Remember Four Loko? That horrible, fruity malt liquor that combined tons of alcohol, caffeine, and other insane drugs? Most of the caffeine and other uppers were pulled out of it, making it significantly less deadly, meaning everybody lost interest. But now, suddenly, there's an easy way to make your own. Proceed with extreme caution.
It's Friday afternoon, you've made it through the long week, and it's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. Bottoms up, and lord forgive me for this one.
This shit is responsible for 97% of all the black out/puke stories I heard in 2010. It is pure evil. A) It tastes like death, B) it's artificially colored so brightly that it will make your guts glow like Vegas, C) the combination of a lot of booze, a ton of caffeine, and all kinds of other poisons make this stuff an unwitting-suicide attempt in a can.
So, why the hell am I now telling you how to make it at home? Well, because you want to know. When it got pulled off the shelves, cans were selling on Craigslist and eBay for five times the original price. By that point everybody knew it was dangerous, and people who bought it were looking to play with fire. Then the caffeine, taurine, and guarana was pulled out, and it didn't matter. It didn't give you that same "Oh my god I want to kiss/fight/fuck EVERYTHING!" feeling. So, now you can play with fire again. Sam Biddle gets the credit/blame for this idea. I'll take the credit/blame for the recipe.
But please, if you make Faux Loko, be very, very very careful. Don't be stupid. Don't drive. Don't poison yourself. Just... don't.
Okay, so let's get down to it.
There is a special ingredient that is making this possible. Berocca. Berocca is an effervescent tablet that is not unlike Airborne tablets that have been around the U.S. forever. But Berocca is huge in the U.K. because it supports "mental sharpness" and "physical energy." How's it do that? In addition to being packed with vitamins, there's also a whopping dose of caffeine, and plenty of guarana and hard-to-pronounce mystery ingredients like phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is used to to trigger the release of dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and melanin. So, this shit will simultaneously get you amped and give you a tan? Basically.
Berocca was just recently made available in the U.S., and we got a large sample at Giz HQ. It made us instantly jittery and most of us couldn't fall asleep that night (to be fair, we took it in the evening, before we knew how much caffeine was in it).
You might think of this drink as Berloko, or a Beroctail. But no, it's Faux Loko.
Note: There are several versions of Berocca. Some have no caffeine at all. This recently released U.S. version has 280mg. Make sure you're getting the right one if you try this.
In making a Four Loko analog, you need to look at what makes a Four Loko, and then find like pieces to the puzzle. Four Loko is a malt beverage. Okay, great, let's start with some malt liquor.
Four Loko was 12-percent alcohol by volume (ABV). It's very tough to find a malt liquor that comes close to that. That's as strong as some wines. St. Ides has 8.2-percent and Steel Reserve has 8.1-percent, but these aren't as easy to find as say, Olde English which has about 6-percent. But you know what? That's okay. We can take care of that in a minute; for now just use whichever malt liquor you prefer.
Buy yourself a 40oz, but DO NOT DRINK IT ALL YOURSELF. This is for you and at least one friend. Splitting it between four would be preferable. But right now we're trying to make an analog, and Four Loko came in 23.5-ounce cans. So that's the malt base.
Split your 40 into two large glasses or jars, so that you have 20 ounces of a solution that's 6 percent ABV. To that, add 4 ounces of the cheapest (you won't be tasting any of it anyway) 80-proof vodka you can find. That gives you 24 ounces of 11.6 percent ABV drank. Close enough to Four Loko's 23.5 ounce, 12-percent ABV badness.
For the caffeine and other uppers, one Berocca tablet per glass will more than suffice. Four Loko had an estimated 260 milligrams of caffeine per can (before it was pulled out). Berocca has a crazy 280 milligrams of caffeine per tablet. Sweet Jesus. It also has guarana, and while it lacks taurine, I think the phenylalanine will make up for it.
Now for the flavor. Four Loko had a (disgusting) fruity taste. So we're going to use Koolaid drink powder. Per Koolaid's instructions, add one rounded tablespoon per 8-ounces of water. Well, we have 24 ounces of fluid, so go ahead and add three rounded tablespoons to your jar. Each serving of Koolaid has 16 grams of sugar in it, which means our solution now has 48 grams of sugar. That's a lot, but Four Loko had 60 grams of sugar per can. No problem, just add 12 grams of granulated sugar, which is roughly 1 tablespoon. Done!
Here it is in recipe terms, all sophisticated-like.
- 20 ounces malt liquor (6-percent ABV)
- 4 ounces 80-proof vodka (40-percent ABV)
- 1 Berocca tablet
- 3 tablespoons Koolaid mix
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1. Put the Berocca tablet into a large jar (preferably 1 quart size).
- 2. Add 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) of 80-proof vodka, and allow tablet to dissolve most of the way.
- 3. Slowly add 20 ounces of 6-percent ABV malt liquor.
- 4. Add 3 tablespoons of Koolaide drink mix and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
- 5. Stir very gently with a long spoon until sugar is dissolved
In retrospect, it would be better to just pour in a small amount of malt liquor first, stir in the the Koolaid and sugar until it's totally dissolved, and then add the rest of the 40. Otherwise you'll be stirring out a lot of the bubbles like I accidentally did. Learn from my mistakes.
The result is a bright red punch that actually tastes quite a bit like the original, which is to say, "gross". Our own Sam Biddle (the walking, talking Wine Spectator of Four Loko) said it was "actually pretty good" and he would "totally drink it." So there you have it.
Or you could just buy a decaffinated Four Loko from your corner store and add a Berocca tablet to it, but what's the fun in that?
That is something that I cannot stress enough. I say that not as a challenge, but as a warning. The insane concentration of caffeine, sugar, and other uppers plus a lot of alcohol is what got so many people into so much trouble with Four Loko. You're so artificially amped that when you reach the point where you would normally pass out, you don't. You keep drinking more. This can easily lead to blackout situations and potentially to alcohol-poisoning and worse. So, yes, it's fun to push our limits, but be smart with this because while just the right amount could lead to a fun night of partying, too much could literally kill you. Got it? Good.
I just drank about one-third of one, and boy do I feel it. Half drunk, half jittery. Really, I weigh 175 and a third of this drink has me way drunker than I want to be while at work. Afraid to talk to anyone because I'll probably say something stupid. I had to wait until I was mostly finished with this article to try it for fear of egregious typos, and that fear was well-justified. I'm struggling with this paragraph now, and I can't feel parts of my face, so I'm going to sign off. Tune in next week for another episode of Happy Hour that I promise will be far less dangerous and poisonous than this.
Important Warning: People with phenylketonoria should absolutely not drink this, because Berocca it has phenylalanine in it. K? K.
The Berocca tablet, which packs a serious punch.
1 Beroccca, 1 jar.
4-ounces of 80-proof vodka. This is why you will be drunk and stupid.
Berocca dissolving in vodka.
Add 20-ounces of malt liquor (6-percent ABV)
Powdered drink mix? Natch.
A tablespoon of sugar, because that's another good idea.
The Faux Loko, in all its glory.
The Faux Loko, with its secret ingredient.
The Faux Loko and its inspiration/namesake.