The borg — “blackout rage gallon” — has become the drink of choice on college campuses across the country.
Made with half water, half vodka, a caffeinated flavor enhancer and a dash of powdered electrolytes, the drink has been hailed by many students on TikTok as a hangover-proof party staple.
Binge drinking, which involves consuming an excessive amount of alcohol over a short period of time, remains a widespread issue that many college administrators have struggled to control. But as borgs go viral, some harm reduction advocates — who don’t condone binge drinking — have said the trend may actually mitigate the dangers of college drinking culture.
“When it comes to substance use prevention, harm reduction recognizes that people are going to make their own decisions when it comes to alcohol and other drugs,” Erin Monroe, a creator who is credentialed in substance use prevention in New York, told NBC News in a message. “But there are strategies we can use to reduce some of the risk.”
When making borgs, drinkers get “complete control” over what they’re drinking, and can pace themselves appropriately, Monroe said. She described borgs as “really solid harm reduction,” when paired with other tactics like catching a ride with a trusted designated driver.
One of the earliest TikTok videos about the borg dates back to March 2020. The drink, which became more common in the wake of social distancing and other Covid prevention measures, is especially popular for tailgates and outdoor parties.
“after covid the whole ‘communal drink’ thing kinda went out the window for us,” one TikTok commenter said on a video about the drink. “borgs came out of necessity.”
College students began posting more about the drinks last year, just as their spring semesters were wrapping up. It gained popularity throughout the fall semester as students posted tutorials and videos showing off their jugs, which are personalized to the drinker’s taste.
In a video posted in October, for example, one TikTok user made a borg with a bottle of Skyy vodka and Kool-Aid. Another TikTok user made a snow day borg with MiO, a packet of Liquid IV and a can of the sparkling energy drink Celsius.
Borgs are topped off by labeling the jug with a punny name. Showing off borg names like “Soulja Borg” and “Our Borg and Savior” has become its own TikTok trend. Other clever borg names include “Brown v. the Borg of Education,” “SpongeBorg” and “Borgingham Palace.”
Monroe noted that harm reduction advocates aren’t promoting drinking by approving of borgs.
“Harm reduction is neither promoting abstinence or drinking. Harm reduction is completely judgement free,” she said. “My goal is always to help empower people to use harm reduction tools that work for them to reduce risk.”
She and other experts have used TikTok to point out that drinking from borgs appears to be less dangerous than other forms of college binge drinking.
In a recent video, Monroe compared borgs to drinking when she was in college, when she said her peers drank “gin buckets and jungle juice” out of “trash cans in the basement of frat houses.”
She also approved of students tailoring their borgs to their own alcohol tolerances. In a follow up video, she made her own borg (named “Ruth Bader Ginsborg”) with more water than vodka. Contrary to the drink’s name, she said in a comment, “you might be blacking out but not everyone wants to.”
Creator Leigh Beez, a crisis response educator who works with college students, said in a TikTok that the borgs are among the “fantastic harm reduction strategies I’m seeing.”
TikTok creator NarcanMan, who makes content about harm reduction, described borgs as “the smartest way to get drunk” in a video.
“There’s no question of accidentally getting an alcohol that you have less of a tolerance to or doesn’t sit well with you,” he said. “There’s no chance of someone slipping something into your wide-open cup because you have a sealed jug. And y’all are staying hydrated!”
Meanwhile, many millennial TikTok users have also praised borgs in comments.
In a video, one TikTok creator said while in college, she recalled seeing pieces of hair floating in frat house bathtubs, which were used to store party concoctions. Another user commented, “how we as a generation didn’t collectively die of sepsis is amazing.”
Others have commented that the drink appears to be a more sanitary alternative to the communal “jungle juice” vats that long dominated college parties.