8.11.2013

A Primer on Energy Drinks, or Which Version of Satan's Piss is Best.

I'm a grown baby. If you put me in a car, two things will happen: I will get carsick, and then I will fall asleep. It's something I assumed I would grow out of, but here I am - nearly 30 years old - rolling a paper lunch bag over a plastic grocery bag in preparation for a trip to my parent's house. That's the trick, really; you need both paper and plastic. Plastic for the obvious reason, you don't want the bag to leak. Paper because you want something with texture and structure to grip with your hands. Vomiting into a plastic bag is awful; I still remember doing so in the back of my parent's Buick station wagon after my mother has played Russian roulette and guessed which bag had the hole. Surprise! She's holding the one without a hole, and I'm in the back trying to move the vomit from one side of the bag to the other, making sure it doesn't spill. Ah, summer memories.

When I decided to drive across America this summer, I knew I needed to be more prepared than just having enough maps and sunscreen. Vomiting wouldn't be an issue: if I'm a passenger, I just need to make sure I don't read anything or sit in the back seat, and I actually don't get sick when I'm driving. The real challenge would be to not fall asleep. While driving. I know, I really hope there aren't any State Troopers reading this right now. I have an affliction I have self-diagnosed with called Highway Hypnotism. Essentially, the minute I hit a deserted long-stretch highway, my brain turns into one of those old timey black and white spinning wheels and then my eyes turn into those spinny things, and before I know it I've forgotten my name and I can't remember which state I'm in. It's not good! I feel like it's right up there with being totally drunk or texting an essay while driving.

There is only one known cure for Highway Hypnotism: getting totally jacked up. Since I am too poor for uppers, and I don't exactly want to get pulled over for being high out of my skull on methamphetamine, I get jacked on energy drinks. But what energy drink is best? What drink will get you through the mundane nothingness of Kansas or keep you alert enough to get you and your car through the Colorado rockies without crashing your car into a tractor-trailer? I decided to rate a few energy drinks (aka Liquid Legal Crack) for you so you can be prepared for your next long road trip!

NOTE: I did not review Red Bull because one time I drank so much Red Bull and vodka that I was barfing for days and I thought I saw a dragon, so I am not touching that stuff again. It's violent and not of this earth, especially when you chase a 6-pack with an expired Old El Paso taco pizza kit.

Day 1: Starbucks Refresher Energy (Strawberry Lemon)
This drink is nice, because it has the advantage of tasting good both cold and warm. Sometimes you leave a drink in the car while you make a Target run, and you come back to the car and want to finish your drink. This was my situation with the Strawberry Lemon Refresher. Great cold, not awful warm. As far as energy, this was decent. It kept me buzzed through the boring parts of Michigan (so...all of Michigan then? KIDDING). Taste-wise, this was great; it didn't taste like medicine and it didn't taste like syrup. Dare I say it? It actually tasted like strawberry lemonade. Well, if you put strawberries, lemons, aspirin, and whatever guarana is, into a juicer and then blended the juice with pure, uncut cane sugar.

Day 2: Starbucks Refresher Energy (Orange Melon)
I had such great success with the Starbucks Refresher Energy in Strawberry Lemon that I decided to try to make magic happen again with Orange Melon. Surely it would taste delicious and give me the energy I needed to not drive into oncoming traffic, right? WRONG. It was so gross I poured it out. I knew that if I didn't drink it, I'd be putting myself in jeopardy, so I slammed what I could and just dumped the rest. How can you fuck up orange? Oh, I know, by adding melon to it. WHY. There is no reason. No one likes melon; that's why it's always the last fruit on a fruit tray. I can't describe the taste well enough except to say that it felt like a joke flavour. Like Starbucks decided to release a drink similar to those gross Harry Potter Jelly Bellys where they taste like dirt and bugs and stuff. Starbucks was like "let's make one taste like citrus gasoline, just for fun!"

Day 3: Monster Java Coffee + Energy (Vanilla Light)
THIS SHIT IS MY JAM. It tastes like sweet coffee syrup. Nothing about this tastes like an energy drink. So naturally, I slammed it fast and it was like someone lit a match under my ass and I drove like fucking Speed Racer. Remember in Fast and the Furious how he hits the NOS button and the car drives through space and time? That was me, but in a Honda Fit. After about two hours, I crashed super hard and we had to switch drivers, because all of a sudden it felt like my heart was pumping cement through my chest and my one eye wouldn't stay open.

Day 4: Rockstar Recovery Energy + Hydration (Orange)
Pro: This tasted just like a refreshing Sunny D.
Con: It did nothing to wake me up. It did, however, make me laugh at a joke at a joke for 10 minutes. So yes, it makes you stoned.

Day 5.1: Illy Issimo Cappucinno
I decided to go old school and get a coffee drink with a buttload of espresso in it. Why not? I needed a control. How do the energy drinks compete with an unhealthy amount of coffee? The Illy Cappucinno, in theory, should have woken me up. It did nothing. It was like Italian tryptophan.

Day 5.2: Starbucks Double Shot (White Chocolate)
This, like the Monster Java, was delicious. No complaints. Drank it very very fast (like a kid at a birthday party who was just given a giant Orange soda and needed to drink it before their parents took it away). It kept me very alert, and alert is different from jacked. Alert is rested, focused, steady. Jacked is more like, well, jacked. It's like someone gave you a pill and went "you need to take this in a room without moveable furniture".

Drinks I wish I had tried:
I really wanted to see how the Mountain Dew Kickstart measured up to the Starbucks Refresher Energy, but after my terrible experience with the Orange Melon one, I was wary of orange flavoured things. Sure enough, I bought the Rockstar Recovery Energy in Orange, and it was delicious, but still. There's something very trashy about drinking Mountain Dew before noon. Wait, fuck noon, it's trashy to drink Mountain Dew at anytime.

I also wanted to compare original Monster with the Monster Java. Obviously anything coffee flavoured will be delicious, but I had a difficult time getting over the hump that is original Monster. It doesn't list a flavour on the outside, you can't really tell what it's going to taste like. The can just has a giant green M on it. I was really scared it would taste like Red Bull. A girl I know used to drink two Monsters every morning. That seemed very impressive to me, because she was actually really mellow. I feel like Monster no longer had any effect on her (spooky).

There's something to be said for the Monster/Rockstar/etc. that say "plus" or "extra" or "full throttle". I really wanted to try one, but I was scared I'd just end up pulling the car off the road and weeping. It seems that those are for real hardcore energy drink people. Or people who have seen things.

And, on a final note, NOS Energy Drink. I'm sure you've seen them - they look like nitrous canisters? I couldn't bring myself to buy one. They look like something a 14 year old would buy to look tough. I feel like they should be shrink-wrapped in a 2-pack with a bottle of AXE body spray. And I bet they tasted like piss.

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