Friday, March 13, 2009

Under the influence

Some people who know me are aware that I lament the passing of Vanilla Diet Coke. To some it was an insignificant blip in the history of the soft drink, but to me it was the culmination in sweet, unholy goodness. Ever since I first supped the dubious alcopop sensation that may have been called barcode after purchasing said from a North Finchley off license, I have subconsciously sought the sweet nectar of blended cream soda.
In this instance however, I was aware that there was little chance of re-living my past beverage highs, as Red Bull hardly has the tastiest pedigree.

Red Bull Cola. Many would think this a very bad idea.

As you can see, the reverse is jam-packed with information, a ream of text identifying each of the ingredients that help to form this concoction.

Anyone who has gone to the trouble of actually decanting Red Bull from its aluminium resting place will be familiar with the garish orange/yellow appearance of the stuff, a hue not usually found in nature aside from the urine of the unwell. For their cola variety the Red Bull company has wisely decided to go with the traditional brown colouring, but unfortunately the ancestry of this beverage makes itself known, the brown shade is highly influenced by orange and results in a look which speaks of a dubious bitter or perhaps a foul herbal tincture from a ‘natural high’ shop. Which I suppose is fitting.

Initial pouring finds that the concentration of carbonation seems to be higher than that of most colas, the frothy head building quickly and quite high, and persisting for a considerable amount of time. Once the froth has subsided, however, the liquid seems a touch flat, as if the fizz is mainly there for effect rather than for the experience.

The Red Bull Cola odour reminds me of Panda cola and other cheap copies of the cola formula, a rung or two below supermarket own brands and containing a cloying sweetness that smells highly artificial from within a soft drink class that is already steeped in artifice.
However, there is a fruity undercurrent which links this to the strange smell and taste of its older sibling, Red Bull itself, whose signifiers include a fruitiness that accompanies the unnatural, almost overbearing sweetness of the brew.

The taste is an odd one. In a move away from that of Red Bull, and towards that of cola, the drink somehow manages to cancel both out rather than finding a mutual meeting ground, and combined with the flatness of the liquid it makes for an unsatisfying experience. The hint of the Panda cola smell is there in taste too, but is now joined by the more prominent feature of cola bottles, again known for the feel of artifice when compared to most cola brands, let alone the Coke and Pepsi giants.
Worse than this is the earthy aftertaste that you really don’t associate with the cola style of soft drink.

The can claims it consists of 100% natural sources and natural caffeine, as if that makes it less of a drug.
“Sugar, C02, caramel sugar syrup, natural flavourings from plant extracts, galangai, vanilla, mustard seeds, caffeine from coffee beans, lime kola nut, cocoa, liquorice, cinnamon, lemon, ginger, coca leaf, orange, corn mint, pine, cardamom, mace, clove; lemon juice concentrate.”

Nice to know that it’s no less ‘dangerous’ than a sugary coffee, but as you can imagine all of those natural flavours together don’t necessarily make for a good taste.


  1. I shall use this information when making my next Cola purchase.

    Soft drinks I lament the death of:

    Caffeine Free Coke (not the diet one)
    Tab Clear
    Mountain Dew (the watered down UK version)
    Barr's Lemonade
    Tizer (still going under wrong name)
    Lucozade (glass bottle variety. More better)

    and probably many more

  2. Lucozade when it had the netting around the glass bottles. Classy.

    Your soft drink posts are awesome. Do they get many google hits, I wonder? Do people search out reviews of newly-launched soft drinks?