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A U of M Reporter Explores BORG, the Latest Binge-Drinking Craze

What the hell is it? Why is it everywhere? How dubious are the health claims? What should I name mine?

8:09 AM CDT on April 19, 2023

TikTok|

BORG enthusiasts on TikTok.

BORG stands for Black Out Rage Gallon, and yes, it’s all the rage.

The recipe is simple and adaptable: Take an empty plastic gallon jug, fill it halfway with water, add a fifth of vodka, and mix in some flavoring like MiO (often the caffeinated kind) or electrolyte powder like Liquid I.V. 

The BORG’s rise in popularity is tied to TikTok, where its hashtag, #borg, has amassed over 295 million views. The drink has gained enough notoriety to be featured in the New York Times article, and a “significant number of alcohol intoxication cases” have been attributed to BORG at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. "Even if there are electrolytes and water in there, it doesn't negate the fact that there is a tremendous amount of alcohol–up to 16 drinks," Dr. Mike Cirigliano tells Philadelphia’s Fox 29 in one of the many recent moral/health panic news stories BORG drinkers have inspired.

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Everything you need to know about BORGs (and how to make a healthier version) #BORG

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Why have BORGs suddenly burst into the public consciousness, making impressions on everyone from college students to concerned parents to childless thirty-something alternative news editors? Is it a revolution in binge-drinking, a respite from beer pong or flip cup, or a soon-to-be-banned scourge akin to the original Four Loko?   

Let me, a 21-year-old University of Minnesota journalism student, take you on a hyper-local deep dive into BORG culture.

My Maiden BORG Voyage

I created my first BORG using tap water, half a liter of Stolichnaya vodka, and Market Pantry water flavoring. I was headed to a St. Patrick’s Day party last month, so I chose the lemon-lime variety in hopes of turning my BORG green. After emptying the entire thing into the gallon jug, my BORG had only turned piss-yellow. Close enough.

At the party, I descended a set of stairs flirting aggressively with a fire code violation entering a dingy Dinkytown basement. People instantly recognized that I had a BORG with me. “Bro, is that a BORG?” some asked, often followed by “What’s its name?”

My BORG did not have a name, which I quickly learned was a major faux pas. My fellow basement denizens did their best to remedy this, throwing out examples of BORG names such as “Barack BORGbama.” (Punny BORG names have become something of a cottage content industry.) As an ode to the Russian vodka I had used, I landed on “Mikhail BORGachev.” (Though, in retrospect, BORGis Yeltsin might’ve been better, considering that Russian leader’s infamous thirst for alcohol.) My BORG had been christened, thus making it legitimate.

I soon discovered that Mr. BORGachev wasn’t the only BORG-like mix in the room: Another reveler, Hailey, had also mixed a concoction of vodka, water, and MiO, but in a water bottle. After a spirited discussion, we concluded that a BORG must be made in a gallon jug to be legitimate. Her beverage was merely a convenient/stealth mixed drink.

“[The plastic gallon jug] does make a BORG,” Hailey concluded. “A BORG also has to be BORGalicious, though my drink is close.”

As the night wore on, my BORG and the mystery amount of vodka it still contained grew increasingly intimidating. So instead of allowing it to take the wheel, I gave up, leaving it behind at the party while my friends and I ventured out into the night in search of pizza. 

The BORG Brotherhood 

Sometimes BORG love brings people together in unexpected ways. 

In the fall of 2021, Logan, affectionately known as “Lug,” created a drink he called “Lug Juice,” a mega mix modeled after “Rig Juice” from the Regular Show. The recipe calls for one liter of Bacardi Limón, two liters of Mountain Dew, one red Powerade, water, and a few squirts of MiO, all combined in a one-gallon jug. 

Logan made his proto-BORG for a party he was hosting in his apartment. John and Fletcher, two roommates who lived in the same building, asked if Logan had made a BORG—they were familiar with the drink from TikTok. And thus, a friendship was born. Over the next year, as BORGs grew in popularity, the trio hosted a variety of BORG weekends with friends, each making and naming their own jugs to drink together. 

“There was definitely some judgment if you pulled up with the BORG a while ago,” John says. “But now that it's trending, I feel like people have started to just embrace it and that disgusting ‘college drinking’ side of it.” 

Speaking of college drinking, older readers surely remember the Jungle Juices, Wops, and Edward Fortyhands of their higher ed eras; these communal shit-facing traditions have a way of evolving but, fundamentally, staying the same. “I see people, you know, decades older than me commenting on TikTok like, ‘Oh, yeah, we used to do this to call it something else,’” BORG aficionado Bella Alonzo told the Times, noting that BORGs are especially popular at “darties”—aka daytime parties.

In November of 2022, Lug, John, and Fletcher attended a Gopher men’s hockey game where they met the BORG Brothers, an intramural hockey team in their second season. They were recruiting, and the three buddies, with their shared love of both BORG and hockey, thought they would be a natural fit. There was only one problem: None of them could skate. The team quickly worked around this by offering them positions on their coaching staff. 

This season, the BORG Brothers have seen unprecedented success, clinching a playoff appearance for the first time in their brief history. They’ve also expanded into intramural softball, although the weather hasn’t yet allowed them to practice much. 

But BORG appreciation isn’t just a bro thing. Logan says the majority of BORG-related social media posts he sees are from women, who also extol its virtues. Unlike a communal punchbowl or a pitcher of beer in a sketchy bar, generally only you have access to your BORG. You also are in control of what you put in it, how much of it you drink, and how quickly you get to the bottom—some BORG containers linger for days in the fridge. BORGs are also not an every weekend thing; major get-togethers seem to be the main drivers behind BORG use. 

“They get made a lot for special events is what I’ve noticed,” Logan says. “I think when the weather gets warmer, too, is when the BORGs start to come out from hibernation.”  

The Dark Side of the BORG 

According to the BORG Brothers, TikTokers, and other advocates, the BORG’s advantages are numerous. For starters, they’re very portable. Carrying around a single gallon jug is much easier than a backpack full of beers or a bottle, a cup, and a separate chaser. They’re also pretty cheap to make at about $10-$20 a jug, although the price depends on your choice of alcohol and mixers.

“Can we talk about cost-effectiveness?” Fletcher asks. “If you know that you want to get extremely drunk, look no further than the BORG—it’s a $10 blackout.” 

But not all of BORG’s alleged benefits are true. For example, the BORG is often (incorrectly!) touted as a harm-reduction effort. There’s a half-gallon of water in there, after all, and electrolyte powders like Liquid I.V. can be added as well, theoretically warding off hangovers. 

Science doesn’t support those claims, though. At the end of the day drinking a fifth of vodka is still a fifth of vodka that your body has to process, and studies have found that hydration does not prevent hangovers. BORGs can also contain caffeine which, much like alcohol, is a dehydrating diuretic. Not to mention that blacking out is never a good thing.  

And adding electrolyte drinks or powders to a BORG is not standard. 

“The only person I associate with Liquid I.V. was this chick on the softball team who quit due to mental health issues, dropped out of college, and got married,” Fletcher says. “Look where it leads—marriage!”

While the BORG Brothers laud the efficiency of BORG drinking, it’s important not to ignore the sheer amount of alcohol in these things. If one was to make a completely full BORG with half a gallon of water and half a gallon of vodka, that would be about 17 shots. While most people don’t use that much vodka—and many don’t finish their BORG in a single night—even half that amount is enough alcohol to trouble even the most seasoned fraternity veteran. The amount of sugar doesn’t help, either.

“One night when I did drink the whole gallon, the next morning when I woke up, I was coughing up red,” says Logan, who, as you recall, uses red Powerade in his signature Lug Juice. “But I’d attribute it to the amount of Mountain Dew that was in it rather than the alcohol, because I drank two liters of Mountain Dew.” 

Whether the cheap efficiency of BORGs are worth the chaotic potential is up to you. But one thing is certain: The BORG is a potential Pandora’s box. And you might find yourself dealing with more than just red barf and a splitting headache the next day. 

“One time I had BORG and I tried to build a LEGO set and I woke up next to my ex-girlfriend,” John reports. 

The Verdict

I woke up the morning after the party with a prominent but manageable hangover. My BORG’s water content didn’t save me from the consequences of a night out, but its consumption didn’t make for an absolute catastrophe either. 

Making and drinking from a BORG is fun! The gallon jug is very convenient; it makes for a good conversation starter; it’s affordable; and the taste lands between tolerable and pleasant if you get the flavoring right. The next time I make a BORG, I think I will try adding some electrolytes—even if it leads me to the altar.

When I visited Logan and Fletcher’s house later that week to interview them for this story, I was greeted with a familiar face: My old Mikhail BORGachev. It had made its way to their living room after the party and, out of respect for such an iconic jug, they had held onto it. 

As the weather finally heats up and darty season begins, BORGs are sure to be a common sight on Twin Cities campuses, where the jugs have long graduated past “craze” status. And, if you keep an eye out, you might just spot Mikhail BORGachev. 

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