is alive and well with the rise in popularity of other flavored malt liquors like Bud Light's Lime-A-Rita. It also has a nostalgic appeal for anyone who was in college in the late aughts and early 2010's.

"You never name drop the brand of a beer or the brand of a vodka when you have a party," Builder said. "But you remember if you had a Four Loko party."

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