It was late August. The time was 7 a.m. The occasion was Beach Day. As I entered a quaint dépanneur in the Milton-Parc neighbourhood to stock up on alcohol before heading to the bus, I was immediately struck by the brightly coloured cans neatly aligned in a fridge in the center of the small shop. The flashy green, pink, blue, and yellow cans beckoned to me from across the room. Having never actually seen—much less consumed—one before, I would soon learn that these cans held the infamous Four Loko, an alcoholic drink that divides partiers into two camps: Die-hard fans and huge critics.
But my journey with Four Loko would soon be over. Four months later, on Dec. 6, 2017, the Quebec government alongside Embouteillages Solar, the drink’s Quebec manufacturer, decided to pull Four Loko from shelves in deps and grocery stores as it contains a substance that can only legally be sold at the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ).
“Embouteillage Solar announces the recall of Blue Spike Beverage products from grocery store shelves for the reason that these products contain ethyl alcohol rather than malt fermentation alcohol,” Louis Aucoin, Communication strategist at TESLA RP, a Montreal-based public relations firm, stated in the official recall. “The substitution of these two ingredients has no effect on the alcohol content or the quality of the products. However, the use of ethyl alcohol does not comply with the regulation that only beer, cider, wine or artisanal products may be marketed at food retailers.”*
Whether you’re a first or fourth-year McGill student, it is hard to imagine life post-Four Loko. These drinks overtook pre-ing culture and seemed to have become a staple purchase for nights out. Its 11.9 per cent alcohol content is only one of the many reasons the drink is so popular among students. Four Loko is cost-efficient, priced at around $4, and lasts most consumers all night, meaning one can carry it around with more security than a six-pack.
In addressing the controversy of the recall, some McGill students expressed gratitude for its promotion of healthier drinking habits—Four Loko and other caffeinated alcoholic drinks were once known to pose a risk of heart irregularities, until they were reformulated in 2010.
“It’s honestly for the benefit of everyone,” Mathilde Hourticq, U1 Arts, said. “Four Lokos are disgusting, there are so many tastier ways to get drunk.”
Other students hold drastically different opinions on the banning of Four Loko. Some reminisce about the impact these sugary drinks have had on their most special memories.
“Last time I was happy, I was drinking Four Loko,” Joe Duva, U1 Arts said. “It was the winter of 2015, truly one of the most bitter cold winters I’ve lived through. I had just dug out my elderly neighbour, Mrs. Dorothy, from 8 feet of snow, and was shivering with frostbite in front of a roaring fire I had prepared for myself. I thought I would die that day, but then my girlfriend handed me a glass of Four Loko, and, for a brief moment, I was content. I miss those days. People felt more real.”
Many loyal fans even take the Four Loko ban as a personal attack. For some, the disappearance of Four Loko seemed like saying goodbye to an old friend. To others, it felt like the end of a great love affair.
“Last night I dreamt that I was drinking a Four Loko, a crisp grape flavoured one,” Olivia Berkowitz, U1 Arts, said. “Halfway through a sip I was rudely awoken by my alarm. I don’t want to wake up to a world with no Four Lokos.”
As students cope with the loss of an old companion, the question remains: What drink to turn to next? For now, we remain in a time of mourning and grief, vowing to never forget our beloved beverage.
“There is no drink more ready to get a party going,” Matthew Barreto, U0 Arts, said.“Nothing more iconic and cheap to kick off a night with friends. Nothing that can make a person happier than their first sip of the drink that makes or breaks your night. The Four Loko. The drink of Montreal. The life blood of the party. May the drink truly rest in peace.”
* This quote has been translated from French.