Up All Night: The Energy Drink Taste Test

Categories: Beverages

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
My cat got in on the taste test, too.
It's not that I have a death wish or am a glutton for punishment. I'd been intending to taste test energy drinks for nearly a month now, but I kept putting it off because, quite frankly, I didn't want to do it.

Then this past weekend, two people on two separate occasions asked me my thoughts on energy drink flavors. "She knows about food and wine and stuff," each person seemed to be thinking. "Perhaps she can break down the subtle nuances in Red Bull for me."

To be honest, I have no idea what they put in Red Bull to make it taste so crappy unique, but as a non-coffee drinker (I prefer tea) I understand the need for a pick-me-up beverage sans beans every now and then.

So I'm doing this. I've been to three gas station convenience stores and a Walgreens looking for different varieties of energy drinks, and while I found most shelves oddly empty, I was able to procure an assortment for my tasting pleasure.

I divided the cans and bottles I gathered into three groups: Classic, Silver Edition and Random. Very scientific. Classic constitutes the first wave of energy drinks to get popular in the early- to mid- 2000s. Silver Edition are the frequently zero-calorie, zero-sugar drinks that are offshoots of the classic drinks. Random is exactly what it sounds like.

Here goes. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, it's because my heart exploded.


5-hour Energy Pomegranate
4 calories per 1.94 ounces
Thoughts: This much concentrated energy scares me.
Observations: Smells like cherry chapstick (wax and everything); not carbonated; tastes like highly concentrated, super sweet strawberry juice mixed with nail polish remover
Bottom Line: Would not drink, ever, unless my life depended on it, and even then maybe not.

Red Bull Original
110 calories per 8.4 ounces
Thoughts: Do people actually drink this without hard liquor?
Observations: Doesn't smell like much; slightly carbonated; tastes like baby powder mixed with watered down cranberry juice
Bottom Line: Would only drink if it was mixed with vodka and I was already drunk.

Monster Energy Original
110 calories per 8 ounces
Thoughts: I used to drink these in high school, and I even thought they were bad back then.
Observations: Smells like chemicals; slightly carbonated; tastes like Mt. Dew mixed with grape cough medicine
Bottom Line: Would not drink unless I magically got transported back to high school.

Amp Energy Original
110 calories per 8 ounces
Thoughts: I know not a single person who drinks Amp.
Observations: Smells like cheap lemon-lime soda; very slightly carbonated; tastes exactly like it smells--cheap lemon-lime soda, emphasis on the artificial lime flavor that coats your teeth
Bottom Line: Would not drink except to keep from getting scurvy on a 15th century sail to the New World.

Nos High Performance Energy Drink
160 calories per 12 ounces
Thoughts: NOS comes from "Nitrous Oxide Systems," which is not something I want to ingest.
Observations: Smells good and nostalgic, like Sunny D; carbonated; tastes like citrus or Tang mixed with Sprite
Bottom Line: Would drink.

This story continues on the next page.

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My Voice Nation Help

I'm ashamed to admit that I still drink an occasional Green Monster from time to time. I don't love the flavor, but I don't hate it, either.

Jonathan Alonzo
Jonathan Alonzo

I normally rag on Houston Press but this article was pretty good. The author made some fun quirky swipes at these brands (most of which I've had myself). It was definitely entertaining, although as a fan of original Monster when I need a quick jolt, I will say it should've been above NOS.


Green Amp is my favorite energy drink, I can't stand all the other crap.

KaitlinS topcommenter

Now I know one person who drinks it!

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