Friday, December 02, 2005

Bull run

On a regular sleepy afternoon, two sassy young women barge into the JAM office and offer us free cans of 'Red Bull'.

These cans are taken out of cute little silver and blue backpacks along with the crisp instruction: "Don't share the can".

But, uh, why exactly is what you generally think of as a 'club drink' being sampled in offices in the daytime? Let me take a guess. The club market is rather small so someone in marketing decided to 'expand occassions of use'.

"Office workers feel sleepy by mid-afternoon. Let's offer them an alternative to coffee!"

Next brainwave: let's get some cool-looking people to promote the idea and make our already cool drink appear cooler. And let's do other cool things like give these folks a cool n fancy name - 'mobile energisers'.

So far so good but the uncool truth is the can costs 75 bucks. And it tasted horrible to me. Like concentrated kala khatta, except this smelt far worse.

Of course, this is a purely personal opinion - although there are others whose tastebuds seem to share it. Reviews here and here.

However 2 billion cans were guzzled worldwide last year, so there are obviously people who feel differently!

As the Las Vegas Review Journal noted: BusinessWeek reported this summer that Red Bull earned a D+ in a taste test by After a diplomatic pause, Andre Teixeira, manager of rumjungle at Mandalay Bay, said of the flavor: "It's definitely one of those you have to acquire."

That may be part of the attraction :)

'The drink with wings'
The real USP of Red Bull is that it is supposed to energise or give a 'kick'. Every 250 ml can contains 3 times the caffeine in a cola but less than what you might have in a cup of instant coffee (60-100 mg per cup) or freshly ground coffee (80-350 mg per cup)

Besides caffeine, the label on the can says the drink contains vitamins, a carbohydrate (glucuronolactone), an amino acid (taurine), and about five teaspoons of sugar. When Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) asked a laboratory to analyse the drink it found 1000 mg of taurine and 600 mg of glucuronolactone - a naturally occurring substance manufactured by the human body.

Both taurine and glucuronolactone are supposed to detoxify the body.

It's the combination of all these ingredients that gives the Red Bull 'kick' (can't vouch for that - because I gave up after 3 sips!). However it is for that very reason that France, Denmark and Norway have banned sale of the drink.

CBC reported in February 2005 that French nutritionist Isabelle Vanrullen, who works with the country’s food safety agency, says France banned the brew because of how the ingredients in Red Bull interact: “There are various side effects for each one of these three substances, which vary in degrees of severity. And they can also interact with each other.”

The other concern is that unlike energy drinks like Gatorade, Red Bull dehydrates the body. So you shouldn't drink it to replenish your body after strenuous exercise.

Also, it tastes good as a mixer with vodka but there were some concerns when two apparently healthy young people died in 2001 . But although they had consumed Red Bull mixed with vodka no evidence could be found about Red Bull causing those deaths. In any case that was 4 years ago and there have been no adverse reports since.

Personally, I don't see Red Bull a a 'health' issue. Like it? Drink it. I still think it would taste a lot better in a smoky, dimly lit club, with 1000 watts of music - than in front of the office computer.


  1. Red bull is generally what you quaff down a can (or two, for crazy nutters) of when you need to pull an all nighter at college for exam/project submission.

    Tastes like hell, but I can vouch for the fact that it does keep you up.

  2. I was about to try it with Vodka. Didnt buy it for the price. Ended up mixing vodka with appy. Tasted good :-)

  3. Hey Rashmi,

    I have had my first experience of Red Bull on a vacation to Sri Lanka. I was at a night club in Colombo and dancing with some Lankan gal when she offered me Vodka mixed with Red Bull.... The rest is history and it's still a pointer on how to not lose money to a gal in my office... Apparently she was employed by the night club and finally after two rounds of vodka mixed with red bull, I had to part away with 5,000 Sri Lankan bucks (2,500 Indian Rs.)

  4. i was damn amused wen my frnd told me shes a 'mobile energiser'.....whoever knew wat tht is! college canteen sells red bull n i dont think it has sold a single can so far...

  5. The first place I saw this marketed was my college around 1999 or 2000. I wasn't clubbing at the time so I didn't think of it as a club thing. Of course, a few years and Jager-bombs later, I understand that... and that you have to be a bit tipsy to be able to drink one down since they taste so horrid straight ;)

  6. In June 04, we were driving from San Francisco to Seattle. We had two full days...comfortable drive.
    At noon, my tired & poorly compensated filmcrew bailed.
    From the middle of nowhere, I had to drive them all the way back to SanFran, & then drive solo from SanFran to Seattle.
    Suddenly, the comfy 48 hour trip became an excruciating 24 hour nonstop interstate commute.
    6 cans of RedBull kept me awake and the rest of the interstate commuters alive as I singlehandedly barreled my way across Calif & Oregon onto Washington & shot my final segment.

    Took me 1 full week to recover. I've never tasted RedBull after that, but it sure's a lifesaver.

  7. 75 bucks for a can !! You can go and have a nice lunch and get energized with money rather than drink a bad tasting concoction.

  8. Contrary to popular belief- Red Bull is not just a club drink. In the magazine and advertising offices here in NY, editors literally survive on Red Bull. They say it works better than coffee. Infact, the magazine I work at has been supplying free Red Bull to its staffers since the last couple of years.

  9. Hey Rashmi,
    I just have one thing to say...Red Bull tastes very very bad. Exactly like dilosyn (the cough medicine).
    Who wud want to take bad medicine when they arent even sick!!!

    On an offtopic:
    My Wordverification: 'astlaryu'
    Im sure there is some such sanskrit word and it means something!

  10. Red Bull costs a fortune, tastes like the old Waterbury's compound and its effects on revitalising the drinker are suspect. Taurine is known to cause, among other things, depression.

    I suggest this Google Answers link

  11. Hey Rashmi

    I study at Sydney Univesity, a studnet at the uni had 6 cans on Red Bull in a night at Manning Bar (the sydney univesity club on campus) he DIED of a cardiac arrest.

    Do not drink more than the suggested amount thats 1.5 cans in a 24 hour period. It can be fatal as this case suggested.

    I for my part am staying away from Red Bull or any other energy drinks of its elk.

  12. Also agree with the mixing with vodka thing, alchol is a mild depressant while red bull [caffine] cause is an opposite effect, it is not a good combination or a neutral mixer to vodka as juice.

    Also the death at sydney uni was this year a few months ago.

  13. Red Bull is an energising drink and its taste doesnt suit the Indian palate (just like Dr.Pepper). I havent seen many desis drinking these two drinks esp Red Bull bcos of mainly two reasons:
    1. Its expensive...costs $2 a can retail.
    2. Taste
    3. Desis r not into sports or any physical activities which demand energy drinks.

    I have observed that it gives energy and ability to stay awake, while playing tennis in summer afternoons and spending stressful nights working on projects etc.

  14. I bought a can in India while on vacation this summer and it tasted horrible. I have tried Jaeger bombs before and what a scam they are. I gulped like 4 Jaeger bombs at $6 a glass lne after the other and felt nothing. I don't know why people even call it a "bomb"

  15. wow Saurabh, i want to go drinking with you :) Shots of Jager are EVIL. Maybe the stimulant in the Red Bull balances it out for you....

    I personally don't like Jager bombs. I can't drink that much liquid in one try, and I look dumb doing it, doubly dumb if I've already had a few.

    But yeah, I see it more in school/office setting than in clubs. I have a friend who just wrote an Ode to Red Bull in his blog for helping him write his dissertation :)

  16. Just wanted to give you guys and gals some first had experience on red bull.
    I’m a 34 year old African American. I never drank, smoked, used drugs, or even drank coffee.
    Jan. 22, 05 I worked for a half a day, to cover for a friend. It was slow that day, which I believe was on a Saturday because I usually had Friday and Saturday off. I went next door to get some drinks for the staff from the store. I brought some Sobes for the front of the house and Red bull for the back of the house. (We took turns doing this if it was slow.) I drank one of the red bulls myself to see what all the hype was about. It tasted like crap so I only drank half of the can.
    Like I said it was slow so I went home early. I started walking to the trolley station after about 2 hours of taking the drink. I started to feel funny as you can tell if there is any changes in your body. My heart started to accelerate and I felt dizzy. The pain started to increase and I tried to breathe faster to keep up with my heart beats, but it only hurt worse. I sat down in so much pain and searched for my cell phone to call my girfriend to pic me up. She asked me what was wrong. I told her I was having a heart attack. She took me to one of those emergency clinics and by this time the pain was so intense I was screaming. I had to cover my mouth with my hands and the nurses thought I had to vomit, but it was the pain. I was rushed to the hospital here in San diego.
    Because of my symptoms the doctors thought it was drugs because I was African American and my girlfriend and as well as myself told them it was a red bull. When the toxicology test came back no drugs were found or alcohol, but something was exciting my system. The next thing I remember it was MARCH ??, 05 I had been in a coma for 30 days. My girlfriend said that the second day I was in the hospital, they called her at work and told her I was going to die. She came along with my Boss and friends and a minister to give me last rites, but I lived. It was now March and I had to learn to walk again, I was on dialysis and so forth because of my long incubation. So we know it wasn’t booze, drugs, cigarettes, and I was in good shape. I stayed in the hospital a total of 3 months to repair my heart with a 15 hour surgery as the finale. I had an extra valve in my heart which explained why I could out work or play anyone of my friends.
    (An anomaly) This is the question. If I had never drank that Red bull would I still be working now? I realize people drink this stuff everyday as one bloger said, but How many of us could get shot 9 times like the rapper 50 Cent and live?, How many of us use the drugs that Chris Farely and John Belushi did and are still alive today? We all have different bodies but if one person dies from a product, there is a problem. Red Bull uses the word alleged from the people that died from there product because there was alcohol, not drinking enough water, but I just told you what they felt before they died. Am I suing? They would drag this on forever. My hospital stint was so long I lost everything, so suing would be suicide. If it does happen to anyone else I will be the star witness if they decide to take it to court and I check the papers and internet everyday. They say “Red Bull gives you Wings”
    They almost gave me mine right along with a harp.

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