Trying Four Loko and Joose

four loko tasting cans

So, what are we missing?

Updated: The FDA issued warning letters today to the makers of these drinks, indicating the caffeine is an "unsafe food additive."

For the last week or so, New York has been buzzing about caffeinated alcoholic beverages such Four Loko. Last week, Chuck Schumer urged the state Liquor Authority to ban the drinks. This week, the company that makes Four Loko voluntarily offered to remove the product from New York stores. Yesterday, Schumer announced the FDA would effectively ban the drinks. And then early this morning the company behind Four Loko said it's pulling the caffeine from the drinks.

Yet, with all this buzz, we hadn't talked to anyone who had -- you know -- actually tried the stuff. And while we admit, we'd never had a desire to try it before, the idea that we might not be able to made us wonder if we were missing something.

So -- while the drinks are still legal-- AOA bought a few, assembled a panel of tasters, and checked them out.

We picked up three flavors: the purple Four Loko, blueberry Four Loko and green apple Joose. All are caffeinated. All have 12 percent alcohol by volume. And they come in 23.5 ounce cans.

four loko tasting table

Joining us on our mission

Professor Fussy aka Daniel B
The mysterious Albany Jane
UAlbany student Andrew "The Big Pink Bike Guy" Franciosa

The comments

Purple (Uva) Four Loco:
four loko tasting purple
The consensus here was that the purple Four Loko tasted like Dimetapp -- but not quite as good. It started sweet and finished much tarter.

Daniel: "Cheap grape lollipop"
Andrew: "Medicinal"
Albany Jane: "Tastes better when you hold your nose."

Blueberry Four Loko
four loko tasting blue
This was the prettiest of the three. The electric blue color made us think of those freeze pops you got when you were a kid. But the taste?

Andrew: "Way harsher (than the purple), finishes horribly."
Daniel: "The bitterness creeps up on you much faster."
Albany Jane: "Tastes like cotton candy. I'd drink this if the liquor store were out of blue Mad Dog."

Green Apple Joose
four loko tasting green
This was the worst of the bunch. Not only did nobody like it, there were some hilarious visceral reactions. There was a whole lot of shuddering going on.

Andrew: "HORRID"
Daniel: "Gave me goosebumps. Not in the good way."
Albany Jane: "Aftertaste of nail polish remover. Uncontrollable twitchy eye after-sip reflex.

The overall verdict

Andrew and Albany Jane, who've tried these drinks before, say we picked some of the rougher flavors (it's all that was available at the shop we stopped in). They told us the purple Joose and the red and lemon Four Loko flavors "aren't as bad." That doesn't exactly set the bar high.

Based on what we tasted, the overall verdict was that there has to be a better (read: less gross), cheap way to get a caffeine/alcohol buzz, if that's what you're after.

But hey, taste is subjective, and if you're accustomed to drinking energy drinks, maybe you don't mind a bitter, nail-polish-y aftertaste. And if you don't mind it, you can have ours.

So, should they ban the stuff?

These drinks are pretty clearly designed to get people drunk for cheap (around $3 for the same amount of alcohol in 4-5 beers). And, let's just cut right to it: they taste terrible. Whether that's enough to merit banning them, we're not sure. It depends on whether there's solid research that shows these drinks are somehow inherently dangerous, rather than just tacky and foul. That said, we don't think we'd be sorry to see them go.

Our favorite quote of the night -- from Daniel B -- came as an answer to whether the drinks should be banned:

"No. Banning the stuff is bad. But drinking it is worse."

Earlier and elsewhere

+ Both Daniel B and Albany Jane wrote that they're skeptical about the campaign to ban these drinks.
+ AOA: Schumer: FDA will effectively ban caffeinated alcohol drinks
+ AOA: Chuck Schumer, not loco for Four Loko


Never tried the stuff, but all the buzz around them makes me curious enough to try them. Maybe this weekend I'll see if I can grab one of the "not so bad" flavors. For research purposes only, of course.

Taste-testing is one thing. To get the full effect, you should drink a whole can, or three, and see how you feel when the caffeine wears off.

Being none-too-fond of caffeinated products, I actually look forward to trying the uncaffeinated versions. I don't know how it could make them taste any worse, that's for sure.

My beverage of choice for such purposes is vodka and coffee.

Can't say that I care if they ban this schwill, but they will have to pry my double espresso Van Gogh vodka from my cold dead hands.

I'd just like to remind you that I'm always willing to sacrifice myself in the name of science.

Try it again with fruit punch. It's still not great, but its quite bearable and gets the job DONE.

Once again, I admire your dedication. I have never tried these drinks, and I don't think I ever will. Maybe just a taste, but really... there has to be better rotgut crap out there. maybe. :)

To each their own!

First Sausage Panckae Bites, now this. I suggest this become a regular weekly feature - AOA editors try some food item we're all curious about, but not brave/stupid enough to try!

Whatever happened to good ole Red Bull and Vodka? I have to admit, those two (and only two) nights were my most regrettable in all my college years, so while I don't think a law banning this crap is necessary, I do have to say that alcohol+caffiene is NOT so advisable...

I really don't expect to see anyone but college kids complaining about the ban. Adults who can afford the less horrid brands of liquor will just try something else. The kids will bitch about it.

So after drinking 2 or 3 of them, did the tasting panel throw up all over the bathroom and pass out on the floor? (the usual response from the kids who chug these, then meet me in the emergency department)

Some of the stupider things I have done have been while intaking lots of Red Bull and vodka. My belief is that I would have passed out or been too mellow to follow through with the dumb ideas, if it wasn't for the damn caffeine.

Don't forget the assemblyman who filmed himself getting wasted on Four Loko.

This ban is the best marketing campaign ever, really.

So now this ban thing even seems to be a bigger waste of time. The FDA has just sent out notices to four manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that there is a problem with their product.

Each of the manufacturers had submitted reasons why their product is generally regarded as safe. After apparently years of sitting on these GRAS statements, the FDA has repudiated the manufacturers findings.

FOURloko and the others have a short time to respond to the FDA.

To be clear the FDA is only concerned when caffeine is added to booze, rather than naturally occurring caffeine in things made from coffee or tea. My guess is that these facts may not legislate Red Bull & Vodka out of existence. Rather, I suspect it will create liability issues that will make it difficult to order it at a bar in the months and years to come.

Drink 'em while you got 'em. Or better yet, don't.
There has got to be a better, inexpensive way to get hammered.

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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