Four Loko's potent mix of caffeine and alcohol was blamed for multiple deaths, and the fruity drink bit the dust last year after lawmakers demanded it be pulled from shelves. But a number of boozy descendants have since popped up — from alcoholic whipped cream in a can to "adult chocolate milk." But a new Pabst malt liquor with the catchy moniker "Blast by Colt 45" is perhaps Loko's most powerful progeny yet. Blast promises the alcoholic effect of five beers in one 23.5-ounce can, and it has one selling point Four Loko could never claim: Rapper/publicity hound Snoop Dogg is one of the beverage's prominent endorsers. (See a promotional video here.) Lawmakers say Snoop's involvement, along with the drink's bright colors and fruity flavors, is proof that Pabst is marketing to underage drinkers. Here's a brief guide to the controversy:
What's in this drink?
It's a malt liquor that boasts 12 percent alcohol content, more than twice the amount of booze in most garden-variety beers. One Blast is equivalent to almost five servings of alcohol (which, if consumed within one hour, constitutes binge drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Like Four Loko, Blast comes in a variety of youth-friendly flavors such as grape, raspberry watermelon, blueberry pomegranate, and strawberry lemonade.
How big is the backlash?
A group of 18 officials led by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote a letter to Pabst, calling its product "binge in a can," and urging it to reduce the number of alcohol servings in each container and to stop marketing to teens. "Alcohol abuse among young people is a serious and alarming epidemic," Madigan wrote. "A product like this only serves to glamorize alcohol abuse and promote binge drinking, threatening the safety of those consuming it."
Has Pabst responded?
Chief marketing officer Jon Sayer says that "our marketing efforts for Blast are focused on conveying the message of drinking responsibly. To that end, the alcohol content of Blast is clearly marked on its packaging." And Daren Metropoulos, owner of the company, told The New York Times that "it’s not like our distributors are putting it in the soda section, and these are clearly designated as an alcoholic product." Still, one musician has apparently taken the backlash to heart. The rapper Talib Kweli yanked Blast as a sponsor from his April 20 show in Kansas, though he did not explain why.