Phusion Projects Interview: Four Loko Creators Admit It Tastes Like Crap, Deny All Else
Jeff Wright, Jaisen Freeman and Chris Hunter -- that notorious trio behind the cultural phenomenon turned public enemy that was caffeinated alcopop "killer" Four Loko -- defend their product in a March interview with Fix, their first commentary since the FDA crackdown.
It's a four-page overdose of Loko biography, so, because we're almost more sick of hearing about the stuff than we are of drinking it, we've extracted the highlights. You're welcome!
• First, an idea of who these crazies really are, on the outside (not one is Latino, despite their baby's Cholo namesake):
Freeman (middle): "a hulking athlete with a Vin Diesel crew cut"Wright (left): "a barrel-chested redhead with piercing blue eyes... stiff and nervous like a court-martialed corporal."Hunter (right): "a smooth-talking charmer with a Tom Cruise grin... cool as a party host, which he in fact used to be."
• Unsurprisingly, they invented the drink because they themselves wanted to get supremely effed up, and showed an affinity for fooling zonked college kids into buying up their novelties early on:
Four Loko began with an idea first hatched by these three former college buds when they were still in their 20s. Long before they imagined launching their own brand, Wright, Freeman and Hunter had in fact been serious consumers of caffeine mixed with alcohol--at frat parties and club nights at Ohio State University. "We were our own target market," Freeman says.
In the late '90s, when they were still in college, Red Bull and vodka was the hot new concoction on campus. But before the distinctive silver-and-blue can's ubiquity, Hunter and Wright, who lived together at the Kappa Sigma house, tried to sell an original Thai version of bottled caffeine to other guys in the house. "We told everyone we were importing the stuff from abroad," recalls Wright, still amused by the deceit. "But we were buying it at the Asian grocery store down the street and selling it to our fraternity brothers at five dollars a pop."
• Most amusingly, they admit to all individually recognizing the Loko tasted terrible at first, but not having the heart to tell each other:
At the time, cherry-flavored vodkas were hot, so the boys decided to go with a cherry-berry flavor profile--ordering up samples from a flavor house in southern California. "It was awful," Wright says. "We all lied to each other, and said it tasted good. We just wanted to get something on the shelf."
• And, well, it never really stopped tasting terrible, despite a makeover: