Three aluminum cans of whoop-ass stand before us. All are sixteen-ounce tallboys, and all are painted man-colors: gold, red, black. In a row, they look like ninjas poised to attack. On the left is Rockstar, "the most powerful energy drink available...enhanced with the potent herb Milk Thistle... formulated to speed the recovery time of those who lead active and exhausting lifestyles." On the right is SoBe No Fear Gold, a "super energy supplement" nicknamed "the Lizard." And standing front and center, like an undefeated welterweight, is Full Throttle. Its motto is step back! "Prepare to let your man out."
We have been in training for five months. Running the stairs, swimming laps, crunching all of it's been leading up to this do-or-die day, on which we will pit ourselves against the three musclemen of the thriving $3.3-billion energy-drink market. Made by men for men, designed to boil the testosterone and push manly men to the edge. Energy drinks.
Rockstar's label encourages us in bold print to "Party like a rockstar," which is no problemo, of course, but in this case letting loose means sucking down a 220 calorie, 54g sugar, 70 mg sodium, "bigger, faster, stronger" high-fructose-sour-Meyer-lemon-corn-syrup concoction featuring trace amounts of guarana, ginkgo-biloba leaf extract and (of course) pantothenate. Got all that? Who the fuck cares, Rock Star? It's time for a guitar solo! This stuff tastes like a jizzier Red Bull, what with that vaguely cherry/grapefruit sour-tang thing going on. Poured into a glass, it looks exactly like über-yellow dehydrated urine.
No fear, huh? Try pouring the Lizard into a clear glass. SoBe No Fear Gold is a faint yellow, the color of vulgarity alert pee mixed with trace amounts of sperm. It's a pretty nasty color. But that shouldn't bother the toughies drinking No Fear. These are men who are not afraid of anything. No as in zero fear. Afraid of nada. No. Fear. Oh really? Does that include homoeroticism? Prove it and taste a different kind of cocktail, tough guy, one that's sweeter, and a bit more cucumbery, than Rockstar. Enjoy the oily, sticky afterfeel.
Full Throttle one of Coca-Cola's dozen-odd stabs at the energy drink market is full-on neon green, like alien piss and Mountain Dew, and the most aggressively male energy drink in the history of the universe. Need proof? Check www.fullthrottleenergy.com, and find the video documentary. In it, a beefy man's man sermonizes: "Hunt. Hunt the meat, hunt the deer, hunt the rabbit, hunt whatever is alive out there and bring it back home. This was the man's responsibility. Where is the man? What is he doing right now? He's going out there on the promenade and shopping for Christmas." Gag me. And swallow this aggressively sweet fluid, which turns sour halfway through and then turns apple Now & Later and lingers for an eternity. Thirty seconds later, it's evolved into this rancid chemical thing that's as much repressed memory as aftertaste, like dried blood and stale beer. Yummy.