It really sucks to be tonic water
Once a bartending necessity that reigned supreme in soda guns the world over, tonic water - and her friends club soda, Coke and 7Up - is fizzling in today’s hipster scene. What’s bubbled to the forefront? Energy drinks, which in a few short years have gone from mini-mart obscurity to VIP status behind the bars of even the hottest, Paris-Hilton-worthy nightclubs and restaurants.
As anyone who’s chugged Gatorade or Lucozade knows, energy drinks are nothing new. They’ve been around since the 1930s, are sold throughout the world and have traditionally enjoyed especially strong popularity in the Far East. (Think Pocari Sweat. Yum.) In their early incarnations, energy drinks were meant to quickly rehydrate the body and to provide energy through carbohydrates in the form of sugar. They were the savior of many exhausted athletes, lethargic kids with the flu and pathetically hungover frat boys.
In the mid-’80s, an Austrian businessman looking to cash in on the energy drink craze in Asia took the concept and gave it a decidedly modern twist. The result was Red Bull, a unique-tasting drink spiked with caffeine and the amino acid taurine, which pumps up the heart rate.
Red Bull’s slick silver mini cans, clever ad campaign and energy-boosting properties made it an instant hit among club-goers and those looking for a quick boost from something other than espresso (or a powdery South American import that might invite a sentence of five to 10). By the late ‘90s, Red Bull was available worldwide, had taken up sponsorship of popular new extreme sporting events and was well on its way to becoming a pop culture icon.
Since then, the energy drink market has exploded. New entrants include Rockstar (which contains liver-rejuvenating milk thistle), Monster, Socko, Full Throttle, Hype, Bomba (which comes in four flavors), Roaring Lion, Go Fast, Atomic X and Boo Koo. (The entertainment value alone - “I’ll have an Effen Boo Koo” - keeps us enthralled.)
Everyone from traditional soft drink marketers to celebs are getting in on the energy drink craze, scrambling to create new concoctions with fresh hype. Rap star Nelly is hoping to grab a piece of the market with his bright green, sweet sour-apple brew PimpJuice, which contains taurine, guarana and multi-vitamins. (No word on whether the nutrient properties of the drink will finally heal the boo-boo that lurks beneath his omnipresent Band-Aid. Or what test group approved of the name PimpJuice.)
Though all energy drinks are unique, they share in common some form of caffeine and sugar as key ingredients. Guarana, a natural source of caffeine, replaces the straight chemical in some brands. What gives energy drinks their rocket boost is the amount of caffeine and sugar they include: studies show energy drinks pack four times the amount of caffeine as soda and as many as 13 teaspoons of sugar in a single bottle.
Energy drinks also get an extra kick from ingredients such as ginseng and vitamins B12, B6, riboflavin and niacin. The most popular addition (and the one that put Red Bull on the energy drink map) is taurine, one of the most abundant amino acids in the body. It functions as a metabolic transmitter, has detoxifying properties and has been shown in studies to be beneficial to cardiovascular functioning. Mix these peace-and-love herbs and vitamins with some cutting-edge nutritional research, and the old standbys caffeine and sugar, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a go-the-distance, 21st century good time.
Not long after these space age potions hit the shelves, smart consumers realized if energy drinks could keep them going as they burned the midnight oil or blasted through a road trip, they could put a whole new spin on a night of partying. Thus was born Red Bull-vodka. In the late ‘90s, European drinkers started a new trend in cocktails by marrying the recently released Red Bull with vodka, creating a mix packing a potent alcohol punch and a lift of herbs and caffeine, and enabling drinkers to get maximum pleasure out of a hard-earned weekend night of raving or pub crawling.
As more energy drinks were born, more cocktails were created. Bars around the world now stock energy drinks as mixing basics and look for innovative blends to create their own signature cocktails. While most drinkers still prefer flavored vodkas such as Stoli Citros or Skyy Melon to add intrigue to their energy drinks, more innovative experiments are being undertaken every day: how about an energy drink/Jagermeister mix? Perhaps a little Johnny Walker Black? (Any carpet fluff you might ingest later will simply add to the...mouthfeel.)
If mixing isn’t your thing, consider an energy/alcoholic drink that comes straight from the bottle. Zygo is a peach-flavored vodka blended with so-called “functional ingredients” taurine, D-ribose, guarana and yerba mate. Known as the “morning vodka” with a 35 percent alcohol content, it hits the spot with partiers still pounding the dance floor at dawn. Sparks, a sickly sweet, citrusy concoction with taurine, caffeine, guarana, Siberian ginseng and a 6 percent kick of alcohol, is becoming a popular party alternative, as are MoonShot, a (believe it or not) lightly carbonated, caffeinated beer, and XXL Orange, which packs 8.9 percent vodka, orange juice and caffeine into a curvy plastic bottle. (Frankly, that sounds to us like what a pimp would really be juicing.)
In a culture that’s dancing as fast as it can, it seems energy drink cocktails are the perfect libation for the new millennium. And who knows, tonic and club soda might even make a comeback - thanks to the recently released Hi-Ball Modern Mixers line, which offers classic mixers enhanced by B-vitamins, caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng. So grab a can of liquid energy, throw in the spirit of your choice and start channeling Don “The Magic” Juan. And remember, it takes seven to make a stable.
Energy Drink Cocktail Recipes
Deep Sea Battery
200 ml. Battery Energy Drink
3/4 oz. blue Curacao
3/4 oz. vodka (currant)
Shake vodka and Curacao with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with Battery Energy Drink.
Extreme Cherry Bomb
1.5 oz. Players Extreme Cherry Infused Vodka
200 ml. Red Bull Energy Drink
Serve on the rocks in a highball glass. Garnish with a cherry.
Bob Dylan Recipe
12 oz. Surge Energy Drink
4 oz. Jagermeister
16 oz. ice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.
Hype Energy Drink
1 1/2 oz. vodka
1 1/2 oz. Champagne/sparkling wine
Combine all ingredients and serve chilled.
Black Magic Bomba Energy Drink
1 1/3 oz. vodka
2/3 oz. triple sec
2/3 oz. lime juice
Shake vodka, triple sec and lime juice together. Pour into chilled martini glass. Top with Black Magic Bomba Energy Drink.
Warning: Consume energy drink cocktails in moderation. Caffeine is a primary ingredient in energy drinks and can, when combined with the dehydrating effects of alcohol, lead to feelings of dizziness and faintness. In some cases, sensitivity to caffeine can also raise blood pressure and trigger potentially deadly heart reactions. Drink responsibly.