What on Earth Is a BORG?
Before you ask, BORG — which is pronounced like the aliens from “Star Trek” — is an acronym for “blackout rage gallon.” The drink going by this name is a mixture of water, alcohol, sweet flavorings and some hangover remedy, like Liquid I.V. or Pedialyte.
The concoction has become increasingly popular on college campuses across the country, thanks at least in part to TikTok, where videos of students brandishing their jugs at parties and demonstrating how to make the beverage have been widely shared.
BORGs made the news this month, when the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Town of Amherst issued a joint statement regarding a “significant number of alcohol intoxication cases” that occurred during the Blarney Blowout, an annual off-campus event.
The statement noted that “many students were observed carrying plastic gallon containers, believed to be ‘BORGs,’” and that “this binge drinking trend has been increasingly depicted on TikTok and seen on college campuses across the country.”
Bella Alonzo, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, posted a BORG video in January. Wearing a cowboy hat decorated with stars and Busch beer logos, Ms. Alonzo, 21, begins by pouring out about half the contents of a gallon jug of water. Then she adds plenty of vodka, a can of wild berry sparkling energy drink and an electrolyte powder. “So we don’t get hung over at midnight,” Ms. Alonzo says, before shaking the jug and taking a sip.
In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Alonzo said she was surprised by the sudden popularity of BORGs on social media, since she had known about them for years. The main appeal is that they are easy to drink, she said, for something with such a high alcohol content. “All you really taste is the water and the food coloring,” Ms. Alonzo said. “You don’t taste any of the liquor, which is the great part.”
“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,’” she added. The drink is especially popular at “darties,” slang for day parties, she noted.
In December, Cate Keane, a senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., posted a video of her fellow students showing off their BORGs at a party. The clip has since been viewed more than 500,000 times. Each jug is labeled with a pun, like “Justin BieBORG,” “BORGttega Veneta” or “BORGan Donor.”
For some students, a humorous name is as important to a BORG as the electrolytes. A TikTok prompt for name suggestions posted last month by Benjamin Giller, a sophomore at San Diego State University, has been viewed nearly a million times on the platform and received hundreds of comments.
Some students said they were drawn to BORGs because of their supposed safety benefits.
“It is nice that you can put a cap on it instead of, like, if you’re at the bar and you have an open drink, someone can easily just, like, ‘roofie’ you,” said Ms. Keane, 21, referring to the so-called date rape drug Rohypnol.
Ms. Alonzo echoed that sentiment, noting that she liked how BORGs allowed her to be in control and aware of exactly how much liquor was in her jug. On TikTok, a video highlighting how BORGs could be considered a harm-prevention tactic has been viewed more than three million times.
But not everyone is on board with the BORG.
The Amherst Fire Department reported 28 requests for ambulance transports during the Blarney Blowout on March 4. Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesman for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, declined to comment on how many ambulance calls were requested in prior years, but said this year’s figure was higher than in the past. (In 2014, CBS News reported that police officers in riot gear were called in to handle what the school described as “unruly behavior” at the same event. Over 70 arrests were made.)
“I think it really can do a lot of harm,” Dr. Sarah Andrews, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said of the trend. “It’s promoting false ideas about drinking.”
She acknowledged the importance of college students’ being aware of what is in their drinks, but she said she did not believe BORGs were the answer to the problem.
“Just because you know what is in it doesn’t mean that you truly understand the negative effects it could have,” said Dr. Andrews, whose areas of expertise include alcohol abuse. “Even if it’s mixed with electrolytes, it doesn’t offset the alcohol content. It doesn’t offset the dangerousness of the alcohol.”
Still, some college students, like Gracelyn Jones, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Louisville, insisted otherwise. Or, at the very least, Ms. Jones thinks BORGs are better than some alternative drinking methods on college campuses.
“When I compare BORGs to butt-chugging,” she said, referring to alcohol enemas, “it doesn’t seem as bad.”