Jay Cheshes takes a break from eating for Time Out to talk to the founders of Four Loko for The Fix. This must-read examines how the caffeinated cocktail in a can came to be and just what led to its downfall (which, of course, is exactly what has been responsible for its notoriety and ongoing success — the caffeine-free version is a top seller). Jeff Wright, Jaisen Freeman, and Chris Hunter say that, as frat boys, they were their own target market. After a year of silence, the three speak up, sharing horror stories of being demonized and stalked by the press, and having their product associated with everything from teen deaths to gay bashing to date rape. But they don’t come across as apologetic, exactly. In fact, you could say they’re quite the opposite of sorry for anything.
According to Freeman, it never occurred to them that 24 ounces of 12 percent alcohol combined with caffeine could pose a problem:
“Historically the data was there. … Just look at the history: Irish coffee, Jack and Coke, Red Bull and vodka.”
Wright says, if anything, they were the victims:
“We tried to keep a low profile, but we couldn’t stay out of the news. You’ve spent five years of your life, you’ve got 70 employees, selling a perfectly legal product, and all of a sudden you’re under all this scrutiny. It’s extremely stressful.”
Hunter compares his product with others:
“We drank our product, we know it’s like any other alcohol. … If you consume something responsibly you’re fine, if you don’t you’re not fine, and I don’t care if that’s Bud Light, Smirnoff vodka or Four Loko.”
To be honest, it’s hard to read the piece and not come away with a deeper appreciation for and understanding of the boys behind the blue-and-silver cans. But, hey, we were never mad at those guys to begin with.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 26, 2011