If you’ve aged out of the college party scene, you may be confused about why you’ve seen so many photos and videos of college students carrying around gallon jugs full of pastel-colored liquids and adorned with witty slogans. Ladies, gentlemen and non-binary folks, behold the borg, also known as a “black out rage gallon.” Gen-Zers are forgoing the hunch punch that likely primed much of my generation for diabetes and are instead opting for this homemade mixture of cobbled-together liquids.
But what’s actually in these jugs? Read an explainer from your local news, and you may assume the worst. (These outlets always seem to want to cause an uproar in overly concerned helicopter parents.) In reality, it’s usually a pretty simple mixture: water, liquor (generally vodka—these are college kids, remember?), liquid IV and some sort of flavoring, often MiO.
When everyone at a party is carrying around a plastic jug of colored liquid, it would be understandably easy to set your drink down somewhere only to forget which one was yours, which is ostensibly why some drinkers decide to name their borgs. They’re generally clever: The Gettysborg Address, Borg-anized crime and Demiborgon are some of my favorites.
Does this beverage sound appealing to me in any way? No. But I’ve been out of college for a while, and I’m boring. Also, I can legally buy a drink at a bar. However, I totally get how this could be a smart way to drink. As some have pointed out, because borgs have caps on them, it’s much more difficult for someone to slip something into your drink, which has historically been a huge problem on college campuses. And in light of the pandemic, it makes sense to drink from a personal container rather than dipping your used Solo cup into a communal punch bowl.
The first few times that I was plagued with absolutely miserable hangovers in college, it’s because I forgot how important it was to continue drinking water throughout the night; I was too focused on having a good time. But by combining water with their alcohol, borg drinkers may just have less of a need to drunkenly wander around a frat house looking for a clean Brita to drink from (or go to the bathroom just to drink straight from the sink—I may or may not have done this myself). Add the liquid IV into the mix, and Gen Z may just have found a better way of avoiding hangovers than chugging two Diet Cokes at the Del Taco drive-thru (I’ve definitely done this; I was not the one driving).
That being said, binge-drinking in any context isn’t great, and just because drinkers are mixing their vodka with water doesn’t mean they’re necessarily drinking in a safer way. Borg or no borg, college students need access to resources to help them learn about about safer consumption.
If you’ve never made your own borg, you may be turned off by the idea of sipping lukewarm artificially flavored vodka water in the middle of the day. But think back to the way you drank when you were 21, and I think the appeal of the borg is obvious. I, for one, am personally bummed that I never got to name my own borg.
Someday, borg drinkers are likely to graduate to the $15 craft cocktails that seem to be ubiquitous in nearly every major city’s bars, trading in their MiO- and vodka-spiked water gallons first for ultra-sweet lemon drops and then whatever chartreuse- or Campari-containing cocktail happens to be trendy at the time. In the meantime, let’s let them bask in the glory of this clever, hopefully safer iteration of the age-old Jungle Juice.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.