As a Midwesterner, I was weaned on swill like Old Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s Best, and, harshest of all, Old Style. Heineken was considered exotic because it was imported, we toasted with Miller High Life (“The Champagne of Beers”) instead of real champagne, and I searched all over town for the Miller Lite throwback cans because I’m a sucker for beer nostalgia. As a younger man, I proudly chugged my inexpensive beer, sometimes swapping it out for a Newcastle or Guinness if I had a few extra dollars to spare, but usually drinking something a friend refereed to as “gut rot” more often than not. When you’re young, dumb, and looking for drunken fun, drinking crap is a badge of honor. You would rather do shots of Wild Turkey than sip a single malt, and while straight Kool-Aid mix and whatever liquor you have handy might not taste especially great, it usually did the trick.
These days, I still order a High Life or Yuengling at the bar, and I got seriously defensive about this list that ranked cheap beers; but I like to think I have better tastes in terms of what I drink. That’s probably why I had one or two Four Lokos a few years back, then decided it was time to class it up a little bit; it’s also probably why I won’t mourn the the drink’s passing. I could drink cheap, but I wouldn’t drink total shit just to get drunk. Four Loko showed me that it was time to end my long history of trying new non-beer things I drank just to get wasted, a disgusting evolution that usually gave me agita, and that went like this:
1. Mike’s Hard Lemonade (1999)
This is the one I might be most embarrassed by. There is nothing “hard” about lemonade, unless you’re pouring Country Time mix straight into vodka, downing it with painkillers, then going to see a Japanese noise rock band.
2. Kahlua pre-mixed White Russians (1999-early 2000)
I’m also really embarrassed by this one. My friend and I used to buy these with a fake ID, then go drink them at this punk squat some people we knew lived at.
I still see bottles of this stuff, and I automatically hear Edith Piaf singing, “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Also, as a Jew, I was happy and shocked to find out years later that MD didn’t stand for “Mad Dog,” but “Mogen David.” So now I feel like all that puking I did after drinking this stuff was a mitzvah.
4. Sparks (2002-2003)
There was this horrible time in my life when almost every night a friend would say, “Hey, let’s go to [insert Williamsburg or Lower East Side bar here]. They have free Sparks and cheap PBR!” You’d drink this stuff, projectile vomit orange, curse your existence, then go out and relive it like you were Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
5. Four Loko (2005)
The year 2005 was a dark time in my life, one that included drinking a few cans of Four Loko. Today I look back on that time and laugh, because Four Loko looks like the booze equivalent of Guy Fieri, and is probably one of the great sins against humanity we have all ever happily chugged down. To be totally honest, Four Loko was garbage, and we’re probably better off just going back to drinking Olde English and plastic bottles of Popov if we’re all so desperate to get drunk and yell “No rules!” really loudly. All I can say to that is Goodbye Four Loko, and good fucking riddance.