iOS app Android app More

  |   November 24, 2010    3:33 PM ET

When the Food and Drug Administration deemed Four Loko and other caffeinated alcoholic beverages unsafe, Dennis Roberts saw a business opportunity.

The 23-year-old Roberts and two of his friends are the entrepreneurs behind, a site dedicated to selling "Legalize Loko" T-shirts and other merchandise.

  |   November 22, 2010    9:32 AM ET

In this clip, Fieri shares some of his boozy Thanksgiving dishes, including the turduckenrabpigcowcowhorsishgamehen, which is a "chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey inside of a rabbit inside of a pig inside of a baby cow inside of a big cow inside of a horse all stuffed into a Cornish game hen." And then deep-fried in Jägermeister?

Caffeinated Booze: Bad News for Bad Brews

David Katz, M.D.   |   November 20, 2010   11:26 AM ET

The writing would seem to be on the wall for Four Loko and other beverages that combine alcohol and caffeine, as the FDA considers an outright ban of the combination. Anyone who is for sanity and safety in marketing should read it and cheer, not weep.

Combining alcohol and caffeine is -- in one word -- crazy. Don't do it! It has an excellent chance of hurting you, and a fairly good chance of killing you. Recent news reports feature tragic victims of this deadly duo. As the companies and federal authorities decide what to do, you can make up your own mind to steer clear of this bad brew.

As I suspect everyone knows, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It is certainly possible to drink enough alcohol for it to be lethal, and people have. But the depressant effect tends to limit the damage, because people fall asleep or pass out before they reach a truly lethal level of intake. Alcohol is more likely to kill by impairing judgment, and responses behind the wheel of a car. But here, too, the intrinsically sedating effects of alcohol help limit these incident, which are horribly too numerous as is.

Caffeine, of course, is a central nervous system stimulant. We use it to help stay awake and alert, and it exerts just this effect even as you drink alcohol. But caffeine does nothing at all to combat the deleterious effects of alcohol on judgment, inhibition, reflexes and coordination. You get just as drunk while getting jazzed on caffeine -- you simply stay awake and stimulated longer, so you wind up drinking more.

This combination would be bad enough if it required alternating booze and java. But the commercial products at the center of the current scandal combine highly concentrated alcohol -- the equivalent of five beers in a single can -- with a full mug of coffee's worth of caffeine. Before the can is set down, you are inebriated, but too wired on caffeine to know it.

It's hard to imagine any argument for such products -- except that selling them makes money for someone. So does selling heroin and cocaine, which are also very bad ideas.

It's also hard to imagine anyone objecting to a ban of such products, although the strong "keep the government out of my business" sentiment that runs through our society suggests that some will find cause to do so. In response to any objections, I can only ask: Where would you draw the line? Should the government stay out of the crack, heroin, and angel dust business as well, and simply let the peddling of such wares take their place in a free market economy? If there is any line at all over which dangerous products that generate unscrupulous profits at the cost of human life should be banned -- caffeinated alcoholic beverages are over it.

Combining caffeine and alcohol is, indeed, crazy. It can be lethally crazy, so it's a mistake you may not get to make twice. So don't make it even once. I recall a poster I had hanging on my dorm room in college that read: "Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment." We do all need to learn by trying. But unfortunately bad judgment that kills you does not lead to good judgment -- it leads only to whatever final judgment we are destined to face, and the anguish of those left behind.

Please don't go there. No need to wait for the FDA. This stuff is crazy -- ban it yourself.

Dr. David L. Katz

The Crusade Against Four Loko

Alex Vadukul   |   November 19, 2010   11:40 AM ET

Image: Next Media Animation

The crusade against Four Loko is wrong. We have every right to drink a deranged caffeinated alcohol cocktail if we want to. It is potent but it does not kill people, as the sensational news stories will have you believe. The few that have "died" from it, thus igniting this controversy, died because they drank it irresponsibly; combining it (usually several Four Lokos) with other liquor, beer, and, it often seems, with diet pills. We should not have to suffer the irresponsibility of a few. Demonizing the drink is unjust because abusing any powerful alcoholic substance can lead to similar harmful consequences.

A recent story in the New York Times described the practice of "Four Loko Hands" parties, in which revelers drink from cans of Four Loko duct taped to their hands. Obviously this a bad idea, but if you're duct taping large cans of caffeinated alcohol to your hands then you probably know what you're getting yourself into. If you don't then you certainly can't blame anyone else, especially the drink or its makers, for the consequences afterwards. No disrespect is meant in this following example, but there is the commonly cited case of the 20-year-old in Tallahassee who fatally shot himself after drinking several cans of Four Loko. Blame should be put on his poor judgment or the deli, supermarket, or friend that provided him with the drink. Blame cannot be placed on the beverage alone. The same thing could have happened with any other liquor.

Lastly, and this is particularly frustrating, the drink makes no attempt disguise what it is, so I don't see what is objectionable about keeping it on the market. It is clearly sold as cheap "hell of a night" in a can. The loud colorful 12 oz product even looks diabolical. The word "Loko" is scrawled in a mad man's scribble along the side. There is hardly an inch of can not covered with the words Alcohol, Caffeine, Guarana, Taurine, or Malt in bold letters. "WE ID" is written on a black dot. It may even be the only can with a black ring opener! The makers of the drink are not trying to pass off Four Loko as anything other than what it is, as some suggest. Even if you've never heard of Four Loko you know what it is all about the instant you see the product. If you don't then you shouldn't be drinking it and ruining the fun for everyone else.

American consumers enjoy this extreme product. They should have the right to keep buying it. You don't see the country rushing to ban McDonalds or cigarettes, products enjoyed by millions but widely known for their ill effects. Banning Four Loko may even achieve little. Those that love the drink will find another way to get its desired effect, as happens with most contraband. The results may be more dangerous than the original drink.

Jonah Green   |   November 18, 2010    2:37 PM ET

In the wake of its inevitable ban, Four Loko, the drink that nobody really drinks but everyone loves to memorialize, continues to inspire more feats of absurdity. On Monday filmmaker Ryan Jones drank the stuff to scientifically guage how potent it is. On Wednesday Assemblyman Felix Ortiz imbibed three in a nearby hospital to monitor its effects.

Last night fans of the "blackout in a can" gathered in Union Square for a Four Loko vigil. Fans of the drink sang songs of support, lit candles and told stories about their best (or worst) Four Loko experiences. Even the 8-bit techno band Anamanaguchi came to show their support.


The Village Voice was there to report this moving and somber event:

Soon, the crowd began to light candles and, in turn, use those candles to light their cigarettes. A few mourners stepped forward to share their Four Loko stories. "Every time I drank a Four Loko, something terrible happened," one said, then, when the applause settled, concluded, "And each time, I grew from it." A less enthusiastic round of applause followed.

College Students Honestly Confused About How to Get Completely Sh*t-Faced Without Four Loko

Ben Berkon   |   November 18, 2010   11:26 AM ET

In beverage news, with Four Loko being banned in cities and states across the nation, college students everywhere were baffled about how to get completely shit-faced without it. Four Loko, which contains 12% alcohol and various forms of high-caffeine supplements, has provided an easy path to "blacking out" -- an event that once took a honest night of binge drinking and dabbling in various life-threatening drugs.

"When I couldn't buy any Four Loko last night, I didn't know how to get blitzed out of my fucking mind," said a sophomore at the University of Tennessee. "One of my boys, who's a history major, said people once used 'beer' to get hammered--but none of us knew where to get 'beer' or how to consume it. We ended up just doing homework and studying for our respective exams. It was all very disappointing and unfortunately, too productive."

According to sources, the creators of Four Loko are experimenting with a new drink that will hopefully make emergency rooms "the new spot for after-bars."

For more articles and segments of this kind, visit

By Rich Schapiro   |   November 18, 2010    8:33 AM ET

Hordes of young partyers have been scrambling to snap up cans of Four Loko after news broke that the boozy beverage would soon be unavailable in New York.

"People have bought a lot of it in the last few days because they know it's going off the shelves," said Mohamad Taher, a clerk at a 7-Eleven in the Unionport section of the Bronx.

Jonah Green   |   November 17, 2010    3:46 PM ET

As the Feds gear up to ban caffeinated alcohol beverages, local politicians are railing against the devastating effects of the drink. Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz hopped on the Four Loko meme train and offered to use himself as a test subject to prove how potent the "blackout in a can" can be.

Ortiz, who had previously battled the great salt threat in New York City, was driven by NBC News 4 to a local hospital and drink 2.5 cans of Four Loko while a doctor monitored his blood pressure and heart rate. Spoiler alert: he proceeds to get drunk and promptly vomits.


View more news videos at:

Stephen Colbert Tries Four Loko, Creates Own Alcoholic Energy Drink

Leah Finnegan   |   November 17, 2010   11:27 AM ET

Four Loko's days may be numbered, but Stephen Colbert isn't having it. "True partiers know that the good times don't have to end just because everybody else is unconscious," he said on last night's episode of the Colbert Report.

Colbert triumphantly sipped a Four Loko onstage, comparing its taste to that of a Duracell battery. He also announced that he would be creating his own alcoholic energy drink: C-Zurrrre, "an extreme energy booze quencher that's like a strobe light attached to the inside of your skull." Watch below.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Thought for Food - C-Zurrrre, Medal of Hunger Winner & Cheesercize
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

MARY CLARE JALONICK   |   November 16, 2010   12:19 PM ET

WASHINGTON — The manufacturer of popular caffeinated alcohol drink Four Loko said Tuesday it will remove the caffeine from its products, pulling the blend off the market just as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to ban it.

Phusion Projects said in a statement posted on its website that the company will remove caffeine and two other ingredients from its products going forward.

FDA To Decide On Four Loko's Fate

Danielle Wiener-Bronner   |   November 16, 2010   11:15 AM ET

The FDA is expected to reach a decision by Wednesday regarding whether or not alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko are safe and should be legal, according to the New York Times.

At this point, it seems most likely that the Food and Drug Administration will issue a letter of warning to the infamous drink's manufacturers, Phusion Projects, telling them that the concoctions have been deemed unsafe. Once presented with the letter Phusion will have to decide whether to shut down, fight back or create a safer alternative to their current product.

Caffeinated alcoholic beverages have been in FDA review for one year, primarily because the potency and effect of the mixed drinks has not been thoroughly researched. Still, some scientists suggested early on that combining caffeine with alcohol is potentially harmful. As Wake Forest University professor Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien told the Times:

There's a particular interaction that goes on in the brain when they are consumed simultaneously. The addition of the caffeine impairs the ability of the drinker to tell when they're drunk. What is the level at which it becomes dangerous? We don't know that, and until we can figure it out, the answer is that no level is safe.

The FDA's urgency may be attributed to the rising number of states that have decided to ban the drink and the recent crop of Four Loko-related hospitalizations. Such cases prompted the Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to urge the FDA to come to a conclusion - and fast.

Check out some reasons to stay away from Four Loko (and other like drinks) here. What do you think of the possible ban? Weigh in below.

Jonah Green   |   November 16, 2010   10:47 AM ET

Now that New York officials have banned the import of boozey energy drink Four Loko, everyone wants to try it. Some of us are left trying to understand what the phenomenon was in the first place.

Filmmaker K. Ryan Jones, the director of the Fred Phelps documentary "Fall From Grace" took this curiosity one step further and scientifically documented his first encounter with Four Loko (two and a half, to be exact).

In the video (below) he drinks these brightly colored beverages, including watermelon and "purple flavored", and grows from a suited professional to a philosophical, paranoid mess, to 'Gary Busey' drunk. Then he recites Shakespeare and tries to flirt with a woman, all with varying success.



EDMUND DEMARCHE   |   November 15, 2010    9:12 AM ET

Eleven of 28 Bronx bodegas hit in an undercover sting sold minors a popular but controversial caffeinated alcoholic drink named Four Loko that has been banned in four states, authorities revealed yesterday.

"When you put alcohol and caffeine together, it can be a lethal combination," said state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester).

  |   November 14, 2010    2:00 PM ET

NEW YORK — The maker of a caffeinated alcoholic drink that has been banned in four states has agreed to stop shipments to New York state.

Gov. David Paterson and the State Liquor Authority announced the agreement Sunday with Chicago-based Phusion Projects, which makes the drink Four Loko, and with the state's largest beer distributors to stop selling caffeinated alcoholic beverages.