Two years ago last Monday, we lost Four Loko. To some, the loss was imperceptible. The replacement cans looked the same and the drink tasted the same, but the new Four Loko lacked those key ingredients that made it special to so many of us. During the cold winter that followed, we checked every can in all the corner stores in town, desperate for those three words: caffeine, taurine, guarana. At first, it was easy to find the original drink we had grown to love and rely on. But come summertime, those of us who had stocked up ran out. Even Craigslist and eBay were dry. So-called “Faux Loko” recipes weren’t the same. We were left with the memories, which I share with you below.
I miss purchasing the Four Loko. Not only the monetary transaction and the exchange with the cashier (they’d usually crack a smile), but also the activity of going to get the drinks. Rather than buying them in bulk or far in advance, we preferred to wait until the start of the night, piling into a car and driving to the 7-Eleven near campus, blasting Top 40 radio all the way there and all the way back. We’d make a beeline for the stuff, ignoring the taquitos in the rotisserie and heading straight to the back wall of refrigerators, glowing in the night.
I miss opening the can. That cuh-tss. It wasn’t like opening a regular can of beer or soda. It was louder and the tab needed more force between our fingers. The sound would cut across the party and signal that it was time to get weird, that the night had begun.
I miss that first sip. The moment when the taste of the metallic can changed to watermelon or fruit punch or grape. No matter how many times we had Four Loko, that first sip always got us, hitting the tongue and making its way down the throat. Mmm, that’s the stuff, we’d always think.
I miss the way people looked at us when we held those bad boys, our hands gripping the tall cans with their colorful camouflage design. It was never the whole party that partook in the Lokos, just the select few people looking to get cray. The elite. Everyone else would give us that look, like, “Oh, so you’re having one of THOSE nights,” outwardly facetious, inwardly impressed. We fed off of the people watching us and it added to the drink’s effect.
I miss the absolutely maniacal state the Loko put us in. There’s no other drink like it. We didn’t act like normal, very drunk people. We acted like participants on Wild & Crazy Kids, if they had been given unlimited resources, no rules, and a bunch of crack cocaine.
I miss the morning after, waking up at 7:30 a.m. despite having gone to sleep only two hours earlier. Lying in bed with what I call the Loko Shakes. We’d first take inventory of our body parts, then of our personal belongings. We’d spend several hours texting everyone in our phone contacts, “Umm… what happened last night?” It always took days to piece together the entire night, and friends’ accounts created more questions than they answered. “We found you alone in the woods trying to hook up with a deer,” they’d say. A week later, when the local pizza deliveryman was still offering new details on the night, we’d close our eyes and give a subtle nod to the higher powers at work, the makers of Four Loko.