How To Drink Four Loko (Sort of) Responsibly


Over the past month, college campuses have started to ban or otherwise reduce availability of the increasingly popular Four Loko. The combination stimulant and depressant has led to hospitalizations amongst college-aged binge drinkers. But for mature fun-seekers, the drink isn’t just for rappers any more: it can be a cost-effective way to feel the euphoric effects of far more expensive drugs in the midst of this Great Recession.

On Friday night, after discovering that the Barcade in L.A.’s Koreatown is unrelated to the one in Williamsburg, we sat down at a diner to eat french fries and drink more beers. As I was making poor ordering decisions (stay away from the BBQ beef sandwich), my friend Cate mentioned that she enjoyed the “Premium Malt Beverage with Artificial Flavors • Guarana • Taurine • Caffeine and FD&C; Red #40.”

My girlfriend Nicole mentioned that I was also familiar with the drink. She recounted the story of her first week in grad school, wherein I solo’dly drank a Fruit Punch flavored Four Loko and accompanied her to a laid-back party. At some point in the evening the party became entirely silent. I had screamed, “I HATE YOU MOM, WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THIS TO ME!”

If my girlfriend were any less cool, that antic may have resulted in the termination of our relationship, but luckily she thought it was funny. She also knew that my craziness was the direct result of the 23.5 fluid ounces of the heavily caffeinated 12.0% alcohol elixir.

That wasn’t the only time I’d experimented with the drink. This summer, I went to a metal show at a party store under the JMZ in Bushwick. I drank Lokos with my loco friend who’d previously invented the 32 Ounce Dunkin’ Donut’s Irish Coffee. (Combine one large Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee with a a pint of Irish Whiskey and a hint of Bailey’s.)

After that Four Loko encounter, we walked around Brooklyn sloppily drunk but surprisingly coherent. I remember going to a Mexican bar that turned into an underground strip club, and that later it took me 25 minutes to unlock the front door to the apartment. The morning after I felt like I was coming down from drugs. Because, I was coming down from drugs. (Four Lokos = drugs.) That day I patronized several toilets at two Whole Foods locations in Manhattan.

I might be crazy but I like Four Loko. Mostly because I think that knowingly ingesting something that makes you “feel like shit” is totally funny.

So, at that restaurant in L.A., the people at the table agreed that we should all drink Lokos together. “Four Loko Con” had officially been organized. It would take place the following night, and would be strictly BYOFL.

* * *

En route to the Four Loko Convention, we stopped at a liquor store that had run out of the drink, but did sell Nicole’s favorite cookies from Guatemala. We continued to the liquor store on Sunset and Silverlake, the one that a popular buzzband named themselves after. We bought the store’s three remaining Four Lokos, all “watermelon” flavored.

Armed with our flavored-brewskis, we walked the rest of the journey discussing our fears at how the beverage might affect us.

The crew from the previous night was already assembled. The host finished watching Billy Elliot while making an appropriate mixtape for FourLokoCon.

We joined the organizing committee at the dinner table and discovered that the Watermelon flavor was surprisingly tasty. Charley offered us straws. Straws don’t work. I lost four inside the container before I opted to just sip from the can.

We talked “Loko math.” If a Four Loko contains 23.5 ounces and is 12% alcohol, how many drinks is one Loko?

I supposed that one Loko was “equivalent to 1.5 beers and a Red Bull.” The experts back in Bushwick responded online with a better formula:

one Loko is Lk=[(%ABV)(oz)]/.705
the energy is factored in as ‘magic’.

So a ‘Loko’ is a reasonable unit of measure which should be used to objectively analyze an evening’s fun.

That night I would have 6 Lokos worth of fun.

* * *

More people arrived. They’d bought out the grocery store’s entire supply of Four Loko.

Everyone got a little thizz-faced. First impressions of the drink were described as “this tastes like cleaning product and Jolly Rancher.”

The convention reached quorum and my memory started to become hazy.

Someone said “Josh looks like he entered another dimension.” Later, Facebook albums would reveal this to be true.

While I was dancing, I took note of other’s reactions. Joel’s face became flush and he announced that he’d won the “Hapa redness competition.” Laysa belted out freestyles. Nicole fell onto the floor laughing. Andrea taught me about macroeconomics. Mike made fun of Nicole’s Guatemalan cookies. Girls started tackling boys. People kibbitzed about the future of news, and the role of race in the arts. Someone cried, then proceeded to breakdance. Halloween candy was thrown into the air. Everyone was singing. It probably looked like some Ken Kesey-ian Acid Test.

Nicole and I left to check out a party across the street. We didn’t know anyone there but we managed to eat a platter of crackers. Nicole wanted to take their container of hummus, but I was convinced that the guy who’d just walked in was planning to kick my ass, and I decided that we needed to leave immediately.

Back at FourLokoCon HQ, a girl started to gnaw on my beard while simultaneously attempting to bite my girlfriend’s nipple. People were being dragged home. The party started to dissipate. We found a ride. I walked into my house, and passed out on the couch.

The next morning I woke up with no hangover, and no qualms about the night before. Photos were already on Facebook by 10 a.m. Consensus was in: everybody had fun at FourLokoCon. Everyone survived.

* * *

As a professional on the subject of flavored malt liquor, I have two points of advice:

1. Use the drink responsibly. The reports of hospitalization among college students is related to their overconsumption. Just because the drink is called Four Loko does not mean you should drink four of them (that’s 16 “Lokos” of fun, bro, and that is not fun.)

2. If you’re inspired to drink these dranks, do so ASAP. The signs seem clear: we’re probably going to be facing a national moratorium on Four Loko, reminiscent of the Great Sparks Purge of 2008. Drink them — with some caution — with friends at your own Four Loko conventions while you can. Or, maybe better: just save them as collectables for your grandchildren.

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Another Night Out In Koreatown

On Friday we walked to a taco truck that Jonathan Gold wrote about. After buying a counterfeit copy of Scott Pilgrim from behind the truck, we walked south down Western into Koreatown. We bought 7-11 brand beers and chugged them in the entrance to a church parking lot.

We had heard there was a bar around the corner named Barcade. My pan-coastal sensibilities made me wonder if that bar was related to the one on Union. Google Maps said this one was closed but a group of guys in their early twenties wearing Starter caps smoked cigarettes outside the entrance.

We walked inside and saw that the bartender was serving aguardiente and Colombian rum. We each ordered these drinks to commemorate our time on the Caribbean outside of Santa Marta. Another bar patron told us that the bartender was the leader of a popular Los Angeles cumbia band.

The bar (unrelated to the one in Williamsburg) had Rampage and Ms. Pac Man. The Playboy pinball machine ate my quarter. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back Nicole was talking to an “artsy” couple across the table. They were here because the DJ deejayed their wedding.

I asked the artist questions that made me seem like an LA douchebag, because he answered them negatively: “oh do you get to travel a lot with your art?”

It sounded like I was measuring his success based on where his art was shown, but really I just don’t know what kind of questions to ask artists, and travel is something I’m interested in.

The married couple left to dance, and Nicole and I tried to figure out if we should head to an empty party in Echo Park, when I received a text.

“Look next to the rampage machine. I’m looking lasciviously at you. 3 way?”

It was Charley, Cate, and Andrea friends we hadn’t seen in weeks.


We went outside to chug our second 7-11 beer. Joel woke up from a post-Happy Hour nap and met us around the corner.

We walked back inside. I bought two rum and cokes. Joel loaned me 2 bucks for tip. Behind the counter two new bartenders seemed to be investigating the alcohol supply. I noticed a badge, and a distressed look on the original bartender’s face. He continued serving drinks but asked us each three itmes what our orders were.

The cops left and he regained his calm. We continued to drink $5 (non-Colombian) rum and cokes.
Food was still on our mind as four tacos (and a huge bite from Nicole’s torta) were not enough. So we walked to “Biergarten” a Korean vision of Oktoberfest. We’d been there several months before for 1¢ pitchers of PBR and “drunken chicken.”

The restaurant was closed so we went to Piper’s, a Middle American diner that opened in 1964 but whose menu has adapted to the neighborhood.

The five of us ordered more beer and french fries. I made the mistake of ordering the sliced bbq sandwich because it wasnt very good. I was tricked into ordering this because I like the prospect of free garden salads.

TVs Thrown at Me This Week

We’d been drinking since Happy Hour at that Korean Pirates of the Caribbean on Wilshire. We guzzled 5000cc’s of Amber Ale, and dined on authentic cuisine: “tteokbokki” and “potato skins.” Post-Happy Hour pricing pushed us on to the streets. We decided to regroup at a home-base off Franklin.

We drank whiskey shots and warm beer on the breezy patio. Our friends were at that bar-that-offers-free-tacos-with-every-drink. The house descended on to the watering hole recently annexed by the hip-seeking Manifest Destiny of gentrification. Friends from varied areas of my life crowded into a corner of the cantina.

Claustrophobia and the appeal of the dance-floor inspired our crew to leave immediately. A dozen of us
marched towards the next bar. We could not organize the group into camping chants or drinking songs. Mutual best friends responded positively to each other.

The line to the bar was so long. It almost went as far back as the bacon-wrapped hot dog vendor.

We wanted to get drunk, but we did not want to wait to enter the bar. So we sought a better solution. Make our own party.

We crossed the street without the support of the people. Our revolutionary spirit pushed us onward towards the strip mall.

“They will follow us once we hit the liquor store.”

Now backed by a small constituency, we entered the store and purchased one 12-pack of Tecate and a small package of Sour Skittles.

We had the beer, now we needed a location. One faction suggested the park, another pointed to the stairs.

We were very drunk, and the park was very far away, so we reunified under the banner of the stairs.

We were loud. We yelled at everyone we passed.

“Join us!”

In this moment we were creating a world that was not concerned about open-container policies or public drunkenness. A planet where absolute strangers have everything in common.

Students from the state college joined us on the steps. They could not believe this action was taking place

We handed a beer to anybody that passed.

We met people from every part of segregated Los Angeles. Latino Skateboarders from South Central joined us. It was such a peaceful moment of unity between people who would never regularly interact.

A beautiful moment on the grimy steps above Sunset.

“What the fuck?!”

An 18-inch television avalanched down the staircase. We were attacked with completely unexpected TV violence.

This instantaneous disaster caused panic. Our crowd escaped down the steps or dove out the way. The TV stopped toppling a few feet above us. Everyone was okay, minus glass in our newly sock-less summer shoes.

Nobody could believe any of this happened. This impromptu gathering was halted by spontaneous violence. This was an apt way for this utopian moment to end.

We struggle towards an ideal that can only last a moment, before it is replaced by something less ideal… a tumbling television.

Walking in LA 5/29/10

Out the door my goal was to get a lemon popsicle. I knew they only sell lime. A Latin couple walked by. It made me think about how I don’t see white people in this neighborhood.

I walked to the bodega and bought a bubblegum popsicle. They didn’t have lemon.

I spoke the first two sentences in Spanish, then asked in English what Kevin Bacon movie the store’s owner was watching.

He didn’t know, but it was good.

I walked to the light. I crossed the street to the east because that corner had a trash can. I threw my wrapper into the receptacle. At that moment a beaten up Trailblazer pulled up and deposited the contents of a Yoshinoya bag into the garbage.

I wondered if Yoshinoyas are common in this neighborhood because Latinos like Japanese beef bowls.

Across the street I noticed the nursery that sells ceramic pots was open. It was the first time I’d seen anybody inside.

I walked in front of the McDonald’s and thought about all the people who live in this neighborhood that feel guilty about going there. I wondered if more people feel guilty about eating that food because it is unhealthy, or because it’s food for “poor people.”

Dozens of fliers for raves were strewn beneath the Elliott Smith memorial wall.

I jaywalked across the intersection. I passed an expensive coffee shop. A black busker was playing the saxophone. I smiled at him. He asked if I could spare change. I didn’t have any change.

I passed an upscale vegan restaurant. I wondered how guilty those people would feel if they were spotted at the McDonald’s.

Across the street a white homeless man in a wide-brimmed hat was wearing a soccer jersey, with a flannel tied around his waist.

I walked up a steep hill. I said “hello” as old people passed by. They were receptive. I pretended that they were taken back to a simpler time, when people regularly greeted each other on the street. Maybe that time never existed.

It made me think about possible futures where being friendly to everyone could exist. I started to think about our bankrupt culture.

I internally ranted about how we should create a culture based solely on passion. No jobs, just people doing the things they are passionate about. Chores would be shared.

I used the word ‘bankrupt’ again. I was disappointed by the repetition, and stopped thinking about utopias.

I checked out the familiar rummage sales in the blocks surrounding the city college. I bought a heavy metal distortion pedal from an abuelita.

I wanted to see what building that pitched roof was. I passed a gang of skateboarders carrying a fluorescent light bulb.

An tamale vendor glared at me when I didn’t want to buy his product. A kid on the street said “sup bro.”

Gang tags were written onto six-foot-high stoops. I thought this neighborhood would make me feel uncomfortable if it were dark. I wondered if the artists living on the corner felt the same way. Or if my fear was overly hyped. Maybe I’d be welcomed into a gang.

Asian girls wearing second-hand Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts crossed the street. I thought about the variety of customers at thrift stores.

Across the street five chicks pecked at bird seed. That’s urban farming out of necessity.

The Ukrainian convalescent home looked like a decent place to live if you were old and could speak the language.

Around the corner I watched  a group of men ride a motorcycle into the bed of a truck.

If you walk around my neighborhood, you’ll see a lot of things.


I first heard of flavortripping last summer. I read an article in the New York Times about a substance that altered tastes of reality. People were going to underground parties for the experience. At these parties they would consume Synsepalum dulcificum, the Miracle Fruit. Once eaten, the fruit tells your taste buds to taste things differently. It makes everything sweeter sweeter.

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