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Dissecting Science: Episode Two -

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March 22, 2017

The colorful flavors of Four Loko: an inside look and unofficial review

Gold, black cherry, grape – all flavors synonymous with a disturbing and reemerging trend amongst the drinking-aged people of the United States. We are talking, of course, about Four Loko. A drink so menacing it was once banned in several states and from a number of college campuses.

Rebranded and reformulated in 2010, it is again on the streets of the Pioneer Valley. For this investigation, we submerged ourselves in the dangerous, sugary and high-stakes world of Four Loko. For you, the concerned citizen, the all too impressionable college dude, we present an unofficial review.

Chad: Alright Madeleine, you wanna open?

Mad: Sure, I want to open by saying on record that I have never had a Four Loko before this review. This endeavor was inspired by a combination of Snapchats that piqued my curiosity, and a challenge made by a member of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian staff.

Chad: What was the challenge?

Mad: We were supposed to try all the flavors of Four Loko. We failed.

Chad: And I’m kind of glad that we did fail. We made it through five out of the eight flavors we could find though, so we didn’t do too badly. The following reviews are dramatizations and excerpts of actual conversations we had while drinking Four Loko.

Mad: Help. I’m drunk on Four Loko and I can’t get up.

Chad: Don’t try this at home.

Strawberry Lemonade

Chad: Oh, I hate that.

Mad: People voluntarily drink this?

Chad: The smell of it is seriously just giving me flashbacks of the dentist.

Mad: I don’t smell that as much as you do. Then again I don’t go to the dentist as often as I should. I’ve never had a cavity, though.

Chad: Don’t jinx it, we have a lot more of this stuff to get through. I can feel my teeth rotting.

Mad: It’s the carbonated fizzle that makes your teeth tingle.

Chad: I think the real triumph of this drink is that it has finally brought together the taste of bubblegum and toothpaste. Two flavors that have for too long been too separate.

Mad: So according to the can, this does contain natural flavors. What do you think the natural flavor is?

Chad: As with all of them, ethanol.

Mad: Really? I think it’s the freshly squeezed organic strawberries and farm-fresh lemons.

Chad: I’m still pretty sure it’s the ethanol. That’s a natural flavor, right?

Mad: Whatever happens tonight, whatever flavors are to come, the Caesar salad was good.

Chad: Yes, an excellent pairing – a light salad along with the bright neon pink certified colors of Strawberry Lemonade Four Loko.

Mad: I feel like it’s already turning my cheeks pink.

Chad: Turns out it’s a flamingo-type thing. I feel like it’s starting to taste better.

Mad: So do you enjoy it now?

Chad: No.

Toasted to: Natural and Artificial Flavors

Rating:

Chad: 1/10 (Should have stayed banned)

Mad: 3/10 (Makes you miss Rubinoff)

Grape

Chad: We decided to pair Grape with our homemade eggplant-fusilli-sourdough breadcrumb parmigiana because it sounded the most wine-like.

Mad: Why did you just say that out loud in past tense?

Chad: It’s for our future readers.

Mad: There are no natural flavors in this one. Just artificial flavors and certified color.

Chad: I don’t know what we would do without the color certification board. Is it a board that does that?

Mad: When I grow up and retire from writing drink reviews, I want to be a color certifier. This text is officially midnight black.

Chad: There is no text yet, we’re just talking.

Mad: This flavor tastes like a weird combination of every single artificially grape-flavored candy that I had as a child, and I strongly dislike grape-flavored candy.

Chad: It tastes like a melted freeze pop mixed, somehow, with the same dental smell as Strawberry Lemonade.

Mad: That is an insult to that freeze pop shot we had at McMurphy’s Uptown Tavern.

Chad: Oh, yeah, that was way better.

Mad: I hate this.

Toasted to: Better living through chemistry.

Rating:

Chad: 3.5/10 (Still missing Rubinoff)

Mad: 2/10 (Aged like a fine vinegar)

Black Cherry

Mad: For dessert, we have the Black Cherry flavor paired with Mochi chocolate ice cream.

Chad: Yum. Oh, that’s gnarly. Like cough syrup.

Mad: It all tastes like strange, carbonated medication, but admittedly this one is tastier than its predecessors.

Chad: Each one I try is better than the last one, but I think that might be because I’m drinking.

Mad: This one is definitely better than the others. It’s not as overwhelmingly fake-sweet.

Chad: I wish there was still caffeine in this.

Mad: The best part is that a lot of people do drink this for the caffeine. They, to this day, drink Four Loko to get hyped.

Chad: Even though there’s no caffeine anymore.

Mad: Not since 2010. A lot of people don’t realize that though. The placebo effect is incredible.

Chad: Wasn’t there also a bunch of other energy stuff in it?

Mad: Yeah, like guarana.

Chad: Apparently, the FDA threatened to seize Four Loko’s products if they didn’t stop adding caffeine to it. There was a black market for the original formula for a while after that.

Mad: Yeah, Chad, we read the same Wiki article. I know. It’s only available in 48 states now.

Chad: And the original formula is banned everywhere. At least we still have Red-40.

Mad: It’s a certified color.

Toasted to: Elizabeth Warren for President 2020

Rating:

Chad: 4/10 (Tastes like cough syrup)

Mad: 5/10 (It’s alright if you don’t think about it)

Fruit Punch

Chad: Nice, this one also has no natural flavor.

Mad: It looks like the Strawberry Lemonade one though. It tastes like fruit punch, but it also makes me want to gag.

Chad: I mean, this one smells like fruit punch. It’s the first one that smells like an actual beverage.

Mad: Here’s what fruit punch did: we listened to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and now we have a secret handshake.

Chad: It’s noticeably lacking the dental smell, but it’s still not good.

Mad: I’m still confused about why people drink these.

Chad: It’s about the same quality as an energy drink.

Mad: I’ve never tried an energy drink.

Chad: They’re all pretty terrible.

Toasted to: Tom Lehrer and his longevity

Ratings:

Chad: 4.5/10 (It exists)

Mad: 5/10 (Still alright if you don’t think about it)

Gold

Mad: This is the flavor that we have been holding out for all night. What do you think it will taste like?

Chad: The magical conglomeration of all human endeavor. If there are no unicorns or rainbows I will be deeply disappointed.

Mad: There is a public pool a few blocks from my house in California, and if you go swimming at night and you swim to the left staircase, and you lick the railing under the water, it tastes metallic and tingly, and that’s what I expect from Gold. Metallic and tingly.

Chad: Is the railing metal or does it just taste like metal?

Mad: All pools in southern California are lined with gold.

Chad: I literally cannot describe this drink.

Mad: I think my guess was pretty accurate. The caramel flavoring made it sweeter than I expected, though.

Toasted to: Transcending the material plane and entering the realm of the Platonic solids

Rating:

Chad and Mad: We are past the point of judgement

In spite of our best efforts, we could not get through the final three flavors, Peach, Watermelon or Sour Apple. However, our inside source in the Four Loko scene has informed us that Watermelon is “the most drinkable.” Despite being based in Chicago, Four Loko is not the drink either of us would recommend to celebrate the Cubs’ victory.

Madeleine Jackman can be reached at mjackman@umass.edu. Chad Stoughton can be reached at cstoughton@umass.edu.

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