As someone whose college years intersected with the heyday of Four Loko, it’s hard not to greet the news that the company is getting into the hard seltzer game with anything but queasiness fueled by memories of the now legendary original formula.
That concoction somehow crammed 60 grams of sugar, 12 percent alcohol, and 156 mg of caffeine into a 23.5 ounce can. It tasted like candy, and the caffeine forestalled the drowsiness that alcohol naturally causes. That enabled its fans to consume eight or even 12 Loko in a given night, producing some bad decisions and miserable hangovers.
Because it was fun and dumb, parental types rallied against the drink, and the brand eliminated the caffeine under pressure in 2010. Without the stimulant, there was nothing to differentiate it from the myriad other sugary, boozy canned drinks available at your local convenience store.
But now, Four Loko is trying to reenter the cultural conversation by joining in on the biggest trend in alcohol—hard seltzer—and, true to form, doing it even harder than everyone else.
Hard Seltzers ran so we could fly pic.twitter.com/g5ilBIyhl4
— Four Loko (@fourloko) August 13, 2019
Meet Four Loko Sour Seltzer, a just-announced addition to the space with a very different flavor—sour “with a hint of blue razz”—and a way higher ABV that its competitors.
Established brands like Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer (4.5 percent), Truly (5 percent), White Claw (5 percent), and Smirnoff (4.5 percent) are much, much tamer. Newer entrants from Natural Light (6 percent) and PBR (8 percent) are a bit boozier but don’t come close to Four Loko Sour Selter’s 14 percent.
The original Four Loko made itself stand out by combining caffeine and alcohol in the same can, and the company is betting that by nearly doubling the ABV of its closest competitor its seltzer can stand out in a way that won’t make Chuck Schumer mad at them.
The choice to be aggressive worked for the company before, and it’s betting that a whole new generation of drinkers who have already bought into the hard seltzer craze will find “the hardest seltzer in the universe” impossible to resist.
And for those of us who were around for part one of the Four Loko revolution, Sour Seltzer is a chance to indulge in some curiosity and nostalgia for a simpler, more inebriated time.