A phrase used to indicate that someone has bought into a proposition, with the implication that they really shouldn't have.
The phrase originated with Ken Kesey's use of LSD-spiked Kool-Aid to entice people into the counterculture. It took on new meaning and popularity upon the Jonestown massacre, where many members of the cult committed mass suicide or were murdered by means of poison distributed via a similar beverage called Flavor Aid, which thanks to this phrase is often misattributed to being Kool-Aid. As a result, both brands, but especially Kool-Aid, have to endure this fact even today note . It should also be noted that in the Jonestown incident, the victims knew the drink would kill them, and some were forced at gunpoint; today, Jonestown survivors consider the incident to be a mass murder, and really don't like it when this trope is invoked.
For obvious reasons, this trope is mostly exclusive to the American and English-speaking culture, despite Kool-Aid being sold almost worldwide. In other languages, the closest, idiomless, analogy would be "drinking poison" instead (or whatever toxic liquid applied in context).
This phrase and related connotations are commonly used on all sides of Strawman Political arguments.
- In Glass (Bellamy Taft), Joey accuses Kaiba of this when he tries to get him to give in so he can get out of the dungeon, seeing it as giving up entirely or taking Pegasus's side.
- In Episode 9 of Hellsing Abridged, after Integra describes Millennium as a "cult of nihilism", Seras declares that she will be "their fucking Kool-Aid!" The Major starts off his responding speech on loudspeaker by telling them about how Jonestown's drink of death was actually Flavor-Aid, a less popular competing brand.
- The Sacrament, directly inspired by the happenings in Jonestown, appropriately ends with a mass suicide by poisoned Kool-Aid. Only two characters make it out of Eden Parish alive.
- The 1980 Cannibal Film Eaten Alive, which deals with a woman searching for her missing sister in the jungles of Sri Lanka, has a Jonestown-style cult as the primary antagonist, and the film ends with everyone in the cult killing themselves in Jonestown fashion.
- The Dresden Files: In Changes, Harry uses the phrase in front of the Merlin, leader of the White Council, about the Senior Council not directly meeting with a dangerous vampire as they don't trust her. He looks confused until Captain Luccio says "the mass suicide in Jonestown last century," at which point he understands the term.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The entire Sisterhood and their allies have this sort of mentality. They believe that Revenge, inflicting the Fate Worse than Death on their targets, and acting like all-around jerks are great ideas. Fortunately, Maggie Spritzer came to realize that this trope was going on, and essentially left them by the final book Home Free.
- It's kind of used as a joke in The Baby-Sitters Club snark community to say that the BSC is a cult and use drinking purple Kool-Aid to control their members.
- In Illuminatus!, General Hanfgeist's soldiers are all well aware that there is cyanide in the farewell drink given them by their Leader. But if Hitler and Himmler have decreed they die by poisoning, then they will go gladly with a final "Heil Hitler!" note
- Used twice in The West Wing, both times referring to President Bartlet's senior staff.
- On Lost, Sawyer uses this phrase to describe the followers of the Man in Black.
- The Veronica Mars episode "Drinking The Kool-Aid" sees Veronica investigating a commune/possible cult. Her Side Kick, Wallace, eventually does an episode Title Drop.
- In What Not to Wear, a fashion show thing, Stacy London says this when the Victim of the Week starts to come around in one episode.
- Invoked on Community during a discussion of Pierce's beliefs. Pierce's faith believes that when Buddha returns everyone will merge into a shimmering ocean of knowledge that tastes like Hawaiian fruit punch. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Covenant" has Dukat, who has set up a cult of the Pah-Wraiths on Empok Nor with himself as "Emissary", eventually directing his followers to a mass suicide using special pills. This is thwarted in the end when Kira revealed that Dukat did not plan to kill himself along with them, but escape scot-free afterward.
- Criminal Minds episode "Minimal Loss": cult commune leader Benjamin Cyrus sets up one of these, using supposedly poisoned wine, as a bluff to test the loyalty of his followers.
- While it didn't actually happen in Cobra Kai, when Miguel gets back to school after coming out of his coma (and after Johnny helps cure his post-coma paralysis), he learns how Hawk and the other Cobra Kai students have all been radicalized by Kreese into becoming the bullies themselves, and claims to Johnny that "they all drank the Kool-Aid." Johnny, being who he is, doesn't get it, and asks, "What's wrong with Kool-Aid?"
- "Jonestown" from The Perfect Stranger by Frank Zappa is a haunting classical composition written about the Jonestown Massacre in 1978 where cult leader Jim Jones ordered his followers to drink a cyanide cocktail. The end result was 900 deaths, including women and children.
- The Kesha song "Blow" features the line "Drink that Kool-Aid, follow my lead/ Now you're one of us, you're coming with me."
- The radio edit of Eminem's "My Name Is" turns a drink-driving joke into a reference to cult suicide:
I'm not ready to leave, it's too scary to die.
They'll have to carry me inside the cemetery and bury me alive.
Am I comin' or goin'? I can barely decide.
I just drank a fifth of Kool-Aid. Dare me to drive?
- In one of Gaia Online's Evolving Item Reports, a cultist offers Timmy some nice, refreshing Flavor-Aid (Timmy suddenly has to go to the bathroom very badly and doesn't have time for a drink). Gaians everywhere cried Dude, Not Funny!.
- In the Going Rogue expansion for City of Heroes there is Resistance graffiti stating 'Don't Drink the Cole-Aid', referring to Praetoria's emperor, Marcus Cole, and the beverage Enriche.
- Amanda from Daughter for Dessert buys into Ceciliaís narrative about her motherís death, even though Cecilia gave her little indication that she is a trustworthy person.
- Exterminatus Now has an arc named after this that starts here involving the investigation of a seemingly abandoned town. At one point, Eastwood jokes that some cult of crazies committed mass murder-suicide at the behest of their nutty leader and that the team should look for records of mass import of Cool-Ade. As it turns out, that's exactly what happened. The cult that spanned the entire town believed that if they were killed, freeze-dried, powdered, and mixed into the drink powder, the resulting liquid drunk by the last member would create 'some kind of gestalt psychic entity'. It failed before the team even got there: the drinker drank some of the drink, slipped into a diabetic coma, fell in the vat and drowned.
- Parodied on an episode of Family Guy. Meg unknowingly joins a cult trying to be popular, wherein the leader of said cult tries to initiate a mass suicide through... You guessed it. It doesn't go too well. Peter was there to interrupt Meg from drinking the poison while everyone else has drank their cup.
- Discussed in Daria:
- In the US Navy's Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) community, signing a contract to become a Department Head is often referred to as Drinking The Kool-Aid. Department Head is the next step up after the entry job, Division Officer, and officers face the choice to re-commit for DH or resign after 4-5 years of service. It's also seen as one of the most stressful jobs in the Navy, and by signing up you're committing yourself to at least four years of it; so the implication is that if you sign on and take the bonus, you've fully bought into the "SWO Propaganda".
- Frequently used by comic book fans with regard to the corporate culture of CrossGen which, uniquely amongst comic book companies, expected writers and artists to come into the office like a 9 to 5 job; any writer or artist who agreed to such a system had obviously drunk CrossGen's Kool-Aid, as have fans of their highly diverse but closely linked books. By the time of CrossGen's collapse, one comics commentator discussing it lampshaded "Most of you are probably now waiting for the Kool-Aid joke."
- Jonestown, as described above, is often invoked as an example of the manipulative techniques used by religious or political cults. In the case of Jonestown, the literal Kool-Aid (well, Flavor Aid) had truly tragic results.