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Breaking Down the Buzz Behind Energy Drinks

Photography by Michael Wichita

I do say, there’s nothing quite like a bit of energy spritzer to fluff one’s midday mojo. I seek a concoction with long legs, a lithe body and ample nose, but how to choose from such sundry selection? A guide to caffeinated spirits, you say? How droll! I sense a revivified vim and vigor enveloping me already. And who is lending their expertise to so risqué a venture? Josh Miles and David Enright of Best Cellars! Exquisite! Do hand me that spittoon so that I may join them in their tasting. And rouse the servants. We shan’t rinse our own goblets. What peculiar color these drinks are. Such je ne sais quoi. Cheers!

HANSEN’S ENERGY (Original Formula)

A racy, supple soubrette, this beverage’s bright greenish appearance mirrors its unabashedly striking nose, a clean and surprisingly intense aroma evocative of chewable Flintstones vitamins. The medium sweet palate is balanced and fresh, the slight tartness of sour apple complimented by hints of mango and lime. A light body, mildly carbonated. The finish is short, but clean and brisk. Sprightly fare that’s playfully coquettish, yet robust enough to be served in earnest company.

Occasion: Bat Mitzvah

Serve with: Matzo


Compelling, complex and incisive, the crisp, Windex-esque electric blue suggests a dip in azure Mediterranean seas, and prepares one for the bold, resilient nose, strikingly similar to a recently swabbed public restroom. Not quite chlorine or ammonia. Toilet Duck, perhaps? A sweet, bubblegum palate more redolent of Bazooka than Wrigley’s. Full bodied, rich and ripe. Acidic and brusque with a strong, stringent finish, this is truly a spirit fit for a Smurf.

Occasion: Yacht christening

Serve with: Shrimp cocktail


The commanding bellow of this beverage is spoken in muted sotto voce. Frothy and wanton, the blunt appearance — a thick shade of medium-amber piss — is deceptive. The nose is sweet and intense, mesmeric and sultry, a fruity mélange of sour apricots and figs. A sweet palate, cold, crisp and passionate, with a finish that can only be described as Mylantan.

Occasion: Independent film festival opening night party

Serve with: Vegan fondue

R.E. (a.k.a. Real Energy)

Housed in an avant-garde modernist bottle, the Tang-orange glow grooms one for the faux fruity nose, a Sunny D-like aroma conjuring dew-kissed Clementine orchards in the early morning Naples mist, as well as hints of liquid soap — the kind with the little gritty, granule things in it. Unexpectedly smooth, the palate has a semblance of flat Orange Fanta, and is more thirst quenching than the others without the sharp sweetness. The finish is long and lingering. An active and exhilarating panache.

Occasion: Olympic bronze medal winners’ gala

Serve with: Soy chicken and Clif Bars


Arabian gold in appearance, with a brash, unflinching nose that suggests cough medicine with notes of orange sorbet, this beverage is not for the flaccid of spirit. The palate retains the Robitussian aura, but with a subtle hint of Gummi worm splashed in as well.

Occasion: Corporate merger signing ceremony

Serve with: Blood sausage


This gold standard in energy drinks is like freshly pressed Granny Smiths in appearance. Saccharine and candied, the nose is mildly chemical with slight vanilla and butterscotch spice notes. A sweet medium-fruit palate with a synthetic tint, Red Bull’s taste and texture is energy incarnate.

Occasion: Austrian ski lodge ribbon cutting

Serve with: Schnitzel

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