Liquor Nerd: Red Bull gives your carbonated cocktails a jolt

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      When it comes to polarizing the public, few beverages do a more effective job than energy drinks. Typically, generational divides factor in big time.

      And that’s perfectly understandable. Loosely speaking, those 40 and older rely on pick-me-ups that have endured over the ages, major ones being coffee, chocolate, B12 vitamins, cigarettes, and giant piles of bath salts, crank, crack, speed, and Scarface-brand blow.

      Strangely, those who’ll argue that God wouldn’t have put all those things on the planet Earth if she didn’t want us hoovering them are often the first to get on their high horses about energy drinks. For some reason older generations often see energy drinks as Lucifer’s liquid, Succubus’s soda, and Philatanus’s pop.

      That those same folks spent their childhoods mixing Pop Rocks and Coke and chugging Jolt Cola (all the sugar, twice the caffeine!) by the litre is none of your business. Same goes for the three grande hazelnut lattes per day that get them through the working week.

      As for the rest of us, the reality is that energy drinks have become something to embrace. Consider them go-go juice for getting over the 3 p.m. hump during the Monday-to-Friday grind. And perfect for launching one’s own living-room party at 2 a.m., the shotgunning of three cans followed by pushing back the sofa and cranking up “Fuck ’Em” by the Geto Boys. When you can’t go out to party, you have to bring the party to you.

      Anyhow... Energy drinks. There are plenty of them out there. But for this Liquor Nerd, there’s only one brand in the fridge: Red Bull.

      And while those might sound like the words of someone who’s being paid to say that: wrong. Initial exposure came in Thailand back when Cobain and was king, and getting through the all-night beach bash on Koh Samui wasn’t going to happen solely on the backs of Singha beer and Mekong Whiskey.

      Over the years Red Bull has been the go-to drink before pick-up ice hockey games, late-night writing sessions, and bring-on-the-sunset bangers.

      One of the great things about it? That would be the way it makes those who don’t drink it hysterical. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told that my seven-year-old shouldn’t be drinking something with taurine in it before track-and-field meets, birthday parties, and 4 a.m. bedtimes. The hilarious thing being that, as every nutritionist knows, taurine is something found in all of our bodies­—kind of like Doritos Chile Limón Dinamita , Skor bars, and the metallic flakes that make Goldschläger taste so good.

      But we’re supposed to be talking liquor here, so let’s bring things around to that. Popular opinion is that the ’70s marked the death of cocktail culture as it had existed for decades. Blame disco for a couple of reasons. When your great-great grandparents hit Studio 54 to spend the night ripping it up on the dancefloor, they didn’t want booze-heavy drinks—they wanted something to cool them down.

      As for the bartenders of the era, given that the lineups for drinks stretched back to New Jersey, quick and efficient was key—which is to say that a rum and Coke or vodka and 7-Up was far easier to execute than a Ramos Gin Fizz or a Commonwealth Cocktail with Namibian prickly pear fruit, wild Scottish strawberries, and 69 other ingredients.

      Detailed and labour-intensive quickly fell out of fashion in the ’70s. Soda guns became a godsend.

      Given the rebirth of cocktail culture this century, all is forgiven today. Sometimes you want a Painkiller, and others a no-fuss option like a Gin and Tonic.

      Like 7-Up, Coke, tonic water, and club soda, Red Bull is all about the carbonation. And that makes it an easy way to put a twist on your favourite cocktail. That Red Bull comes in a rainbow of flavours these days adds additional ammunition to your arsenal.
      Red Bull and Vodka is the standard in clubs from Iowa to Ibiza. Looking for a slightly more summery way to celebrate? Go with a light Bacardi and Red Bull Peach-Nectarine or Watermelon.

      A healthy splash of Appleton Estate with Red Bull Coconut Berry or Red Bull Tropical, meanwhile, is like being on the beaches of Jamaica, only without having to worry about getting sand in your crack or COVID-19 at the buffet table.

      Why Red Bull and liquor? Well, unless you’re a U.K. soccer hooligan, alcohol can sometimes make you sleepy. Because it gives you wings—it must be the taurine (a.k.a. amino sulfonic acid)—Red Bull gives you a bit of get-up-and-go when your energy has got up and gone. Kind of like a trip to Starbucks, only you don’t end up with downing three ounces of whipped cream because the barista was incapable of following simple goddamn instructions.

      Here’s a drink that you can make with Red Bull. With roots in Saint Patrick’s day. It’s also perfect for embracing your inner soccer hooligan.


      1/2 oz gin
      1/2 oz light rum
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Blue Curacao
      1/2 oz triple sec
      1/2 oz peach schnapps
      1 can Red Bull classic
      Pour all liquor into a glass full of ice. Slowly add full can of Red Bull so it seeps down the side. Position empty can at an angle in the top of the glass. 

      Mike Usinger is not a professional bartender. Hedoes, however, spend most of his waking hourssitting on barstools.