Tuesday, April 24, 2007

POP OF THE DAY: Vitamin Energy Tropical Citrus

Category: Energy Drink
Ratings (out of 5)
Taste: 4
Fizziness Factor: 3
Bottle/Can Design: 5
Availability: 3

Like so many of my generation, I was once a Vitamin Water addict. Who was I to say no to those Warhol-bright colors, that Muderer's Row of vitamins, the understated hilarity of that bottle/can copy? After a few months of switching from the yellow one to the red one (and even a brief flirtation with the pink one), I beat my jones for ViWa and moved on to fizzier pastures. But now those wily French-sounding folks at Glaceau have outflanked me.

They've added fizz.

And now we have Vitamin Energy. The yellow can made me expect that VE would taste like the yellow ViWa, which it does—but it also has the chemical tang that you might know from Red Bull and which I think of as the taste of taurine (VE has 2000 mg). It also contains Vitamins B3, B5, and B12 (you sank my battleship!), along with caffeine, Vitamin C, and ribose.

I have to say I was initially put off by the size of the 16-ounce can. Can it be that good if you need so MUCH of it? However, now that I feel it kicking in, I think the buzz it delivers it well worth that extra trip to the bathroom. My major reservation about VE is that it is not listed on the Glaceau website yet, and I have only seen it in one place—but let's assume that Glaceau is going to do right by VE and give it wide release sooner or later. In closing, here's a tidbit from the can:
not recommended for children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine.

recommended for people who have children, those trying to get pregnant or people in search of natural energy.
Funny, right? Now if they'd just learn to capitalize a bit...(Total Score 15/20)

Suggested Food Pairings: Spinach and radicchio salad with roasted beets and walnuts;

Monday, April 23, 2007

SODA SHOWDOWN: Cactus Cooler vs. Squirt

Category: Orange/Grapefruit Soda, Grapefruit Soda
Ratings (out of 5)
Taste: Cactus Cooler 3, Squirt 3
Fizziness Factor: Cactus Cooler 3, Squirt 3
Bottle/Can Design: Cactus Cooler 4, Squirt 4
Availability: Cactus Cooler 1, Squirt 1

Which dark horse bottled under the authority of Dr. Pepper/7UP will win the Obscure Grapefruit Soda Derby? First up is Cactus Cooler, a Southern California regional favorite (?) whose flavor purports to be "Orange Pineapple Blast." The truth is that it tastes exactly—and I mean molecule for molecule—like a mildly carbonated, liquid version of Bayer's Orange Children's Aspirin circa the late 1970s. It's astoundingly sweet, and it's even got that chalkiness that dries out your mouth and makes you want another one, even though you know it's gonna make you feel pukey and you'll have to go lie down.

Squirt, thankfully, is not so saccharine. It even tastes somewhat like a grapefruit (as interpreted by Willy Wonka). It's murky yellowish color makes it look more "natural" than the neon orange Cactus Cooler, and it does contain about 1% bona fide grapefruit juice. Another ingredient in Squirt (and Cactus Cooler) is something called esther of wood rosin. When I see the word "rosin," I immediately think of is the fiddle competition in "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," but apparently this rosin is more about stabilizing citrus oils than outplaying Satan. As for the competition between Cactus Cooler and Squirt, it ended in a dead heat. Both of them go to 11, but not in a good way. (Total Scores: Cactus Cooler 11, Squirt 11)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SODA SCIENCE: Cocaine is a Drug

So remember back in the day when I tried and disliked an energy drink called Cocaine? It must have been because it is actually a DRUG, according to the FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration said Redux Beverages LLC is illegally marketing the drink as both a street drug alternative and a dietary supplement, according to a warning letter dated April 4 but publicly released Wednesday. The FDA cites as evidence the drink's own labeling and Web site, which include the statements "Speed in a Can," "Liquid Cocaine" and "Cocaine -- Instant Rush," according to the letter.

In addition, dietary supplements cannot carry claims to prevent or treat a disease -- something only drugs can do, according to the letter. The Cocaine Web site lists an ingredient called inositol and says it reduces cholesterol and helps prevent hardening of the arteries, among other health claims, the FDA said.

"Your product, Cocaine, is a drug," the three-page letter reads in part. It's also a new drug and as such cannot be sold without FDA approval. In addition, the FDA said the product is mislabeled since it doesn't include "adequate directions for its intended uses."

You can read the whole story here, including the part where the company is actually trying to trademark the word "cocaine." Geez, where do they get the energy to do all this stuff at once?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What Would Jesus Drink?

So there's an Italian movie called Seven Kilometres from Jerusalem in which a guy picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be Jesus. The guy offers Jesus a Coke, and JC chugs it. Now if you were to guess who was peeved by this particular scene, would you say the Pope? Jerry Falwell? Enraged Mothers United Against Soda Sipping (EMU ASS)? Wrong, wrong, wrong. The aggrieved party is Coke.

...a spokeswoman for the international soft drink giant has said the company is "not interested in this kind of product placement" and has threatened legal action if Malaponti does not cut the offending scene from his film.

"We don't think it's appropriate to use the subject of this film to create publicity for our brands," the company said in a statement.

I guess we won't be seeing Holy Coke in summer 2008.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

POP OF THE DAY: Howling Monkey Energizing Cola

Category: Flavored Cola/Energy Drink
Ratings (out of 5)
Taste: 3
Fizziness Factor: 4
Bottle/Can Design: 5
Availability: 2

Two (2) reasons I absolutely could not walk past this soda:

1) the blue and orange color scheme; and
2) my love of the word "monkey."

I've always loved "monkey," and it has always been a part of my dreams of glory. My first (as yet unsold!) screenplay was called, in the tradition of movies named after songs, "Everybody Has Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey." It's about a guy who liberates six pygmy marmosets from a zoo—but wait, I have already said too much. I have always imagined that when I get my studio deal, my company will be Stunt Monkey productions, and our logo will be a monkey in a cape doing a wheelie on a motorcycle. Of course, somebody sorta got there first.

But on to the soda. Howling Monkey tastes like a slightly flat cola. It has green tea in it, which gives it a faint metallic aftertaste (kinda like licking a battery—and I mean that in a good way). It has all the hot-button energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, ginseng, guarana, D-Ribose, L-Carnitine, J. Lo, and P. Diddy. It also has quinine in it, so it's nice to know that I probably won't get malaria in the next day or so. All in all, Howling Monkey was like haggis: I'm glad I tried it once, but I don't really see the need to try it again. Also, the website was really promising but wouldn't let me past the splash page. (Total Score 14/20)

Suggested Food Pairings: Screaming bananas

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

POP OF THE DAY: Orangina

Category: Adult Contemporary Soda
Ratings (out of 5)
Taste: 5
Fizziness Factor: 5
Bottle/Can Design: 5
Availability: 3

I first tasted Orangina at the only fancy food store that existed in Pittsburgh in the late 80s—but I didn't really appreciate it until I went to Paris as an exchange student. I had never been to bars or cafes before, and I couldn't get enough. When I wasn't gettind drunk on vodka orange with some English paratroopers or watching in amazement as my friend Joe Nocito tried to scuttle down the sidewalk with a cafe table hidden beneath his overcoat, I was doing my best to look mature, even going so far as to cough my way through a Pall Mall bummed from a girl on whom I had a monumental crush, and who repaid my affection by going to the prom with my best friend.

On that trip I sampled the delights of table wine, unrequited love, the Musee D'Orsay, and Orangina: the artistry of the potbellied bottle, the precision blending of the fruit elements (12% juice! 2% pulp!), and that inimitable taste. Yes, it's orange, but it's also tangerine, with a hint of bitter grapefruit to keep it all grounded. And you can shake it. Orangina is uniquely pleasing to all the senses, and in this age of energy drinks and fortified waters, I fervently hope that it has enough admirers to stay on the shelves. But if, some day, Orangina vanishes from the Whole Foods down the street, well, we'll always have Paris. (Total Score 18/20)

Suggested Food Pairings: Croque monsieur, steak frites

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

POP OF THE DAY: G Pure Energy Orange Blossom

Category: Energy Drink
Ratings (out of 5)
Taste: 4
Fizziness Factor: 5
Bottle/Can Design: 5
Availability: 1

In case you've never heard of the silvery Norwegian beauty at left (and I hadn't) here is what Beverage Industry had to say about it:

Voss Artesian Water from Norway created G Pure Energy, a clear and lightly carbonated energy drink. G Pure Energy combines natural sources of caffeine, taurine, amino acids and green tea extract (EGCG) with a crisp taste. The drinks aim is to help drinkers stay strong into the night or boost their energy throughout the day. Lending itself to be mixed with cocktails, the sleek 200-ml. glass bottle is available at select clubs, bars, hotels and restaurants for $2.99.
So how did I end up buying mine for $3.29 at a 7-Eleven? And why did that delectably curvaceous bottle look a little roughed up? Is there some sort of Underground Energy Drink Railroad running from Norway to West Hollywood?

Perhaps we will never know. What I can tell you is this: the 6.8-ounce bottle is almost magnetically enticing, and it feels great in your hand. The drink itself is exceptionally fizzy, with a light orange flavor that falls short of perfection only because it leaves a bit of a sugary aftertaste. As for the purity of G Pure's energy, let's just say that I am typing reeeeeallly fast right now. Only the lack of wide distribution and a website with irritating background music keep this from being one of the all-time greats. (Total Score 14/20)

Suggested Food Pairings: Lutefisk, meatcakes, dumplings