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Drink Yourself Fitter

As the food and pharmaceutical industries grow ever closer, the newsagent shelves devoted to ‘health’ and ‘energy’ drinks grow ever more crowded. So how do you choose between these hundreds of life-giving drafts? We asked Paul Garner to dip an impartial tongue into a cross section of the market…

4 December 2003

POWERADE ‘BLUE’
A classic case of ‘style over content’. The pull up sucker thing that you drink from (I’m sure it has a technical name) sits atop a canister of azure blue liquid. The blue suggests that a level of science has gone into this drink that is beyond my intelligence - but the fact is, this drink is flat, stagnant, looks like antifreeze and tastes of nothing more than cheap, sickly, melted iced lollies. On closer inspection I noticed the drink was made by Coca-Cola. Well, if ‘Coke adds life’ this shite will add nothing more than a bluey tint to your piss. 2/10

POWERADE ‘CITRUS CHARGE’
This is from the same family as above-but orange instead of blue. Like the Minogues, these siblings are almost exactly the same but one's slightly shitter than the other. This is definitely Danni - totally flat, unoriginal and forgettable. 1/10.

V-ENERGY DRINK
It's been around for a while, but I only really got to know about this drink when it was massively pushed as the sponsor of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.’ It’s a good looking can - I’ve always liked green, it feels fresh. The instant zap you get from the sharp taste is good. It’s the same reason why I often order a margarita late at night on a drinks binge... it gives you that extra zing needed to kickstart a fading brain. It claims on the back that Guarana - its chief ingredient - has been used beneficially by the Amazonian Indians for centuries. Wow, aren’t they clever.... they still haven’t managed to invent trousers or bras yet though, have they? 6/10

SUPERMALT
An absolute fucking disgrace. I can honestly say that I have never sampled a drink quite as repulsive in my life. The label reminded me of the wallpaper they had in the pub on ‘Juliet Bravo’, which is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but worthy of note. On flicking off the lid, my first whiff of Supermalt was like a carthorse had just belched in my face. It was hideous. Having sampled strong French cheese I know aroma can sometimes scare you off from what can be quite a pleasant taste experience, but this wasn’t one of those times. It was hideous. As soon as I swigged it, it reminded me of the time I first ate sushi - I felt like I had broken some taboo by trying it. This was thick, brown and claggy and a nagging thought appeared in the back of my head that there was a serial killer moonlighting at the Supermalt factory who’d found the perfect place to hide acid-wasted human remains. I can honestly say that this is as close as I can imagine to how the sludge from Dennis Nielsen’s drains must have tasted. 0/10

DUNN’S RIVER BANANA FLAVOURED NOURISHMENT
This interested me from the start as it was the only one of my selection that came in a ‘dogfood’ style can. However, there was an immediate aesthetic disappointment: the top of the can didn’t come off as a whole - just a small pouring hole was revealed. It made me feel sad and let down, which is surely not what an energy drinks manufacturer aims at. I have to admit, the can looks and feels good in the fist, but the first swig is a major kick in the face. It’s fucking horrible. It was syrupy, over-sweet and the drink stank more of ‘can’ that it did of ‘banana’. I suppose a simpler way of putting would be to say that it was like drinking a metal banana. This looks like the sort of drink that would survive a nuclear blast, but even if I stumbled across a can in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I don’t think I could bring myself to drink it. 1/10

FEEL FINE
This drink looks good. It is by far the most stylish of the traditional ‘Red Bull’ shaped cans. Sleek and slimline, it felt terrific in the fist and the silver, black and gold livery was pleasing to the eye. In fact, the can was so classy, I really didn’t want to put it down. I felt cool and fashionable holding it, and wondered if Feel Fine could perhaps one day take over from the cigarette because it looks cool but it’s also good for you - now that is big and clever. The drink itself was a simple but crisp passion fruit fizz, not too sweet, not too gaseous. It had an initial strength of flavour that soon faded - a bit like a Bulgarian wine - but that’s a good thing because you sip more frequently. I loved this drink and mark my words that if there is any justice in the world, it won’t be long before you hear the words ‘A Feel Fine and vodka, please mate’ being shouted in the bars of Hoxton. 9/10

VITAMIN SMART ‘DEFENCE’
This looks like stale urine and doesn’t taste much better. The makers smothered the label with descriptions of the extraordinary efforts they have gone to in order to create this amazing product... but then forgot to give it any flavour or personality whatsoever. This is like a film with Brian Dennehy in the lead role - if you read the video box you think ‘oh that’s worth a look’ but when you try it, you end up feeling cheated and disappointed. It's the sort of drink that should only be taken intravenously so its blandness can never offend the taste buds. 3/10

FENTIMANS MANDARIN AND SEVILLE ORANGE JIGGER
This company claims to have been established since 1905, but I’ve never heard of them. The drink came in an old-fashioned glass phial that quite frankly frightened me. Rather than being impressed by the quaintness of the bottle or the antique looking label, they instinctively remind me of either medicine or poison. True to its image, this drink was primitive in flavour and felt like I should have poured it into a spoon before drinking it. Sharp and over-citrusy, it didn’t feel like the reward you could perhaps expect after a long workout or a 10 mile run. I could almost hear the screams of First World War soldiers who, short on medical supplies, would have glugged some Fentiman's on the promise that it had some medicinal or anaesthetic qualities only to be screaming ‘Urrgh - it’s sharp and over-citrusy!!’ as a gangrenous, shrapnel-riddled leg was cut off below the knee. 2/10

LUCOZADE ORIGINAL
There are now so many varieties of Lucozade on the market that I fear the original may be forgotten as being one of the earliest and still one of the best energy drinks. Lucozade was a trailblazer in the 70’s and successfully went on to reinvent itself from ‘the drink you have when skiving off school’ to ‘cool, sporty tonic’. It’s worth saying that just because it’s been around for ages doesn’t make it naff or shit - it’s not Des O’Connor. In fact, it’s more ‘Tom Jones’ - an old classic, repackaged and revitalised. 8/10

NB. I did try a swathe of the Lucozade spin offs including Lucozade Sport and Lucozade Lemon Energy but they were disappointingly cheap chips from a quality old block. (Think ‘Swiss Tony’ as compared to ‘The Fast Show’).

SUNNY D
The first time I’d heard of this stuff was when it made the press because of a possible cancer causing scare, so I was already contemplating the months of chemotherapy ahead of me as I nervously took my first swig. If the propaganda is to be believed, this is the stuff kids go the craziest for after brand name trainers and Dairylea, but to me it was a bland, uninspired orange swamp. This drink is a classic case of a marketing triumph - it is no different in flavour, appearance or content to something in a carton like ‘Five Alive’ but because mums live in fear of not being thought of as ‘cool’ by their son’s prepubescent classmates, litres of the bloody stuff sit glowing like uranium in fridges across the country. 1/10

RED BULL and RED BULL SUGARFREE
One of the originals and still one of the best. I like the fact that Red Bull hasn’t (yet) gone down the Lucozade path and packaged itself with all manner of flavours and combinations. It’s still either ‘With Sugar’ or ‘Sugarfree’. I hated the TV commercials for Red Bull but the drink itself remains a firm favourite. To my mind, Red Bull has always remained an energy drink and I’ve never really endorsed its entry into the leisure market when it is mixed with vodka. The sugarfree version is remarkably versatile despite its obvious shortcomings, and it didn’t taste too ‘chemically’ which can often happen to drinks that go in quest of a sugar alternative. Well done all at Red Bull. 8/10

PURDEY GOLD and PURDEY SILVER
An unexpected result of this experiment: I will never again buy a Purdey’s. Let me explain why. As I plucked it from the table, the Gold Purdey’s felt comfortable - like a night out with an old friend. There was a satisfying neck-seal break as I twisted the cap, but that’s about as far as my enjoyment went. Yes, the bottle had the ‘class of glass’ and the drink itself was spicy and snappy but I just couldn’t help thinking about the can of Feel Fine I’d had earlier. I felt like someone who knew their relationship was coming to an end and had developed a wandering eye. Purdey’s Gold just wasn’t turning me on anymore. I felt guilty and a little sad so swiftly moved onto the silver. This was a mistake. The initial aroma belch was strangely ‘malty’ and I had flashbacks to the blocked drains and matted human hair of my Supermalt nightmare. This is a bad drink - I’d never realised just how bad until today and I can vouch that Purdey’s has dropped from a thoroughbred favourite to a tired, plodding old nag. 3/10

RED ‘Z’
In the same shape can and with a soundalike name, this is a poor man’s Red Bull. The equivalent of a Kenny Dalglish Fried Chicken to a true KFC - looks and promises the same, but never matches up. This drink made me angry because of the pointlessness of it. Red Bull is Jarvis Cocker, Red ‘Z’ is Peter from Fame Academy. Don't drink it. 1/10

V8-VEGETABLE JUICE
I’ve seen this around and have always shied away from it as I have an aversion to cold vegetables. In my opinion, vegetables should only ever be pulped if they are going into a piping hot soup. But this was my only problem with V8 before I sampled it, and so I wasn’t expecting this to be the most disgusting can of crap I have ever tasted in my life. On cracking open the Coke-style can, I moved into to take a deep sniff of the contents. This was a huge mistake. The rich, deep stench that leapt forth was so overpowering that when I recoiled I actually did my neck in. It was like I had plunged my nose into a decomposing Chrissie Hynde’s rotting stomach cavity. Clutching my wounded neck, I moved in for the sip..... and nearly puked. After tasting it, part of me wanted to put the can outside so I wasn’t downwind of its vapours. It was so awful my rating system can not accommodate it, but let’s put it this way - it’s the only drink I would consider washing down with a hefty swig of Supermalt. NA/10

LIBBY’S PINEAPPLE AND COCONUT NECTAR
I was initially impressed by the class of the dimpled glass - it brought back fond memories of the original Orangina bottle. The initial smell was not good, especially when you consider that this is supposed to be more from the pleasure market than it is the health market. Essentially, this was suntan lotion. It was repulsively sickly. If you’re gonna risk throwing up on drink, you’d at least want do it while getting pissed. This sickly glob couldn’t even afford me that simple pleasure. It has got to be the first time I’ve ever seen a drink this bollocks without a raffle ticket sellotaped to it - this type of old shit is normally passed from pillar to post until some poor shortsighted old woman grabs it from a village fate raffle thinking it’s a jar of hand cream. 3/10

TETLEY’S ‘T’ FOR LIFE’ ICED TEA
(Raspberry & Cranberry flavour)
Iced tea is one of those drinks that I have never wanted a piece of. There are certain things that just have to be hot - vegetables is one of them, tea is another. The makers of Tetley’s know this and they’ve tried everything in their power to try and shift a vat full of dreary old tea dregs dressed up as a fancy new cool drink. It hasn’t worked. They have even put little cartoons on the side of the plastic bottle to make it look appealing. But this is no different in my book than a paedophile showing a kid some pictures of some puppies just to lure them into his filthy world. This drink has obviously been marketed for a quick buck by a fading, fusty old tea company that is desperate to swap the ‘who’s who of incontinence’ which makes up its loyal customer base for a younger, trendier market. Shameful. 2/10

THE FEELGOOD DRINKS COMPANY Cranberry and Orange Juice
This wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. Perhaps a little too syrupy to be that refreshing but a bloody sight more palatable than most of the shit I’ve had to try. Slightly annoyed by the spiel on the back of the bottle which said something along the lines of ‘we’re a small company who are trying our best to make you quality drinks.’ Don’t make out you’re little innocents in a big, evil world. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t go on to me about it. I just brought the drink to feel energised, not to have to sit and read your pathetic whingings. 4/10

SHARK
Another Red Bull clone. Not far off Red Bull in flavour - although it did have a slight aftertaste that reminded me of ‘Deep Heat’. Can’t see the point of this really, what with Red Bull on the market. I’d imagine it might get the nod from some sad twat who thinks a shark is cooler than a bull.... 5/10

TWINING’S ICE TEA
In its green, cardboard cylinder this looks like an old woman’s talc and it didn’t taste much better. Far too fragrant and perfumed, this was about as close to the refreshing, comforting taste of a classic cup of tea as a piece of dog shit. Utter bollocks. 1/10

SO BE ELIXIR
I’ve always hated the word ‘elixir’- it sounds cocky, like ‘luxury’. So it was that me and the So Be range got off on the wrong foot, but I was to be pleasantly surprised. Light, fruity but not overwhelming, the So Be Elixirs were uplifting and comforting. The 3 flavours came in vast bottles. I only had a sip of each because if I’d done all 3 bottles, I’d have been on the khazi til Christmas. 7/10




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