Strange Brew

Recreational beverages are getting weirder. I’m not simply referring to spirits and liqueurs, where innovation is both necessary and highly prized, but rather to the liquids that we consume in the course of any given day.

Even water is not immune to this trend—if you want to stay healthy, natural spring water is no longer good enough. There’s Hint, “premium essence water” lightly infused with an assortment of ten natural flavors, which contains no calories or sugar. Ayala’s Herbal Water is flavored with a choice of six different herbs, and has been certified as organic by the USDA. There’s no end to vitamin-enhanced waters, although some contain sweeteners and others have gotten in legal trouble for their health claims—read the labels carefully.

The most disturbing trend has been the proliferation of alcoholic energy drinks. These are frequently consumed by (and actively marketed to) the 18-25 age group, who apparently want to get drunk but don’t want to fall asleep and miss anything in the process. We turned a corner several weeks ago when the FDA issued warning letters to four manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. The worst offender was Four Loko, which contained the equivalent of four beers and three cups of coffee in a 23.5 ounce can. After several college students were hospitalized as a result of drinking it, Four Loko announced they were reformulating the drink to exclude caffeine. It’s only a start, since anyone of legal drinking age can order a vodka and Red Bull at the neighborhood bar.

Even more curious is Fever, the first “natural stimulation beverage,” designed to provide a “feeling of euphoria and an overall feeling of pleasure.” You guessed it—it’s an over the counter drink for males too embarrassed to seek a prescription for Viagra. It’s supposedly sourced from nine South American herbs but does contain Guarana, which has roughly twice the caffeine content of coffee beans. Fever is available in three flavors: Kiwi/Strawberry, Pineapple/Coconut and Mango/Banana. Does it work? I’m not telling, and only my wife knows for sure.

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