Beyond the Bull

Talking with Dan Mayer, master Web reviewer of 180 energy drinks

We wanted to devote at least one column to exploring energy drinks, but one sip of Red Bull (the standard by which all energy drinks must be measured) did not tempt us. Caffeine, sugar, vitamin B6—whatever. To us, it tastes more like a blend of tonic water, laxative, and lime Gatoraid, priced at a whopping $8 or so for a four-pack. 

Perhaps we are not the best judge. For a more appreciative look into these beverages, we refer to Dan "Energy Man" Mayer. The 24-year-old software engineer from Denver has tried over 200 energy drinks, a number that makes us gag just a little bit. His popular website for those in search of Red Bull alternatives, Energy Drink Review, includes comments on a startling 180-plus liquids, everything from Go Fast Rocketman to Who's Your Daddy to Rip It Atomic Lime Wrecker Fuel to the intimidating-sounding Defcon3. Mayer must qualify as an expert on sheer quantity consumed alone.

Does the taste make you sick after a while? Nahh. A lot of people do hate the taste of Red Bull, so there are so many other companies making other flavors—you can get things that taste just like Sprite, orange juice, grape juice, orange soda. Energy tea.

Energy drink overload.
photo: Courtesy of Dan Mayer
Energy drink overload.

What's the most you've had at one sitting? I don't tend to drink a lot at one sitting. If you had six Monsters, it's the equivalent of six cups of coffee, and you're looking at 1,200 calories.

What's the mark of a great energy drink? Cost, flavor, the energy it gives you—Rockstar and Monster I frequently recommend. They have the same amount of caffeine and taurine [a crystalline acid similar to amino acids that supposedly provides an energy boost] as Red Bull, but they're twice as much drink for the same cost. Or CL-ONE: It's 89 cents a can, and it tastes exactly like Red Bull.

What gets your highest recommendation? My favorite is Go Fast, a strawberry-flavored energy drink, and Monster Khaos. Go Fast gives you as much energy as Red Bull and I think it tastes a lot better. It still mixes great—and it's not a knockoff. It's one of the best tasting drinks on the market—a little bit of strawberry flavor, lightly carbonated, with a little bit of spicy kick at the end.

What's good for drinking alone? For mixing? Red Bull is better for mixing because it has the bite at the end; Gorilla Juice is a solo drink—it's like a lightly carbonated lemonade. The juices (Monster Khaos, Rockstar Juiced) I like in the morning. One of those instead of coffee tends to do the job.

What about for staying up for 50 hours? If you want to stay up a long time, it's best to get the sugar-free versions, because then you don't have the sugar crash. A sugar-free drink with high caffeine, high guarana, high taurine, like sugar-free Monster, Rockstar, Go Fast. They make you less jittery if you need to stay up for a paper.

What are some energy-drink rumors you've heard floating around? Red Bull kills people all over the world and it's banned in certain countries; taurine comes from bull testicles. I forget which energy-drink ingredient was supposedly a carcinongen but isn't found in energy drinks anymore.

On your website, you say you've tried energy drinks that would "make a dead man vomit." Care to share? Kombucha Wonder Drink—got to be one of the worst tasting things I've ever had in my life. [Excerpts from Mayer's review: "cow piss that had been molding over in the warm summer sun for over a month"; "if you see this drink I might stop shopping at what ever store carries it as the flavor is so bad it could infect the flavor of other drinks nearby."]

Ever decided not to review something a company sent you? Some company actually wanted to send me an energy drink that they claimed had cocaine in it.

 
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