Is Four Loko Hard Seltzer the End of Hard Seltzer?

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You might brown out just reading this…

Over the summer, Four Loko teased the release of its own version of hard seltzer, which thanks to White Claw, had quickly become the drink of the summer, if not the entirety of 2019. But it is now November, past the autumnal equinox, when bars are adding spiked toddies to the menu and everyone is breaking out their SAD lamps. As much one loves White Claw, it is perhaps not hard seltzer season anymore. Despite that, Four Loko has debuted its addition to the canon, even earlier than they wanted to in order to compete. Sure, it’s 12 percent ABV instead of the initially advertised 14 percent and is Black Cherry flavored instead of Blue Razz, but at least Four Loko is in the game.

Four Loko is best known for inciting the ire of Senator Chuck Schumer, who in 2014 cracked down on the beverage’s original formula. The FDA ruled that the drink couldn’t contain both caffeine and alcohol. At that point, the drink had gained a mythic reputation, even inspiring an oral history last year in New York Magazine. As for some anecdotes, maybe someone blacked out at 8pm on a Wednesday. Maybe they woke up with their clothing encrusted in a cake they didn’t remember eating. Did both of those things happen to this author? Who’s to say?

While sugary-sweet malt beverages have always found popularity with young drinkers, hard seltzer has ridden the wave of “wellness” to popularity, which Four Loko’s other sugar-packed offerings absolutely cannot swing. The brand has continued to find success internationally, but in America, its reign is firmly rooted in 2010. Its hard seltzer push feels at once a desperate attempt to stay relevant in a market that has left neon malt beverages behind, and a way to inspire nostalgia that may not yet be earned. It may be too little (or too much) too late. After all, who even knows what we’ll be drinking next summer?

And in other news…

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  • A profile of Claudia Fleming, whose cult cookbook The Last Course is being reissued. [NY Times]
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