If you’ve read anything about Four Loko recently, you’re well aware that a mere sip of the fruity, caffeinated malt liquor will immediately push you into a crack and hate-crime binge.
The chemical cocktail supposedly gets you drunker faster, making it more dangerous than conventional boozahol, which never, ever makes people act like irresponsible horses’ asses. That’s why Michigan just banned Four Loko — the so-called blackout in a can immortalized by many a rapper — and similar alcoholic energy drinks. New York will likely follow Michigan’s move, and Lower East Side chef Eddie Huang has responded by planning a $3 Four Loko party night at Xiao Ye on Thursday.
Here at Fork in Road, it seemed like a good idea to approach this polemic, epicurean enigma before it disappears permanently from dusty bodega shelves. A sampling might just remove some of its mystery, so here’s a rundown of five easy-to-find Four Loko flavors.
Make sure to be in a well-ventilated room when you crack open a 23.5-ounce can of this variety. Perhaps you should be a little wary of any beverage that gives off such a strong body-spray vibe. Bringing your lips to this can is very much like kissing someone who tries to mask low self-esteem with too much cheap cologne or perfume. Regardless, if you can get past the pungent, acrid-yet-sticky scent, a sour beer taste characterizes the concoction.
“Uva,” for the less-cultured drinkers of Four Loko, means “grape” in Spanish. How this carbonated, patent medicine-like variety has anything to do with the language of Miguel Cervantes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez — and the no-less-proud distillation tradition of cava and pisco — remains unclear. Smell-wise, uva can be excused because grape soda suffers the same over-sweet fate. Too bad it falls more into the realm of kids’ cough syrup than adult beverage.
Crisp, cool summer fun hardly characterizes this selection. Remember that scene in Problem Child 2 when Junior pisses in an empty jug and passes it off as lemonade? Maybe a mass-produced analog makes up the contents of this flashy yellow-and-black can, which costs around $3, like other Four Lokos. Low on fizz and high on similarity to rancid Country Time, vagueness overwhelms the citrus undertone: It could be any tree fruit that rotted and fell to the ground. Cranberry Lemonade
Perhaps marketed to be more nuanced or sophisticated than its plainer sibling, it would be easy to fault this version for falling short, flavor-wise. Indeed, it strikes you as more “cherry” than “cranberry” and not at all lemonade-like. Also, this offering has the same 12 percent alcohol content as the rest of its brethren, but it leaves you with a particularly sour aftertaste — one that cannot be remedied by even the strongest of cigarettes. Surprisingly, though, it ranks highest in terms of palatability if you make the mistake of ingesting it.
Like a Jolly Rancher that should attend 12-step meetings, one sip of this puts you in the shoes of someone who regularly drinks Lysol. Out of the others, which you could chug, only this overly aromatic pick truly merits the distinction of being outright undrinkable. In a perverse way, this gives the watermelon a kind of respectability: In the world of the gross, it takes pluck, character even, to be truly grotesque.