The energy drink-to-hard seltzer pipeline
"You may now punch the drywall"
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Rockstar Energy is planning to make hard seltzer, because everything is hard seltzer now. As tweeted by intellectual lawyer Josh Gerben, Pepsi (which bought the gamer-friendly energy brand for almost $4 billion in March 2020) recently registered trademarks to make “alcoholic malt beverages” under the ROCKSTAR brand name:
Hell yeah, folks. Only a matter of time now before more energy drink brands roll out flavored malt beverages. Call it the energy drink-to-hard seltzer pipeline. It makes sense! The same people guzzling White Claw and Truly by the 12-pack already look to non-alcoholic brands like Rockstar to get themselves through the sober portions of their day. Take those same already-popular styles, swap the caffeine for sugar- or malt-based booze to avoid the FDA’s ban-hammer, run it through the same proven marketing playbook, and voila—you’ve got yourself a nice little chunk of the $4.5 billion and growing hard seltzer segment.
Beloved non-alc brands have already started testing these waters: see Heineken x AriZona, Bang Energy MIXX, and Topo Chico (a Molson Coors x Coca-Cola endeavor.) With existing customers who love colorful packaging, creative (if deeply unnatural) flavors, and buying stuff in gas stations, energy drink brands seem particularly well-suited to make the soft-to-hard jump. In Rockstar’s case, Pepsi has had front-row seats to the MIXX rollout thanks to its at-times-litigious distribution relationship with Bang’s parent company, VPX, so it’s got some recent expertise. Plus Rockstar already markets a vodka-based product in Canada (at a particularly nice ABV, no less), so it’s not like the brand has any insurmountable reservations about cannibalizing its energy bona fides by adding alcohol to the formula:
There’s no word yet on when Rockstar’s alcohol-ified offerings will hit U.S. shelves, or what it will look like when it does. Stay tuned on that. While we wait, here’s a thought: Pepsi’s arch-rival, Coke, owns a stake in Monster Energy. Will Rockstar’s FMB aspirations open up a bold new front in the raging hard seltzer wars between deep-pocketed energy brands vying for the beer money of flat-brimmed F-150 lift-kitters? God, I hope so.
A relevant meme
This one has rattled around the internet for awhile, and I’m almost positive the account above is not the original, but you get the idea.
Natty wine more like fratty wine, amirite?!
Actual fights > sulfites.
Source call: Law & Order: SVU’s “Five Crazy” moment
Speaking of heart attack-inducing FMBs, my tweet about Rockstar’s designs on the category garnered a response about “Five Crazy.” I had to look this up, but apparently one of the minor plot details in Law & Order: SVU’s Season 14 finale was an energy/alcohol drink modeled after Four Loko called, yes that’s right, “Five Crazy.”
I’ve watched a fair amount of SVU in my day, but I have no recollection of this. I couldn’t find any clips in which the fictional beverage shows up, and it rated just two quick asides in an apparently exhaustive write-up of the episode on AllThingsLawandOrder dot blogspot dot com (emphasis mine throughout):
Rollins finds drugs and Fin asks if Lewis has a habit and Jose says besides hurting people, and shows his bandaged burned hand. Rollins finds a can of “Five Crazy” and Fin comments they don’t sell that in New York anymore and Jose says yeah they do.
Later, Fin and Rollins wait in the car outside the store and Rollins says the bodega owner ID’d Lewis who comes in to try to steal his Five Crazy but hasn’t seen him since Sunday.
SVU heads, do you remember this? Is Five Crazy a thing in other episodes, or just this one? Hunting for more, I came across a 2016 series review in The Observer, which makes reference to the writers’ extremely lazy Four Loko knock-off, and also butt-chugging:
The Ariel Castro episode features such illuminating exposition as Ice-T saying “this is like Ariel Castro.” There is also a villain who uses a drink called Five Crazy to get amped up for crime, which I think is supposed to be a fictionalization of Four Loko but that’s actually a real thing (it’s where you pour a Five Hour Energy Drink into a Four Loko and then butt-chug it while that “shut up and dance with me” song is playing).
Not illuminating, but not not illuminating! Anyway, if you’re a Christopher Meloni head who remembers Five Crazy, by all means, get in touch.
Recent writing elsewhere
I’ve been pretty slammed with other (paid) work lately, which combined with some personal stuff, has forced me to set aside Fingers for a bit. Some of that work has been published, with more to follow soon. On that note, here are a few of VinePair stories I’m delighted to share with you:
Chasing ‘Phantoms of the Past’: 8 Gay and Lesbian Bar Archivists on Preserving LGBTQ+ Nightlife History
Tequiza Sunset: A History of Anheuser-Busch’s Agave-Infused Corona Killer That Wasn’t
As Allegations of Harassment and Abuse Send Shock Waves Through the Craft Beer Industry, Will Workers Take Action?
More coming in short order. If you’re an editor interested in working with me, feel free to inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.