Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cool Blue energy drink

What point is there in having a cool looking energy drink if you don't bother showing it off?   Energy drinks can come in a very wide variety of colors.  I have had some be bright orange, green, fiery red, and in the case of this particular energy drink, cool neon blue.   The difference with this drinks it goes the extra mile to show off its unique colors, coming in a clear plastic can - shaped just like an energy drink can should - but as clear as any vitamin water PET bottle.  This brilliant idea stopped people in their tracks and started many an energy drink container when it was at my desk.  For a long  time I did not even want to drink Cool Blue energy because of if was such a great conversation starter.

Packaging: 10
Just for the uniqueness alone this would get a 10, but when you add in all the other details, this can is a sure-fire hit.  The wording is easy to read both when the can is full of blue liquid or empty, and the same goes true for the ingredients list and all the other important info on the can.   The type is clear and easy to read, and the can stands up well to normal wear and tear like an aluminum can would.  The color of the liquid - a neon bright blue was almost shocking in its vividness - I actually tested it under the backlight just to see if it would glow.  

But my favorite part about this drink is that the can still looks like a can!  Yes, they could have done well going the cheaper route and bottling their energy drink in a normal PET bottle, but Cool Blue took the next step and made their clear plastic drink can look JUST like the metal counterpart.   This even has a traditional metal can pop-top, so not only does it really sell the can, but it also makes it more stackable if you were a bar looking to buy cases of it.   

This flavor tastes just like it looks - a melted blue raspberry Jolly Rancher.  This is not a bad thing - and really I would have been disappointed if it tasted like anything else.  I know the label said this was supposed to be berry flavor, but the taste was generic enough of a berry to let my taste memory kick in and I could not shake that Blue Raspberry taste - thats just what blue colored drinks should be like.

I can only dream of the fun you could have when mixing this.  Of course I had to try Cool Blue in a couple recipes, and found some interesting color combinations could be had.   As expected, it made for a very girly vodka drink - so much so that it needed a chunk of fruit in a straw in it.  It was also great mixed a little with some cranberry juice and gin for a yummy Purpletini.  Cool Blue would be fun to have in a bar gun - so bartenders could play with this as an ingredient, like blue curacao or ginger schnapps.

It does not really matter if there is a kick in Blue Raspberry or not, but it is nice that there is a little.  There is the usual caffeine amounts and energy drink ingredients like Taurine and such in here, with nothing too spectacular or out of the ordinary.  But this is not a drink to pick up when you are just wanting a Red Bull Equivalent, this is a drink you want to show off - to take with you to meetings and parties.

Of course adding that lovely color means hat there are artificial colors and flavors and all that in here, but it is not glow-in-the-dark nuclear chemicals ( I did check it under a black light to see if I could make it glow, but alas) as much as your standard stuff you would find in any soda.  While I would not be popping 3 or 4 of these a day, Cool Blue is a fun way to start off your boring social events.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Black Medicine Coffee

Packaged coffee drinks usually come in two forms.  It is either a drink which resembles coffee, but is actually a mix of oils, non-dairy coffee creamer, instant coffee and a mound of sugar, or it's a specialty coffee drink brewed cold (toddy-style) and concentrated to a point where it is hard to drink right out of the bottle.  Both of which have some real tasty drinks, but until now that was about all there was. Now there is a third, and quite delicious, option.  Black Medicine is a small batch craft brewed hot process coffee - something more akin to a micro-beer than your usual morning pick-me-up drink.   It is a different and very enjoyable spin on your usual coffee.

Black Medicine does not come in a can or even a PET container, but in a bottle most resembling beer.   I had these during my morning meetings and it was great to have everyone stop me and see if I am finally given in and started drink in' early, only to wonder and be impressed at my newfound caffeine fix.  It helps that the design of the label is so classy and gives off the feel of a micro-brew as well, enough so that I have had a hard time not collecting the bottle.  The design is a very understated black on black with easily readable black text, really making it look sleek and really selling the handcrafted yet professional feel.

Practically, the bottle works too.  The cap is a twist off, so it can be opened easily without an opener and can be saved for later if you wish, the fonts are easy to read and the whole printing job is clear and well laid out.  While there is no direct caffeine listing, it does state that this has 50% more caffeine than ordinary coffee drinks.  The ingredients are laid out nicely as well as a little well written copy explaining what the drink is about without seeming cutesy or full of schtick.  The only improvement I could see making is to the cap - which is a plain black metal, and would be cooler if it had the brand logo on it.  Overall however, the package design of Black Medicine is quite brilliant.

I have had many cold-brewed coffees before, and I really enjoyed the utter smoothness and concentrated flavor of that brewing method.  I have also had dozens of canned coffees, drinks which are yummy in a junk-food sense, tasting like a coffee milkshake.  

Black Medicine is different than that - being hot-brewed, like a drip coffee or french press, only they have used a new process involving some sort of crazy alchemy where they keep all oxygen from degrading the coffee - I don't really understnad it, but the results are enough proof.  Somehow, they work their blend of 3 different beans (1 organic and 2 others) and the temperature and this nitrogen atmosphere to mimic cold-brewing's smoothness, but keep more flavor and body from the beans.  The result is something fruity with a whole lot of flavor, without any real acidity.  The closest I can think of is getting a Clover coffee ( found in specialty coffee shops or popping up in Starbucks) with something like an Ethiopian Yergachaffe (they dry the coffee fruit and then peel it - makes for an extra fruity flavor).  

 The drink comes with no sugar or cream - just straight coffee, and it doesn't it either.  Even if you are not a fan of straight black coffee, most likely you will be after having one of these.   They have serving directions involving pouring it into a mug and heating or adding a little cream in it if you feel like it - but all you really need is to refrigerate, crack open a cold one and enjoy.

Producing coffee this way, and really caring about your beans you select leads to a very strong cup of coffee.  According to their packaging, it leads to 50% stronger of a cup, and I can totally vouch for that.  Black Medicine is POWERFUL stuff!  While they don't list a caffeine amount (brewing a hot coffee with the same caffeine content every time is not an easy thing), it is obvious about 10 minutes after sucking a bottle down that this is no ordinary cup of coffee.  Even if you are a caffeine junkie this will give you your fix and keep you buzzing for at least a good couple hours.

The other nice thing in regards to their nutrition is the lack of any real preservatives and added garbage.  They add a little vitamin C to preserve their drink instead, which I have not seen used before to any great effect.   Its also cool to have a little vitamin C with my morning coffee anyways.  The lack of sugars and creamers also keeps the calorie content down, so you don't feel at all guilty giving into this little treasure too.  

 My only issue is that I received 3 samples from the company, and they were gone in less than 3 days (it was hard not sucking them all down the same day I got them).  You can buy a bottle online for either 3.50 a bottle or 80 bucks a case, but the shipping adds enough onto it that I can not see realistically buying a whole lot of them, unless it was for a special occasion.  However,if you are lucky enough to find this in a store near you, I would absolutely not pass this one up.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rockstar Sparkling Energy

Rockstar comes out energy drink flavors on a very regular basis - and rarely do they have a whole lot of difference.  The latest incarnation is the new Sparkling Energy drinks, which come in both a peach and cherry flavor.   And, like most of the Rockstar flavors out there, if you find one you absolutely love, I would stock up now because they never stick around for very long - which in this particular case is a real bummer.

Unlike some of their products (remember the one that had a straw glued to the can?) this one is original enough o stand out from the others on the shelf, and is yummy enough to enjoy for a very long time.  Rockstar's Sparkling energy is most reminiscent of New York Seltzer, only with berry and cherry flavor.   While Energy Seltzer is not original (Jetset and Hi Ball energy also produce delicious caffeinated soda waters too), this one is, at last for now, readily available.

Rather than go for their dual over-the-top grunge, or stark metallic designed look, Sparkling Energy looks bright with popping colors and a very clean bright feel.  I would feel right at home bringing this out jut about anywhere - from a school outing or any athletic event.  This was not made as much to impress your Gears Of War friends as something that would feel right at home in your minivan's cup holder.  Truthfully, I love the change in direction with this scheme, and hope this product sticks around for a long time.  

Functionally it does well too.  Like most Rockstar cans, this is double faced, written cleanly and is easy to read, and lists the caffeine content clearly.  The only thing I might do with the package to really sell the clean-ness of the drink inside is to consider putting this into PET bottles (those clear plastic bottles sodas come in).  That would really show off the clear liquid and their big differentiator from the rest of the market.

Crisp, Clear and Refreshing sound like advertising words, but i this case it really works.   The light fruitiness really works, and the slight hint of medicinal chalkiness actually adds the appropriate tang to the flavor to really highlight the fruitiness of both flavors offered..  As mentioned before, the liquid is totally clear, and very very bubbly.  I must have burped a dozen times getting through the can, which is pretty unusual.  I liked both the Cherry and the peach equally, although both were a very fake tasting fruit.   It is interesting that they used natural flavors to make this - but ether they need to step up their natural flavor ingredients or cut down on their fake sweeteners because this tastes about as natural as a Blow Pop.

Buzz: 7 
You never know with Rockstar what kind of blend they will be delivering, as they really work at trying different energy compounds to their niche market.  In this case they opted a bit light, going with 160 mg of caffeine and a blend of Glucurolactone, ionsitol a healthy dose of vitamin B, L-Carnitine, milk thistle and ginseng.  all in all it is not a bad blend - there re enough nutrients in here to make it a contender in the energy drink arena, but still light enough on the power to be able to drink a couple of  on a hot day.  
I did not get a real buzz from Rockstar Sparkling, but it did make me feel more wakeful and helped a little with the days concentration.  Not to mention I was was able to drink one in the late morning hanging out and coding, and felt fine enough to chug a second later in the day at around the 2pm slump.  While I would not take this out partying or for a serious rush, it does make for a nice sparkly  pick-me-up.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

EnergyRush PocketBooster

EnergyRush PocketBoost is a real mouthful, but fortunately is a decently tasting mouthful that works all right too.   I found EnergyRush at a local liquor store, positioned next to all the other cheap liquor shots.   I think this was sold as a mixer with other drinks, although I am not sure that with such a strong cherry taste it would be that great of an idea.

There is also no more information to be found online anywhere about this thing, so EnergyRush might be a failed product too - which is decent enough to be a shame.  It is like any other energy shot - except it comes in a cool pouch made of paper, foil and plastic that is not like I have seen before.   It stood up to the abuse of being stepped on and crushed in my Work Backpack of Death, which is a pretty good test of the rigidity of the package (which did not look like it could stand up to it) as well as provide a decent boost to get me through the afternoon.

This is one of the more unique packaging ideas, and I am constantly surprised at how much abuse this paper package got and still held up under pressure.  This little packet was crunched at the bottom of my backpack for a couple weeks (I completely forgot I bought it) and it was smashed in with shoes and laptops and god knows what else.  By the time I remembered it was smashed at the corner heel of my pack and completely spattered in dirt and grime.   I thought to myself that there was no way this little paper and plastic package would hold - but it kept all its liquid inside free from leakage and gunk.  Very impressive.

As for the design of the packaging itself, it left a little more to be desired.  Although the mechanics were great (it cracked open as it should and did not spill a drop), it really bugs me when products state they have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.  This makes absolutely no sense, as coffee can have anywhere between 80 - 300mg of coffee, depending on the brand and variety.  Stop being coy, and just list the caffeine content already.  Other than that though, the whole design was laid out very nicely and was easy to read (at least before I got it covered in guck and mud).

Taste: 8
The package stated I could mix this with water or just shoot it down, so of course I chose just snapping the top and squirting right in my mouth.  Its way more fun that way and really lets me get a good strong taste.  

The basic overall flavor is mixed berry - and it is a pretty decent blend for being sweetened with the standard Ace K/Sucralose blend.  It was not harsh or chemical,  but was not so over-sweet that it tasted like candy.   The non-nutritive sweetener actually helped give it a lightness that it needed to brighten up the drink.  If I could recommend a slight change it would be to add a hint of citrus to it to help balance out the rest of the chemical sweet tastes.

While there is no listing for caffeine, there was still a good dose of it in here, I am guessing between 120-180mg.  Add to that the carnitine, inositol, tyrosine and gugglesterones and you have one interesting energy mix.  Of course there is your usual B vitamin overhead in here too, but then there are even more interesting ingredients  - some of which I have not heard of before (which is really saying something).  While there is some that I know of , like Chromium, ginseng and Green Tea Extract, I have never heard of using white kidney beans,  coleus forskohii extract, Sylvestro extract or cambogia fruit  before,  and while some of these ingredients are linked to energy production, I am calling shenanigans on them adding White Kidney Beans and Sylvestro extract.

I got a nice decent sustained buzz from this - enough to keep my body humming along for a good couple of hours, and didn't crash when it left my system either.   I could see this as a great thing for going on hikes and off into an adventure, as the whole thing can be packed fairl easily, recycled without too much problem and still hold up under pressure.