A couple years ago, after marveling at the huge display of oddly named, menacingly packaged “energy drinks” at a local grocery store, I decided to dedicate one of the first Lost in the Supermarket columns to the boost juice. After sampling a variety of the beverages, I’d decided they all tasted about the same (most of the aftertaste was also identical) and the differences in the “energizing” effect were minimal.
What the energy drink explosion suggested to me was that we all are working harder and are being pushed to do better and more. Since crack is illegal, chugging a few Red Bulls will have to do the trick.
But there’s also the converse side. After we’ve been worrying about the economy and rat-racing ourselves ragged all day … well, where are the drinks for that?
Oh, there they are. Though not quite as booming as the energy drink market, similar chill-out, stress-reliever drinks have been slowly growing in popularity the past few years. The first to introduce the “non-energy drink” concept on a wide scale was Drank, which, when introduced in the late ’00s, immediately caused controversy because its name and concept (but not ingredients) were based on “purple drank,” a recreational drug popular in the South. A mix of cough syrup, Sprite and Jolly Ranchers, the real “drank” was celebrated by Southern Hip Hop stars in song. It also killed a few, like Pimp C of UGK and DJ Screw, both of whom had done music about the glory of drank.
Though free of codeine or any other hard drugs, Drank and others of its ilk have been regularly chastised by public officials and those in the medical/psychological community who feel it’s clearly a gateway to harder drugs.
These non-energy drinks recently caught my eye when I spotted the face of late Reggae superstar Bob Marley peeking out from the cold beverage fridge at a local convenience store. Without hesitation, I grabbed a few cans and headed home to “lively up my mouth” and “stir it down” (not actual ad slogans, but they should be).
While Marley’s legacy may not always be tastefully tended to, it sure is tastily with Marley’s Mellow Mood. With the Marley estate’s official stamp of approval, the “all-natural” “dietary supplement” promises to reduce stress and relieve tension. Ingredients in the drink’s “Relaxation Blend” include chamomile flower extract and melatonin, a human hormone that is used to treat sleep disorders (among other ailments).
The taste (fittingly) was much smoother than most energy drinks, but I couldn’t help notice that while the can said it was “Berry” flavor, all I could taste was peach. Stoner mix-up at the factory, perhaps? The aftertaste was reminiscent of energy drinks. And my burps tasted like patchouli.
The next chill-out came from the line of “Neuro” drinks, which use a lot of psycho-babble/scientific wording to make you think it’ll work. I chose Neuro Bliss. Ingredientsincluded similar “naturally chilling” things, like SerinAid® PhosphatidylSerine, a supplement used to heighten brain cognizance.
The aesthetic was enticing — the liquid appears milky while the bottle for all Neuro products looks exactly like a vibrator. Maybe the “Bliss” comes after you use it that way. The Hustler Store should sell these.
Neuro Bliss (which lists benefits like “Enhances mood” and “Promotes a positive outlook”) was actually the tastiest of all the anti-energy beverages I sampled, kind of like a smoother version of grapefruit juice with just a little carbonation.
My last taste test was a drink from a company known more for its energizing beverages. Perhaps because to “party like a rock star,” you have to actually sleep at some point, the Rockstar energy drink company has developed more than just uppers. Rockstar Relax exists because, according to the company’s website, “sometimes even a rockstar needs to turn the volume down.”
The “calming herbal blend” of Rockstar Relax includes chamomile, passionflower and l-theanine. Non-carbonated, the “tropical guava flavor” was more cringe-inducing than relaxing. It tasted like a carbonated pineapple-flavored Rockstar energy drink that had gone flat.
So do they work? Yes, but judging how relaxing something makes you is tricky. Could it be the power of suggestion that a dildo-shaped bottle or Bob Marley’s visage can conjure? Could there be some placebo-effect going on? Was I just really tired, as usual? The results of all three were about the same — more “takes the edge off” than “forget your troubles, come on, get happy.” I got a little sleepier than normal, but my anxiety remained at my default “moderate-to-high” level.
The best comparison: Chasing down a .50-milligram Xanax pill with various flavored Kool Aid.
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