The Buzz on Energy Drinks

Drink Up and Stay Up All Night With Rajesh Srinivasan, Your Resident Caffeine Connoisseur

Lara Brucker/Staff

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Yeah, sure, at any other time you "think" energy drinks are disgusting and that you can do better. But all of a sudden, when finals are looming, you're back on their doorsteps, groveling and begging them to take you back. And they do, with open arms. But whose arms should you be going into?

Over the years, I've tried my fair share of energy drinks. I'm no certified expert, of course, but hopefully, I can guide you to the right energy drink choice this finals season-a drink that will both do its job and taste great. As always, drink them responsibly, and never taste-test over 10 energy drinks and shots in a short span of time in order to review them. (Seriously, bad idea.)


Rating: ***** (out of five stars)

Caffeine content: 16.25 mg per fl oz

Out of all these non-shot drink choices, NOS is the one loaded with the most caffeine numerically-a hefty 16.25 mg for every ounce. But though it has enough stimulant in it to be medication, NOS is a caffeine addict's dream. With a reasonable amount of carbonation and a tropical aroma, NOS is punch soda for adults. Yeah, you may not feel as manly drinking this rather than a steely Hitman, but it is a lot easier to tolerate. Besides, the packaging resembles a nitrous oxide can if you get the right kind, so no one has to know you're enjoying it.


Rating: **

Caffeine content: 10 mg per fl oz

This might sound sacrilegious, but Monster energy drinks are awful. It's just some lightly citrus-flavored chemicals loaded with synthetic sugars. And the caffeine content? 10 milligrams per fluid ounce, which is comparable to other drinks. When you can be drinking something that doesn't taste like it's been predigested, why would you pick up a Monster? Don't let name recognition fool you. If you really want to honor the brand, pick up the Hitman.


Rating: *****

Caffeine content: 6.4 mg per fl oz

Want a classy energy drink to accompany you on your night out to hot club destinations? Bawls is your well-dressed companion. The drink comes in a suave blue bottle, sports subtle hints of lemon-lime and light carbonation. The blog Energy Drink Ratings suggests mixing it with vodka for a greater kick, but really, it works fine on its own. Energy drink haters, 7-Up lovers, this is for you. No one will frown upon you for popping one of these open.


Rating: ****

Caffeine content: 10 mg per fl oz

Out of all the pungent energy drinks, Rockstar is the best. It's not too sweet, but it's not rough on your tastebuds either. It's about the closest you get to perfection of that Monster formula. Then again, most people still find it putrid, so it's up to you to determine whether the kick is worth it. If you have no patience for it, you might just try the Rockstar energy shot.

Full Throttle

Rating: ***

Caffeine content: 9 mg per fl oz

I lived off these my first two years of college because they were essentially the only energy drinks sold on-campus. If you want to taste something entirely synthetic and feel like you're downing chemicals, this is for you. It's tolerable; it's just not the best option. For some reason, mixing it with a mint-chocolate protein bar is a wise choice--my lunch for all those years.

5-Hour Energy (Lemon/Lime)

Rating: ****

Caffeine content: 69 mg per fl oz

This lemon-lime shot is one of the better shots I've tasted, but for some reason, I still prefer the Hitman. To be fair, so much caffeine was speeding through my veins when I tasted it that it would be hard for me to measure the effect. As shots go, though, it tastes fine, and it definitely tastes better than that lemon-lime organic knockoff. (I still am haunted by it and will be forever.)

Monster Hitman

Rating: ****

Caffeine content: 80 mg per fl oz

Now this one ain't bad, though you might question why Monster named the drink after something that's paid to kill you. It does have that medicinal quality and a bitter aftertaste, but if you need caffeine in less than 0.5 seconds, this is your best shot (ha!). It tastes like a highly concentrated grape-and-apple concoction, but unless you're a sadist or a Tussin addict, this isn't for enjoyment as much as it is for a quick fix.

Guayaki Yerba Mate Organic Energy Shot (Lime/Tangerine)

Rating: *

Caffeine content: 70 mg per ounce

This is, by far, no exaggeration, the worst liquid that I have tasted in my life, at least out of those meant for consumption. Scratch that: The taste of blood or vomit might be preferable to this.

Certainly, there is something very, uh, "organic" about it. It tastes like an herbal concoction mixed with lemon Pinesol cleaning solution. The cashier at the place I bought this from told me they were trying to get rid of them. Can't imagine why.

Red Bull shot

Rating: ****

Caffeine content: 40 mg per fl oz

"How do we breed our Red Bull to be even more red and bullish?" once asked a Red Bull flavorist (a real profession pre-recession, trust me). The answer they came up with is the Red Bull Energy Shot, which is a just really really concentrated Red Bull. It's slightly rougher to get down than the original drink, but just chug and you'll be on your way to sprouting wings.


Send Rajesh a doctor at [email protected]

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