Senator Says Caffeinated Malt Liquor Drinks Target Teens

For years, young folks have been getting their buzz on with the help of fruit-flavored malt liquor concoctions like Sparks, Joose and Four Loko. This is a fact that has apparently just come across the desk of Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, who is now asking for federal help in getting these beverages out of the mouths of babes.

“The manufacturers are deliberately trying to get young people to drink,” Schumer told the press during a weekend photo-op outside a deli in Manhattan that sells the controversial drinks.

He claims that the design and marketing of these drinks, with their misspelled names, to-the-extreme logos and bright cans — oh, and also the fact that they only cost around $2 — is intended to attract consumers who haven’t yet reached legal drinking age. To that end, he’s requested the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

Additionally, Schumer asked the Food and Drug Administration to hasten its ongoing study into the safety of mixing malt liquor with caffeine.

As one 16-year-old told the NY Daily News, “The alcohol makes you feel smooth and the caffeine makes you jittery.”

These kids today… I tell ya.

Sen. Schumer urges manufacturers to stop marketing fruity alcoholic Jooce, Four Loco drinks to kids [NY Daily News]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mike says:

    “fruit-flavored malt liquor concoctions”

    Wow. Am I the only one that thinks these drinks sound totally disgusting?

    • Chairman-Meow says:

      What do you think most “wine-Cooler” type drinks are made from ?

    • Angus99 says:

      What’s weird to me is the malt liquor + caffeine blow out combination. Two very different buzzes mixed together, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s got to make you as unstable as old nitroglycerine.

      • craptastico says:

        Red Bull and Vodka is a very trendy drink right now. i think the theory is that the caffeine keeps you from getting sleepy like you’d get off of 2 or 3 beers.

        • lukesdad says:

          I’d rather be sleepy from beer than drink that crap (and by crap, I can’t decide whether I mean the vodka, the Red Bull or both).

      • reznicek111 says:

        Caffeine and alcohol together? I’ll take a Irish Coffee any day over these drinks: it’s (mostly) natural! ;)

    • Mr. Pottersquash says:

      And you would be entirely wrong for they are DELICIOUS!!!

    • Rickdude says:


    • Alex Brewer says:

      I’m 18, and I can tell you that most of my peers hate the taste but love the drink. They’re 12%abv, which is 4 12 oz shitty beers in that 16oz. can, they cost like two bucks, and convenience stores sell them easily to underage people. Two gets you smashed, three wasted, for cheaper than beer with less volume of liquid to drink.

  2. digital0verdose says:

    Sounds like they are targeting the 30+ crowds in most low-end areas of the U.S. The areas where spelling is an issue and people get excited by bright shiny things.

    Yes this is similar to high-schoolers, but when your education is below that of a normal high schooler, what do you expect?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The areas where spelling is an issue and people get excited by bright shiny things.

      Places such as: Jonas Brothers concerts, Twilight screenings, and YouTube and IMDB forums.

      • Mike says:

        You had me at Twilight screenings.

        “ZOMG I totes wunt jakob!”

      • digital0verdose says:

        Sure, if you want to be that narrow with your profiling.

        You could also say low-wage/impoverished ares in any of the 50 states, inner cities of thousands of cities, etc.

        • Mike says:

          Uhhh, last time I checked, rich kids drank red bull and vodka in scary amounts. Sorry, but I don’t buy the connection between these drinks and the impoverished.

          • digital0verdose says:

            How are you connecting Red Bull and Vodka, a relatively expensive drink, to a $2 malt c-store purchase?

            • Gruppa says:

              Because they both contain caffeine and alcohol?

              • digital0verdose says:

                I get that, but I was talking about a specific segment of the population and along come Reb Bull and Vodka to disprove that, which it doesn’t.

                • Mike says:

                  To be fair Red Bull is relatively cheap and you can get a litre of Kavlana vodka for $7, so that is hardly expensive.

                  • Conformist138 says:

                    And not everyone drinks the name brand stuff, either. All income levels drink this stuff, not just the poor. Plenty of rich idiots are distracted by balls of tinfoil, too, so the entire argument stinks of class prejudice.

    • bigTrue says:

      You got the age right, but not the mentality. Sparx plus tastes better then Sparx, but it still tastes like ass. It tastes better then the Four brands though. My issue is that I like to drink, but a lot of the time I get sleepy on booze, so starting the night with one of these or a mixed drink containing them gets me going without the downer sleepy time.

  3. DarthCoven says:

    Kids these days… When I was a freshman in high school we’d get 40’s of Old E and choke those suckers down. None of this candy in a can nonsense. The closest we came was stuff like Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and the politicians were bitching about that back then too and have yet to do jack. Sorry Chuck, but you’re just making noise at this point. Give it up, focus on the more important stuff and let the kids have their fun.

    • Chairman-Meow says:

      Nothing finer to get you all jacked-up as a teenager than a classic 40 like Colt 45, Hef, Shlitz, etc. You woke-up face-down in the gutter the next day with a monster headache.

      Good times…..

      • Gruppa says:

        And when you wanted something sweet it was all about Boones Farm Strawberry Hill, or apple.

    • varro says:

      Sparks? F-in Mickey’s Malt Liquor!

  4. bhr says:
  5. pantheonoutcast says:

    Dear Mr. Schumer:

    It is already illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink in NY State. If you were really concerned with educating underage individuals as to the unintended disadvantages of alcohol, then perhaps you shouldn’t have cut millions of dollars from the drug and alcohol counselors’ budget in NY schools. It is not your job, nor the job of any other elected official, to monitor the behavior of individuals when it comes to smoking, drinking, eating, masturbating, or any other activity. Please stop wasting NY taxpayers’ money on such ridiculous nonsense and stay the hell out of our lives. Go balance the budget some other way. I respectfully suggest selling Staten Island to New Jersey.


    Every single person who lives in NY

    • Tim says:

      That’s all well and good, but look at tobacco legislation. Sure, it’s illegal to buy cigarettes if you’re under 18. But the tactics and products that target minors are, nonetheless, largely banned. Flavored cigarettes are banned. Advertising that could reach a predominantly minor market is banned. Television ads are banned.

      You have to look at the reality of the situation, not just the letter of the law. Yeah, people under 21 can’t drink. But if this is encouraging them to drink, what can we do about it?

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        We shouldn’t do anything about it. In fact we should lower the drinking age to 18, like other civilized countries, and abandon these arbitrary, antiquated, puritanical notions of morality.

        • Commenter24 says:

          While I tend to agree that the drinking age is too high, my fear is in the short-term repercussions that will suffer if the age is lowered now. I’m not sure that we wouldn’t see a huge surge, albeit short-term, in binge drinking and DUIs. You’d essentially be flooding the 18-21 year old market with unlimited access to alcohol and I fear the simple act of removing the “chains” would result in a big surge. That by no means totally defeats the argument, but it does concern me.

          • Megalomania says:

            Then progressively lower it over a period of time. Or impose restrictions like that you can drink at 18 but you can’t buy till 21. Once you recognize you’re doing something wrong, you don’t get to make up reasons until you can justify continuing to.

            Incidentally, I can buy my own liquor quite legally, so it’s no skin off my back (always bothers me when 19 year old alcoholics complain about the drinking age or stoners complain about marijuana laws – just no credibility in their arguments at that point)

            • MauriceCallidice says:

              The most alcohol I consumed before by 21st birthday was the residual ETOH in the homemade vanilla frosting my mom made with teaspoon of vanilla extract, and I think the drinking age should be lowered to 18.

              I also never smoked MJ, nor do I plan to, but I’m not convinced it should be illegal. (Much as I hate agreeing with the dirty hippies and Rage Against The Machine types :-) )

              • Megalomania says:

                Oh, I agree that the side effects of banning marijuana (billions of dollars spent on the “war on drugs”, giving criminals a huge market to tap into and fund other, worse ventures from) warrant actually looking into a solution other than a straight ban. I just think that furtively using it while it’s still illegal makes any argument you give look weak. Civil disobedience is about open defiance of an unjust law, not about hiding while breaking it and posting on the internet about it.

        • yusefyk says:

          On the other hand, alcohol is a poison which kills you if you drink too much, which is quite easy to do. So maybe the drinking age is appropriate at 21.

          • AI says:

            Maybe the ‘dying in the Army’ age should be raised to 21 as well to coincide

            • MauriceCallidice says:

              Also the “old enough to operate a motor vehicle on public roads” and “old enough to sit on capital murder jury” ages should be raised, if we aren’t going to lower the drinking age.

              As you suggest, it should be that either you’re legally a responsible adult or you’re not. The idea that a person can be mature enough to give his or her life for our country, or send a murderer to the gas chamber, but not old enough to decide whether to drink a beer, is ludicrous.

          • MauriceCallidice says:

            On the other hand water is poisonous if consumed in large enough quantities.


          • pantheonoutcast says:

            Yes, because at 21, the human body unlocks the “invincibility” achievement, wherein one can ingest gallons of Kerosene and Sterno without suffering any ill effects.

      • nbs2 says:

        Banning advertising to minors – fine. The flavored cigarettes – I believe there was evidence that the products had been created to attract minors, such that the underlying intent was to circumvent age restrictions.

        With this flavored liquor, I’d like to see evidence that these were created with the intent of targeting those below the legal age of consumption. Without that evidence, all I see is further restrictions on the activities of consenting adults without any Constitutional justification for doing so. That’s right, I’m bringing ConLaw into a discussion about malt liquor. “Think of the children!” doesn’t trump the ninth and tenth amendments.

  6. bhr says:

    Didn’t they try this a couple years ago with Malt drinks like Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice, ect…

  7. sanjaysrik says:

    I’ve never even heard of any of these. Man, and I thought growing up that if we got soda it was cool.

  8. nova3930 says:

    Maybe we should try mandating they be packaged in solid black cans decorated with skull & crossbones and gov’t warnings. Those will def make teenagers thing twice about wanting to get sloshed….

  9. dolemite says:

    We have so many real problems these days, yet legislators want to focus on the most absurd and meaningless ones to tackle. “Insider trading? Bailouts? Toxic assets? High unemployment? Illegal immigration? Well those are surely issues, but we’ve got to tackle the big ones first – banning foi gras, salt in food, and beer advertising. Think of the children!”

    The children will be much better if parented by people who have jobs, are mentally stable, and have their mortgage paid rather than divorced, bankrupted and suicidal.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      This is my favorite comment, ever, on a topic like this.

      I would like to buy you a fruit-flavored malt beverage.

  10. igoooorrrr says:

    I tried Joose out of curiosity once while buying some beer.

    It is without a doubt the most foul thing I have ever tasted. Sparks wasn’t bad though.

    • macdude22 says:

      Agree’d Sparks is decent ( though they no longer are the caffeinated concoctions they once were). Joose is like drunkbeatus in a can…..

      • bigTrue says:

        What? Since when is Sparx not caffinated? I just checked the can in the fridge and I believe you’re right….

        How shitty is that.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      The orange can of Joose is okay. The others are really nasty.

      My boyfriend can’t stand it if I open one near him. He says they smell like garbage leakage.
      Can’t say I don’t agree. But after he’s had 5 shots of whiskey – that’s not exactly a great smell, either. Nor does it taste good (imo).

  11. JohnDeere says:

    been drinking st. ides since it was in a luniz song when i was like 16.

  12. Venus Blue says:

    Here in Utah you can’t get these unless you go to the state run liquor store. You have to go there if you want wine also. Or beer that is normal. A six pack of St Pauli Girl, which cost me $7 in Portland costs $15 in the Utah Liquor Store. Weak.

    • nbs2 says:

      The funny thing is, I have little to no problem with state run liquor stores, and have no trouble with prices varying from locale to locale. After all, even a monopoly has to accept what the market will bear when selling a non-essential good. It’s the notion of a ban, especially at the federal level, that raises my hackles and irks me.

  13. NarcolepticGirl says:

    All this nanny law crap is really pissing me off.

    I am 30 years old, average income.
    I have tried all of these drinks. (Four Loko is NASTY).
    If the liquor stores are closed, I will sometimes purchase Sparks or the orange Joose (purple one is gross) because I do not like beer. Here in Tennessee – they only allow up to 6% (i believe) alcohol content for beer/malt. That’s annoying enough.

    Also, you need to be 21 to purchase these beverages.
    So, instead of banning it for the millions of people who drinks these that are of legal age – how about working on shitty parenting and/or the employees that sell these to underage kids.

    Kids like pirates – so let’s ban Captain Morgan products.
    In fact, let’s ban all cigarettes, all alcohol and all cars (to prevent children from driving them).

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      Also, I never drank an alcoholic beverage until I was 22.
      Or smoked until I was 25.

      That’s because I was raised correctly and had enough brains of my own.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      This. I think NY, as well as other states, should look into a simple, yet effective advertising campaign extolling the virtues of responsible parenting. It goes like this:

      (Large picture of dead or injured child due to stupid action – getting hit by a train, overdosing on huffing spray paint, lawn dart in the eye, etc), followed by the slogan:

      Parents: Do Your Job, Or Your Kid Dies. The Rest Of Us Don’t Care Anymore.

  14. Chaosium says:

    Just like kids went from smoking kreteks to regular cigarettes once the ban took into effect, kids will go from drinking the indie “alcopops” to drinking the mainstream smirnoff ice, mike’s hard lemonade, etc.

    It’s all about the big corporate bottom line, it’s not about actually changing the drinking habits of America.

    • varro says:

      Yep…..they banned cloves, but left menthols untouched. Perhaps it’s because Big Tobacco made the menthols?

  15. diasdiem says:

    Yes, because teens really need encouragement to drink alcohol.

  16. apd09 says:

    I had one of these for the first time on the recommendation of a friend, I got halfway through the can of watermelon flavor and was started to get a buzz. These things are evil.

    I will stick with the Bow and Orange, equal parts Strong Bow Cider and Mad Dog Orange Jubilee.

  17. eigenvector says:

    Jesus Christ, why do we keep electing these dumbasses? In their eyes, EVERYTHING is marketed at kids, everything aims to corrupt kids, everything is destroying American society and our freedom. It’s as if having a flashy-looking product container is solely to appeal to kids–because us grown-ups don’t respond to that. Flashy new cans and bottles are suddenly making kids want to drink more when years ago those dull old Budweiser logos didn’t? When all is said and done, it’s the contents, not the package.

    And the fact that they cost only around $2 markets them to underagers? How about people drinking on a budget? At Kroger, I could get a 22-ish ounce can of Labatt Blue for 99 cents with a Kroger card. Cans of beer are cheap, big cans are even cheaper per unit size. Whether $2 or $20, if laws regarding selling to underage kids are respected, this isn’t anymore of an issue than any of dozens of other alcoholic drinks.

  18. smo0 says:

    Boones Farm anyone? how about a Zima!

    LoL… high school kids…. so adorable with their underage “drinking.”

    • Annika-Lux says:

      I’m pretty sure they don’t even make Zima anymore. But that was definitely my first “alcoholic” beverage at 14 years of age. Now ten years later, I’ve moved on to Jameson and 100 proof SoCo.

  19. pjorg says:

    My wife knew a girl in college who bought some energy drinks at the grocery store because she had chemistry lab early in the morning. She always wondered why people looked at her so strangely when she walked in drinking them, until the TF finally approached her and asked her to seek help.

    Apparently she bought a pack of these caffeinated alcohol drinks, and didn’t even know the difference. But she did wonder why she felt invigorated, but also kind of down…

  20. Plinkey says:

    Soon enough it’ll be a illegal in NY to buy a 40 of OE and Orange Juice at the same time. Or have both in your possession because you might make a brass monkey.

  21. Miz_Ivy says:

    What, just because this douche think kids *might* like these things, I, as an adult well over the legal drinking age, am not allowed to have them either?

    Not that I do want to drink them (they sound nasty), but if its legal for me to buy them, I should be able to buy them.

  22. SpiderPaintingDollars says:

    I’m a recent hs grad. Here’s the thing, I’ve never heard of any of those horrible sounding drinks, and neither have many of my friends. I’m not sure who _is_ drinking this, but I bet it’s not high school kids. One more thing: since when did the whole misspelled names and bright designs with “to the extreme” logos B.S. become the default for what everyone thinks attracts high schoolers? That always really annoyed me mostly because it isn’t true.

  23. RobertBaron says:

    Bring back Ripple goddamnit!

  24. donopolis says:

    Wait, being alcoholic beverages…why are we not going after the people providing booze to kids?

  25. crunchberries says:

    Sounds like Schumer’s just trolling for attention because the State Assembly’s in recess and he’s got nothing better to do.

    • Commenter24 says:

      Charles Schumer is a United States Senator, not a state senator. Thus, the State Assembly’s schedule wouldn’t really affect him much.

  26. Groanan says:

    So? Is there a law against teens drinking alcohol?
    … oh wait there is. Damn nanny state.
    Age of consent to have sex in some states: 16
    Age to join the Military (without parents permission) and serve in combat: 18
    Age to enjoy a caffeinated malt liquor concoction: 21


    The Federal government should not be allowed to impose the 21 year drinking age on States in exchange for highway money. It is highway robbery!

  27. Daniellethm says:

    Sparks tastes too disgustingly sweet to be any good. I first tried it when I was around 15-16, tossed the can, and went back to hard liquor.

    I drank a lot as a teenager, maybe too much, but after much face time with the porcelain god I cut back. Now (@22) I drink maybe once or twice a month, and almost never more than 3-4 drinks in an evening.

  28. Snaptastic says:

    I kinda figured they were targeting college students. Back when I was working on my Masters degree, I practically wet myself over this combination when I discovered Sparks. Caffeine to keep me energized and working, booze to dull the agony of writing.

  29. Disgustipater says:

    Someone left a can of JOOSE in our fridge from a poker game and I am terrified to even touch it.

  30. coren says:

    It’s alcohol – kids can’t buy that. It’s like saying you’re marketing heroin to…well, anyone.

    And I hate to break it to the Senator, but there’s a lot of 21+ who spell like complete morons – that ain’t limited to the HS crowd.

  31. da34amadeo says:

    Kids will do what they do .Which is what ever they can get away with .Theres no point in punishing the adults who dont break the rules .I dont know how a kid would get these drinks unless an adult somewhere was buying it for them .In most convience store any alchoholic drink being rung up brings up a prompt on the register to ask for id .An you have to confirm you have verified there age before it will ring up.Well theres alway lazy cashier who just hit yes an assume they are old enough but they must not value there jobs.No store wants to risk losing there liquor licence for your lazyness .Plus you can go to jail .