Friday, December 31, 2010

Xyience Xenergy

As I am sure many of you have realized by now, I really do not like energy drinks. I think that they are vile and that the amount of artificial ingredients and sugar that they contain is unjustifiable, and I resent my "try everything once" curiosity every time that I walk out of a store with one in my hand. I have only truly enjoyed one non-organic energy drink in the past: Bawls Guarana. I can now safely say, however, that the list now contains two entries.

The level at which I enjoyed this beverage came as a complete shock. I was bracing myself for the typical energy drink flavor (or worse), but was greeted instead by a magnificently tangy lemon taste. I had to take an extra drink to verify that I was not losing my mind, but, sure enough, I really liked this one. The lemon flavoring was certainly not subtle (hence "lemon blast," I suppose), but there was something very tantalizing about the taste. Xenergy is nicely carbonated, which in my opinion typically means "so fizzy that it stings your sinuses going down," but this one is just bubbly enough for the flavoring. The drink also does not taste overly artificial, and does a much better job of hiding its chemical makeup than most of the other apparently unconcerned competing brands. All in all, I really like this one, despite the overuse of the letter "x" on the can.

And I'm still a little bit confused as to how I could have possibly enjoyed a beverage with the moniker of "the official energy drink of the UFC," but I am always open to pleasant surprises.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 16 fl. oz. [473mL]
Price: $0.70 [Discounted]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tango Energy Juice

Tango is yet another terrible energy drink. Tango is unique amongst energy drinks, however, in the fact that it is non-carbonated. This adds no real appeal to the beverage, however, as all that it means is that you can taste the sour and acidic energy drink chemical taste even more prominently amongst the lack of carbonation. It's not great, and really it just tastes like every other energy drink that you've ever had: sour and corrosive and full of taurine. Unless you really just want another generic American energy drink, don't bother with this one. 

Also, I decided to pour some of this one out to show the rather unprecedented color of the drink.

Tantalizing, isn't it? I've only seen this shade of green from superfood beverages, and those have a legitimate reason for being Earthy green.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 16 fl. oz. [473 mL]
Price: $0.70 [Discounted]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Takeya Water Bottle through CSN Stores

I have been in the market for a new water bottle for a little while now. I already have a great water bottle that I absolutely love, but I would like an extra one for non-water beverages so that I can keep my other bottle strictly for water. After perusing the internet a bit, I came across this bottle at CSN Stores. CSN Stores is a huge online retailer that carries much in the way of home decor and kitchenware, with items ranging from cutlery to counter height stools to barware and wine accessories and just about everything in between.

The Takeya Modern Glass 16oz Water Bottle seems like a perfect fit for me. I don't think that I have mentioned it recently, but those of you who follow the blog know how much I love drinking out of glass. Having a readily reusable glass container to take homemade juices and other non-water liquids with me to class (and elsewhere in the city) will be a wonderful and affordable addition to my current water bottle situation, and the modern look of the bottle is very minimalist and eye-catching, adding even further to the appeal. I am very much looking forward to reviewing this bottle once I get mine in.

[EDIT: Review posted on January 14th, 2011]

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

Best wishes this holiday season from Drinkable Review.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

My uncle recently gifted my father and I with a sampler of Samuel Adams' winter/holiday brews. The Old Fezziwig Ale was the first that I tried, and I really enjoyed it. It reminds me a good bit of Old Speckled Hen, in that the taste has the same sort of toasted flavor that sits in the back of the throat after each drink. It's not quite as pronounced as Old Speckled Hen, and the flavor is a little more subtle, but the beer is after all a different product and is unique in its own right. 

The beer is, as mentioned before, one of their seasonal winter brews and is spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel. Cinnamon in particular is an ingredient found in a lot of winter and holiday beer recipes, and when combined with the ginger and orange, it results in a wonderfully mild flavor that is easy to enjoy all the way through the serving. The taste did not wear itself out, and I did not suffer from the bloated "just one more drink" feeling that I tend to get at the bottom of a lot of heavier beers. 

Sam Adams is already one of the only American beers that I feel is worth the money (by which I mean any money at all), and this is a great addition to my already high opinion of the company.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Did not purchase
Size: 12 fl. oz.
Price: Unsure

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Big Lots Trip Number 2

Well, I went to Big Lots again tonight. I came out with another huge selection of beverages to power through during the upcoming week. I was particularly surprised to find the Adina Holistics on sale for 75 cents. My sister and I together bought quite a few of those. I was also excited about finding Shasta Cola (especially four 16 oz. cans for a dollar) amongst the restocked selection. I used to drink Shasta all the time when I lived in Baltimore, but it's not a huge brand in South Carolina and I have not had one in a long time. 

As a result of these trips, I have a lot of content prepared for the next few weeks, so make sure to keep checking in (or follow me on twitter) for the occasional unscheduled update. 

Jones GABA-Infused Grapefruit Tea-Juice

In general, I am a fan of Jones beverages. Although there are times that I find their sodas to be a bit too sweet, I do, on the whole, enjoy their products, particularly their increasingly difficult to find Jones 24c. Jones GABA, however, is frankly kind of unimpressive. I was excited to try Jones' take on the "healthy and organic" energy drink, thinking that it might be better (or at least more honest) than typical energy drinks, but I was sorely disappointed by the beverage.

First and foremost, there were some technical issues with the drink. The can clearly states to shake well before use, so, naturally, I did. Immediately thereafter, upon opening the can, my hands were sprayed briefly with grapefruit tea-juice. The blast was very quick, and was probably just a result of pressure buildup from being transported multiple times, but any drink that has a chance of significant pressure buildup should not instruct its users to shake well. Perhaps simply "shake" would suffice. Nitpicking aside, the drink itself was not very good. The flavor was so subtle that it was almost undetectable amongst the taste of what I assumed was the GABA (which was not necessarily bad, but was rather overpowering), and I had to focus to pick up on the grapefruit. For more information on exactly what GABA is and what it does, the following article may be of some help. 

All in all, this one is just not great. There are other flavors, and I have a Honey Lemon version in line to be tried that may be better, but this one is just not great. The flavors are too light to be considered subtle, and the taste of the added GABA suppliments is bitter and not very appetizing. I am glad that I only paid $0.50 for this one, because I think that I would have regretted spending much more than that.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $0.50 [likely around $2.00 at retail price]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hedley's Blackcurrant Ceylon Tea

This tea was amongst one of the things that I purchased at Big Lots the other day, and I must admit that I was at first a little doubtful of a tin of forty tea bags that was marked at two dollars. But, Big Lots has yet to let me down with their products as of yet, so I decided to commit to the tea and bring some home with me, and it was certainly well worth the "risk." I am not typically a huge fan of Ceylon tea, but I absolutely love blackcurrant, and the flavoring of this tea is magnificent. For those perhaps unfamiliar with blackcurrant, it is a berry that grows prominently (from what I understand) in Europe and certain parts of Asia. It tastes somewhat like grape, but with a less sweet and more mature aftertaste left in the back of the throat. Every time that I eat or drink anything with blackcurrant flavoring, I wish more and more that they grew more readily in the United States. Preferably in my back yard.

The flavoring in this tea is prominent without being too strong, and seems especially appropriate for the holiday season. The drink stirs in me feelings of winter, and will probably be forever reserved for cold days for the rest of my time with this tin. And with forty bags of the tea, that may be a while. If you can track this one down, it's definitely worth a try.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 40 bags
Price: $2.00 [Discounted]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Big Lots Trip: December 2010

My sister and I just ran out to Big Lots to kill some time on this restless Sunday afternoon. I had not been to the Big Lots at home in a while before this afternoon, and when we got there, I was shocked and excited to realize that they have greatly expanded their snack and drink sections. I walked down the freshly-stocked drink aisle, picking up just about everything that interested me. At $0.70 a piece, it's hard not to take advantage of the situation.

So, as you can see, I left with a pretty strong haul. And what was the best thing about today's shopping trip? All thirteen of these drinks cost a grand total of $9.50. I may do some extra reviews for the next couple of weeks in addition to the regular posts so that I can crank through a bunch of these, so keep checking back. I'll try to twitter whenever an extra review goes up as well, for those of you who follow the feed.

Today was super exciting, and I can not wait to try all of these.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Boing! Manzana (Apple)

I picked this drink up at a gas station on the way back from out of town a few days ago. I was on the verge of buying a new energy drink, when I saw this on the bottom shelf with all of the Latin American drinks. I was immediately engrossed by the name of the beverage, and bought one without hesitation. I assumed going into the drink that it was carbonated, but was surprised to find that it wasn't. In my haste I had not paid close attention to the bottle. This is essentially just apple juice. Really good apple juice. It tastes a lot different from the American brands that I am accustomed to, and it was delicious and refreshing all the way to the bottom.

I still can't get over the name, though. It's absolutely hilarious.

Why would a juice be called boing?

Then again...why not?

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Spinx Filling Station [Greenville, SC]
Size: 11.7 fl. oz.
Price: $1.49

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stash Earl Grey Black and Green Tea

This is easily one of my new favorite teas. I was hesitant to try it at first, as black and green tea seem rather antithetical upon initial reasoning, but it was inexpensive enough that my intrigue won me over and I brought home a box. Any doubts about the beverage that I had at first were abolished before the tea even hit my mouth. The first bag that I prepared was an absolute delight, and filled the air around it with the characteristic aroma of the bitter citrus of Earl Grey tea, but there was something more to it: something almost peppery. This peppery aroma was only made better by the delicious taste of the tea. It is smooth yet distinct, and has a strong, unique flavor that is hard to quantify precisely in words. The citrus mixes well with the green tea (much better than I thought that it would), and the green-black mixture makes for a much more mellow end result than the typical Earl Grey. It is a delicious blend of flavors, and I have gone through almost all of this box over the course of about a week, which, considering how little I have been in my apartment lately and the preparation time involved in a cup of tea, is really saying something. Definitely give this one a try.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: --
Price: $2.99 (18 bags)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fentimans Two-Hit Combo Review

As those of you who follow these posts may know, I had a Fentiman's Cola a few weeks ago and was absolutely astounded. It was one of the best colas that I have ever had, and I almost went to the store to buy another after I finished the first one. Well, now I wish that I had, because apparently Earth Fare is not restocking them, and I can't find them anywhere else. A few days ago, however, I went to World Market with some friends of mine and found two other varieties of Fentiman's hidden out of place on a shelf in the back. Although they did not have Cola, I was excited to try the new flavors.

Dandelion burdock

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this one, as I have never had dandelion or burdock, but I was pleasantly surprised. There is no mistaking the botanical basis of this beverage; it tastes like plants. But this is not really a bad thing. I was a bit taken aback at first by the strength of the flavor, but after acclimating to the taste, I really enjoyed it. The flavors mix into something similar to fennel, giving the drink a vaguely licorice-esque taste that is not overpowering. I am a fan of licorice, so I was perfectly okay with this, but those who don't favor the flavor should probably stear clear. It is silly to compare this to the cola, as they are entirely different products, but I couldn't help but catch myself wishing that I had a cola instead. By the end of this bottle, I was ready to be finished. I would buy it again, but probably not when faced with other options.

Verdict: Hesitantly recommended

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 9.3 fl. oz. (225 mL)
Price: $1.79


I hate to say it, but this is a terrible beverage. I had no idea what this was when I bought it, and had to look up Shandy when I got home. I found out that Shandy is apparently a traditional English beverage in which beer is mixed with a variety of different drinks, typically sodas. In Fentiman's case, beer is mixed with carbonated lemonade to result in a low alcohol content (less that 0.05%) soda. After looking up the details, I had my doubts about consuming the beverage, but decided to give it a chance, anyway.

In retrospect, I wish that I had just been stubborn about it and not tasted it. It's really not good at all. I like beer, and I don't really mind lemonade, but mixed together I hate both of them. I'm not even really sure how to describe the flavor. I would just leave it at "beer mixed with lemonade," but that's not even really that accurate. Aside from not tasting good, there is an oddness about the concoction. I had a smattering of physical reactions to the taste after each of the three drinks that I took, such as itching in my neck and a crawling sensation in my right arm. It is very rare that a beverage will affect me that way, and it is usually not a good sign.

I'm sure that somebody out there has to like this; it's all over the place in Europe. But I'm kind of having a hard time imagining that anybody could really find anything to like within this liquid.

Verdict: Not at all recommended

Purcahsed: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 9.3 fl. oz. (225 mL)
Price: $1.79

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Stash Chai Green Tea

I tried a bag of this tea over the Thanksgiving break two weeks ago. I have always been a little unsure of chai tea. It's not terrible, especially when prepared correctly, but there's just something about it that I don't really like. It leaves a strange taste in the back of my throat to which I've never been able to properly acclimate. This tea, however, is a different story. I was at first very doubtful of the combination: a strong tea mixed with an even stronger tea. But as I took my first sip, I realized that I had been mistaken. The botanical basis of the green tea really helps to balance out the strength of the spices in the chai, which results in a much more mellow end result. I drank the bag that I had unadulterated (no cream or sugar) to really get an accurate taste for it, and I actually really liked it unsweetened. That is actually indicative of another reason why I'm not a big chai fan. I drink my teas plain (I just prefer the full-bodied, bitter tea taste), and a tea that essentially has to be altered to be palatable is a bit contrary to my interests. But the mellowness caused by the green tea here makes it much easier to drink the tea straight. I did not try it with cream and sugar, so I can not speak to the taste alternative, but I really enjoyed it plain and would probably just drink it like that in the future.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Just about anywhere that sells name brand teas (assuming that they stock this variety)
Size: --
Price: Did not purchase personally, but likely between $2.00-$3.00

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Raynal VSOP

This is the second brand of brandy that I have had to date, and I have really been enjoying it so far. It's very strong and has a lot of kick to it, but it is also very flavorful and has a strong aromatic quality about it. It's definitely one of the stronger liquors that I have tried so far, but I really like it. I guess that there is not a whole lot to say about this one. Just about everything from my review of E&J VSOP (linked above) applies, but this one is just better and stronger.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Greene's Discount Beverages
Size: Half-Pint (200mL)
Price: $6.99

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

R.W. Knudsen Sparkling Essence

I love cucumber. Sometimes. Although it is delicious, sometimes cucumber can be a little...untoward. Last night, for example, I got a burrito from Moe's and as I went through the line with all of the extra toppings, I sighted some cucumber slices in one of the bins. I inquisitively asked for some on my burrito, and upon settling in at a table and taking a bite of my experimental, tortilla-wrapped dinner, I immediately regretted it. The mixture of guacamole and fresh cucumber combined together into a taste of what can easily be described as a sushi burrito. It tasted like a California roll, and it was not great.

The point of this story, of course, is that there are some places that cucumber just do not belong. Inside of this can is one of them. I have had cucumber waters before and been able to palette them, but I've never been inspired to drink them of my own accord. The varieties that I have tried before were not carbonated, however, and I must say that the carbonation only hurts the beverage. There is something about the faint bitterness of the carbonation (which I typically love) and the deep basic (by which I mean the opposite of acidic) flavor of the cucumber that do not interact very well. They result in a weird, fluctuating flavor that does not take very well to the palette and does not go down smoothly. If you must try a cucumber water, I recommend going for something that is not carbonated, or is at least mixed with another flavor.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Food Lion (Columbia, SC)
Size: 10.5 fl. oz. (311 mL)
Price: $4.99 (4 Pack)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Paradise Key Teas: Tropical Black Tea

I picked this tea up at a gas station on my way back home for Thanksgiving this past week. I was perusing the gas station's beverage cooler as I am wont to do at some point during drives that last longer than half an hour, and was not finding anything particularly eye-catching. After close inspection of all of the typical, big-brand products (Coke, Sprite, Mountain Dew, etc.), I came across these teas, and although I was not incredibly drawn to them, it was better than a Coke or Pepsi product. I selected a flavor and opened it once back in my car, only to find that the beverage was...lackluster. I was not expecting a terribly fascinating experience from an unknown gas station tea, so I was not terribly disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the tea is not bad, but there's nothing good about it, either. It's just tea and not much else. It was certainly consumable, and I did drink the whole bottle, but there's not much here to recommend.

Verdict: Just buy something else

Purchased: Citgo Station
Size: 16.9 fl. oz. (500mL)
Price: $1.49

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Twitter issues?

I seem to be having some troubles with the twitter feed on the site, but so far it looks like it's isolated to my laptop alone. If anyone has noticed problems with the feed and doesn't mind helping me out, feel free to send a quick email to the email address listed in the side bar. Thanks.

Assi Instant Honey Chrysanthemum Tea

A friend of mine gave me a sampling of this tea a few days ago. It is an instant tea, a kind of tea towards which I typically have aversions, but this one is interesting. It still has the mild aftertaste of an instant tea, but it is not as strong and overbearing as others of it's type. This may be due partly to the fact that instead of being packaged in powder form like most instants (or a syrup like at Starbucks...ick), the tea formula is loosely packed together into small pellets that dissolve almost immediately after pouring. The first time that I made the tea, I had a chopstick at the ready and automatically began to stir the concoction after pouring in the water, only to realize that it was mostly unnecessary. The pellets were gone almost instantaneously, although I did continue to stir just to insure even flavor distribution. 

The tea itself is pretty good. Like I said, there are weird hints here and there of the instant nature of the beverage, but they are understandable and are not terribly difficult to ignore. I have never had chrysanthemum tea before, and the strongest flavor was definitely the honey, but what I could taste of the tea I liked. However, I make those judgments with a grain of salt, as I usually try not to base my initial opinions on an artificial or instant version of the item in question. Overall, this is a great instant herbal tea, and with its low price point, it's pretty easy to recommend.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Hyuneai Oriental Market
Size: --
Price: $1.99

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adina Holistics Herbal Elixirs

I have had Adina's Holistics Elixirs before (sometime last year, I believe), but never got around to talking about it when I first had it. I originally had their cranberry grapefruit with goji flavor, and it was absolutely delicious. It tasted like candy without being overly sweet like most candyesque beverages. Today, I am drinking the blackberry hibiscus with Rooibos version, and while it is still very good, I think that I prefer the other flavors. The blackberry in this one is very good, but the hibiscus is a little bit iffy. I have had bad experiences with hibiscus before, but this one wasn't nearly as bad. I like botanical flavorings in general, but I am not too fond of hibiscus. It's just kind of a strange taste. It is not nearly as prominent in this drink as it is in others that I've had, however, which makes it much easier to overlook. As far as the Rooibos goes...I can't really say. I have yet to have Rooibos tea on it's own, and I thus had a hard time picking out the particular flavors of the Roobios outside of default unfamiliarity. Although these elixirs do tend to leave my mouth a little dry, they have a very clean taste that does not linger heavily on the palette, and they are very easy to drink, particularly in warmer weather. Definitely give it a try if you come across one.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare
Size: 14 fl. oz. (413.7 mL)
Price: $1.99

The Wave

The Wave is a terrible beverage. I had been seeing the occasional poster for this drink for the past few months, and every time I saw one, I stopped at whatever store was displaying the poster and was disappointed by their peculiar lack of the product. After a month and a half of searching for this beverage, I finally procured one at a local convenience store on campus. And oh my goodness, this drink was certainly not worth the hassle. I was hoping for it to be different from the typical energy drink, as it claims to use all natural flavors (a claim which can almost always be ignored these days due to all of the marketing loopholes associated with the word "natural"), but it was not good at all. In fact, this beverage is worse than some of the other already well-established disgusting energy drinks. Besides Red Bull, of course. Nothing is worse than Red Bull.

The Wave is cherry flavored, which I find a little bit odd considering it's aquatic marketing imagery. Because of this marketing, I was at least hoping that the beverage would be a little bit more gentle than the typical energy drink, but it's not. The flavors are just as harsh as any other energy drink, and it is very acidic. It's sickeningly sweet without being tasty, and the cherry (or at least I think that it's cherry) flavoring is incredibly artificial and tastes like a children's vitamin tablet. There are drinks that intentionally have the vitamin taste, such as Dr. Enuf, but they are mild and manage to balance the flavors like a sensible beverage manufacturer would. I get the sense from this drink that this is yet another company just trying to cash in on the energy drink craze without really caring about the quality of their product. Definitely avoid this one.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: The DCP [Columbia, SC]
Size: 16 fl. oz.
Price: $1.99

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just as an update, there will be no review tomorrow. I am going to an exclusive wine tasting at a local wine store, and I am planning to talk about that a bit tomorrow night instead of posting the regular review.

A friend of mine and I go to weekly wine tastings at this store almost every week, and this week, they have decided to hold a special "If You Insist" wine tasting of some of their more expensive wines. We had to sign up and pay ahead of time, but the last wine of the night will be a $200 Joseph Phelps Insignia.

I am super excited, and will try my best to post about it later tomorrow night, but I don't want to make any promises. I may just need some time to bask in the glorious classiness of the evening when I get home.

We shall see.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Almond Breeze (Chocolate)

Almond Breeze is not a new beverage to me. I first had this stuff fairly early in the year last year, when I went home for a weekend, and my parents had some in the refrigerator. My father and I are the big almond fans in the family, but everyone in my household really enjoys the stuff. To briefly describe Almond Breeze, it is essentially just a thick, viscous, beverage made from sweetened almond milk. It may sound a little strange at first, especially if you do not favor almonds, but it is an excellent drink. It comes in several varieties, including regular, chocolate, and vanilla, and then different variations of sweetness (via sugar content) for each one to fit your dietary preferences. The chocolate and vanilla varieties really don't taste heavily of almonds, and are more like flavored soy milk than anything else, but the almond taste is certainly still there, sitting politely in the background. The regular variety is, as one would assume, much more almondy. I have tried all three, and while they are all delicious in their own right, I think that the regular chocolate version is the best. It functions wonderfully as a non-dairy substitute for milk, but is just as good taken straight as a refreshing and light desert-type beverage. If you are feeling the almond taste, I recommend starting out with Regular Almond Breeze. If you aren't feeling quite so adventurous, however, I would say go with the chocolate to convince yourself of its deliciousness first.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare
Size: --
Price: Varies with size (about $3.00 for 32 oz.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Steaz Energy

For the past several months, every time that I have paid a visit to Earth Fare, I have looked at this drink longingly, wanting to try it. But every time, I manage to walk out with something else. But last week, I finally picked one up, and I'll be honest (because clearly I usually lie), I'm not sure that it was worth the wait. It's a little...strange. It's botanically based, which I've recently decided is usually a good thing, but it has more of the sour, acidic "energy drink taste" than most of the other organic energy drinks. It's still worlds better than mainstream stomach corrosion fluids (i.e. Red Bull, Full Throttle, etc.), but it's not as good as, say, a Brain Toniq or Solixir

The aftertaste is really what's strange about it. I'm not sure if it was some devious trick of my olfactory, but the beverage tasted like incense after each drink. It was not necessarily an unwelcome sensation (I love incense), but it was certainly unexpected and a little puzzling. All in all, Steaz energy is definitely not a bad choice, and some people may find a lot to like here. I just thought that it was a little lackluster compared to some of the alternatives.

I guess that's what I get for getting my hopes up for so long.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Earth Fare
Size: 12 fl. oz. (355 mL)
Price: $2.49

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fentimans Curiosity Cola

This seriously may be the best cola that I have ever had. Like, on the reals, yo. I didn't really know what to expect from a botanically brewed cola, but I can say that whatever expectations I may have had were blown right out of my head. Adjectives are not even required to communicate the quality of this beverage. This cola is just good. It has perhaps the strongest "cola" flavor of any brand that I've had to date. It is perfectly sweet, and the flavors taste very natural and properly fractioned. Hints of the botanical brewing appear in the aftertaste, and I must admit that at first, I was taken by surprise and thought that I would not like it. However, as I drank more of the beverage, I began to really like the unique aftertaste. It is different, to be sure, but it leaves a very clean and empty feel in your mouth in between sips and after you finish the beverage. This is a mark of a quality beverage that major soft drink companies still can't seem to grasp, as many of the more mainstream sodas tend to leave a lingering, syrupy aftertaste on the palate.

As a side note, the bottle is also of an interesting design, and feels very comfortable and well-weighted in the hand.

I hate to say it, but this drink may have ruined other colas for me. This is what cola should taste like. And it's all natural, to add even more incentive to an already ludicrously easy recommendation. The only thing wrong with this beverage is that the bottle does not contain an infinite supply of its wonderful fluid inhabitant.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare (Columbia, SC)
Size: 9.3 fl. oz. 275 mL
Price: $1.99

E&J VSOP Brandy

Although this review will be specifically about E&J's VSOP blend, I'd like to talk a bit about my experience with E&J in general. I have had three different blends of E&J brandy so far: E&J Original, VSOP, and their XO premium blend. For comparative purposes, this is the only kind of brandy that I've ever had, aside from a bit of an unidentified French brandy that a friend's sister got straight from France during a recent trip overseas. From what I heard, it was expensive (about 50 dollars for about a third of a pint, if I remember correctly). Of the three E&J blends that I've had, VSOP is the best. It is essentially an enhanced version of the original: very similar in taste and consistency, but with a bit more flavor and burn. I did not really favor the XO when I tried it. I have a feeling that the XO blend is intended more for drinking straight, as it is less intense and more spiced, with prevalent hints of something like brown sugar or molasses.

The VSOP is a good liquor, if you like your alcohol to have a good deal of kick to it. It is flavorful without being overbearing, burns just right/so good, and, as an added bonus, it is fairly inexpensive. If you like liquors with a good, full-bodied bite, this is a good "everyday" choice. I'm sure that there are higher quality brandies out there, but if you'd like to try it out, or are intending to mix it into drinks [see bottom of post for a drink recipe using VSOP], E&J is a great place to start.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Greene's Discount Beverages (Columbia, SC)
Size: Half-Pint (200mL)
Price: $3.99

If you'd like to learn more about E&J brandy, along with several delicious cocktail recipes, visit the official website for E&J V.S.O.P.


Although my preferred method of consuming my brandy is to just sip it straight here and there in small amounts, I have discovered that it works quite well as a press.

VSOP Press:

1 oz. E&J VSOP or Original blend brandy
0.5 oz. lemon juice
3 dashes bitters
1 splash lemon-lime soda
1 lemon wedge

Combine brandy, lemon juice, and bitters and stir to mix. Serve on the rocks, topped with your choice of lemon-lime soda (I personally recommend Sierra Mist Natural) and garnished with a lemon wedge.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stella Artois

The first time that I ever had Stella Artois, I thought that it was the best beer ever. Of course, that was also during my first real bar experience, and I was probably just happy to be there. As I drink more of it, it becomes more and more plain to me. It's really not bad, but that's all that it is: decent. It will suffice, and it's certainly better than other, less pricey alternatives (in other words, American beers, with the exception of Sam Adams), but it's really not that special. It's a bit on the skunky side, and there are other, smoother light beers out there (such as Beck's) that are similar but more worth the money.

Verdict: Worth a try

Sunday, October 31, 2010

So the twitter feed isn't working. I'll work on fixing it later. For now, visit my twitter page.

[Edit as of 11/1/2010] Okay, apparently it isn't broken after all. wasn't showing up yesterday.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Goya Coconut Soda

Goya coconut soda is a strikingly refreshing soft drink. Let me start this review off by saying that I have never been a big fan of coconut. I enjoy the fruit itself, but the milk and other coconut flavored things have never been largely appealing to me. I was prepared to not truly enjoy this soda, but I was pleasantly surprised. The coconut flavoring was actually incredibly faint and subtle, almost as though it was naturally flavored (which it is not). My experience with Zico has taught me to be skeptical of coconut themed bevergaes, but Goya has strengthened my coconut faith a bit with this drink. I am currently trying to acquire the taste for coconut, and this was definitely a step in the right direction.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Wal-Mart [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz.
Price: $0.98

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fluid Mechanics

I had an interesting experience with some sweet tea today at lunch. Although I am not a native southerner (or any sort of southerner, really), I do enjoy a glass of sweet tea from time to time. I typically prefer my tea hot and in a cup with a handle, but iced tea is a nice treat from time to time. Unfortunately, around here, sweet tea is more sweet than it is tea, and for someone who tries to consume minimal amounts of sugar, it can be tough to truly enjoy.

The school cafeteria here at USC is no exception. The sweet tea is essentially cold molten sugar, and it can be difficult for me to make it through an entire cup. So, typically what I do is concoct what my mother and I have affectionately dubbed "half and half." It's simply half sweet tea and half unsweetened tea.

Today, however, the two teas apparently did not mix well, so after my meal when I went to consume my beverage, there were pockets and layers of sweetness, rather than one dilute sweetness. In addition to that, I did not use enough ice, and there were pockets of warm tea surrounded by chilled liquid. I noticed this immediately, but decided not to mix the tea, as the constantly shifting fluid flowing across my tongue was intensely interesting.

I'm going to try to do it again tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vimto Orange Drink

(Sorry for the crappy picture. I was in a hurry tonight.)

Vimto is an incredible beverage. I know that just about everything I've had lately has been incredible, but I've been having pretty good luck. Vimto, originating in the United Kingdom (this one came from Canada), is typically a grape/raspberry/blackcurrant flavored soft drink, but I seem to have stumbled across one of their "summer" flavors: orange. Let me tell you, this drink is crazy good. It tastes a lot like a creamsicle, but is just the right amount of sweet. I can not emphasize this enough: why does America not understand how to use sugar? Every other country seems to know how to make beverages and deserts that aren't overly sweet. Why can't the U.S. get with the program? Anyway, Vimto is delicious, and I enjoyed every drop of it. I wanted another immediately after finishing the one I had bought, and still do up to the time of this post's writing. 

It is so good, and makes me want to move to Europe even more.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Five Points Tobacco
Size: 12 fl. oz. (355 mL)
Price: $1.00

Friday, October 22, 2010

Old Speckled Hen

This is by far my favorite beer. I had my first taste of Old Speckled Hen earlier this semester, and immediately fell in love. It is a darker beer (clearly), with a gentle yet prominent taste that I have only been able to describe as burned toasted marshmallows. It is incredibly smooth going down, and the pleasantly bitter aftertaste is absolutely wonderful and gives the beer a distinct touch of sophistication and class. For those of you who aren't big beer drinkers, it's a little on the stronger side, so you may want to try one before you commit to the purchase, but it's flavor is truly unique, and certainly worth a try. It avoids both the skunky hoppy flavor sometimes found in premium lighter beers and the yeasty thickness of premium dark beers by introducing its own, unequivocated taste. From what I have sampled from the beer industry, there is really nothing else out there like this, and I recommend that anyone with a mouth and a taste for fermented beverages give this one a try.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: World Market (Columbia, SC)
Size: 11.2 fl. oz.
Price: $1.86

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Zevia: Black Cherry

I picked this up today after a doctor's appointment. This is an all natural soda that is sweetened with Stevia (a natural sweetener that has been gaining more and more popularity lately). My previous experiences with Stevia have left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the substance. Literally. The Stevia that I've had before had kind of a weird flavor and left a heavy, syrupy flavor on my palette for hours after consumption. I was hesitant to try this one, but the woman helping me at the store let me try a sample, and I was quickly convinced. Apparently there are a bunch of different kinds of Stevia, and the kinds that I've had are some of the less appetizing types. This drink was pretty good (if you like alternative sweetening methods, of course). The black cherry flavoring was pretty straightforward, but knowing that this drink wasn't giving me diabetes or ruining my memory felt pretty good. Also, the liquid is colorless, which I really support.

Verdict: Recommended to try if you are okay with alternative sweeteners.

Purchased: Nature's Remedies [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. (315mL)
Price: $1.20

Friday, October 15, 2010

Elisha Aerated Water (Lychee flavor)

I first had this drink a long time ago, before I even started this blog. The first one that I had was procured at an Asian market in Greenville, South Carolina, and I hadn't seen them since then until a few weeks ago. I immediately picked one up, though, because they are incredible. They are essentially just lightly flavored sodas, but they are perfectly balanced. Sitting perfectly somewhere between a flavored seltzer water and a carbonated soft drink, this drink is a taste-pleaser. The flavoring is just right: not too sweet and not too bland. It is easy to finish an entire serving without realizing ahead of time that you were almost done. The container is also very interesting: a plastic "can" with an aluminum top.

I also purchased an apple flavored version of the same drink, which I had not had before, but I definitely prefer the lychee. I have also had their green tea version in the past, and it is also very good (but be forewarned: I don't recall it being sweetened). The store where I bought this one also has a peach flavor, which I have yet to try. Keep an eye on the twitter feed for an opinion on that one soon.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Asian Market, Inc. [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12.30 fl. oz. (350 mL)
Price: Approximately $1.50

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GT's Kombucha

For those of you unfamiliar with Kombucha, I recommend reading up on it a bit before you give it a try. This is certainly not a drink for everybody. It is peculiar, it takes several bottles to really acquire the taste, and there's really not much that it pairs well with. That being said, I really enjoy kombucha. I was introduced to this beverage last year by a close friend of mine, and developed a severe fascination with the drink that holds to this day. There are times where I'm not really convinced that I like it, but there are other times that I crave it. It has had a weird effect on me, but think that the wonder that it incurs is interesting enough to keep drinking it.

Anyway, kombucha is essentially an ancient Chinese tea recipe in which previously brewed tea is fermented using a culture of yeast and bacterias. It sounds gross, but it has been said to have many general health benefits, and there are lots of accounts of people reacting medically to the drink. I personally have not experienced any miraculous recoveries due to the drink, but it does have an invigorating quality that tends to lighten my mood for several hours post consumption. There are, however, also a few scattered cases of people reacting poorly to improperly or carelessly prepared kombucha, so definitely do your homework and make sure that your kombucha is coming from a reliable and sanitary source. Despite their recent recall (due to complaints about the almost non-existent alcohol content being too high), GT's is a good company with which to start, and they offer the largest collection of flavors of any beverage manufacturer that I've ever encountered. I'd say that if your company offers a wider selection of flavors than Jones Soda, than you're pretty high up there on the variety ladder. I have had Original, Botanic No. 9, Gingerade, Citrus, Grape, Mango, Cranberry, Multi-Green, and a few others that I can't remember and I think that Multi-Green is my favorite so far.

It's a great drink if you are looking to take a bit of an expensive risk, but I think that those who are brave enough to try it in the first place are most likely going to find something to enjoy about it.

Also, GT's bottle is super high quality and just begs to be reused, which is immensely satisfying to me and the environment. It helps make it a little more worth the price.

Verdict: Not for everybody. Recommended for the bold.

Purchased: Earth Fare
Size: 16 fl. oz. (480mL)
Price: $3.69

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jasmine Tea

In light of this post that I never followed up on, I made some loose jasmine tea tonight using my new tea ball. Pictures ensue:

This was delicious. There is nothing better than a hot cup of tea late at night when I have a paper (in this case a lab report) to stay up late writing. It makes me feel all cuddly inside.

Friday, October 8, 2010

TrueToniqs Brain Toniq

This is a really good beverage. I got this a couple of days ago to drink while I studied for an upcoming Engineering Design test, and I was absolutely blown away. As far as vitalizing my mind, it didn't do anything. But I have yet to find a beverage that actually does have an effect on my mental state. I'm starting to believe that I am immune to caffeine and other such energy boosters. But anyway, this is a wonderful drink. It is essentially just a carbonated citrus beverage, but there are also heavy tones of indeterminate botanical flavorings, and it is fantastic. I am starting to like botanically flavored beverages more and more with each new one that I try. I would certainly recommend this one, although be forewarned: the price is a little steep (but well worth it).

Verdict: Highly recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare (Columbia, SC)
Size: 8.4 fl. oz (250mL)
Price: $2.59

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Solixir: Restore

I picked this drink up at my local organic food store, and I have to say, it is a great one. Branded as a "Sparkling Botanical Beverage," Solixir comes in several flavors, most of them with some sort of flower-based flavor. I got the pomegranate-ginger version, though, as I was in the mood for some ginger at the time. This drink was great. It's very simply flavored, with obviously natural ingredients, and the blend of ginger and pomegranate was just right, with neither being overpowering (and when it comes to ginger-infused beverages, a balanced mix can be hard to find). It was delicious, and left me satisfied at the end of the can. I wanted neither more nor less of the drink by the time I had finished. I look forward to trying the other flavors in the (hopefully near) future.

Verdict: Recommended

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I have a ludicrous amount of work to do.

Today's review will be postponed until tomorrow evening.

Friday, October 1, 2010

American Ginseng with Honey Flavor Drink

As usual, I picked this up at my local Asian market. You certainly have to like ginseng to enjoy this beverage, but I do like ginseng, and I thought it was very good. I really enjoy the earthy taste of ginseng, and the honey complimented it well. As with most Asian drinks, this one tastes very natural and is very easy to drink. It feels healthy and tastes great in the process.

Verdict: Recommended

Friday, September 17, 2010

Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale

This is pretty much what you would expect. There's no surprises here, it's just green tea mixed with ginger ale.  That's not to say that it isn't delicious, though. I really enjoyed it. It had a kind of artificial green tea taste, though, as do many of these plastic bottled green tea concoctions. It was still good, though. Certainly an interesting combination.

Verdict: Recommended 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A change of pace

I'm starting something new with this blog today. In addition to my regularly scheduled reviews, I am also going to start including "miscellaneous" posts througout the week of things that I drink that aren't necessarily procurable by the general public. The posts will include a picture of the drink (if I was able to take one), as well as a quick blurb about my thoughts about it or what I was doing when I drank it or what have you. I don't see much point in "reviewing" the drinks per se, as most readers may not be able to go out and try it for themselves for one reason or another (region, limited time, one-time occurance, etc.), so these posts will be more just a diary of interesting beverage stories. Today marks the first such post (unfortunately in place of the regular review):

Raspberry Tea

I bought this tea today at my school's farmer's market (held every Tuesday until 2pm). There was a stand selling jugs of locally made peach cider, but they were also selling cups of raspberry tea for a dollar on the side. I couldn't resist and bought one, sipping it as I sat in front of the school's coffee shop and conversing with a friend. It was so tasty, but made me a bit sad that the refreshing drinks of the summer are going to vanish for a while.

Oh well. Bring on the hot stuff.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Zico 100% Pure Coconut Water

This is coconut water. And they're not joking. It's pretty bad. It's salty going in and has the vague hint of baby powder in the aftertaste. I bought this at GNC because the packaging caught my eye and I thought it sounded interesting. It's intended for runners, as it is supposed to offer more immediate hydration than water, but I don't know if putting up with the taste would be worth it. And the lima-citron flavoring only makes things worse. It was like a cheap attempt to mask the very harsh taste of the coconut fluid, and only resulted in adding insult to injury. Unless you are a hardcore runner desperately looking for something for rapid hydration (it was fairly successful on that front), definitely pass this one up.

Verdict: Not recommended

Friday, September 3, 2010

Polar Seltzer

This is a pretty good seltzer water.'s pretty much just seltzer water. It's not as good as Perrier (but then again, what is?), but it will get the seltzer job done.

Verdict: Recommended, but it doesn't really matter.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Liquid Ice

This is just another crappy energy drink. It tastes the same as the rest of them. Acidic, bitter yet overly sweet, grimy, and just bad overall. I think that this may be the last energy drink that I buy. I've never felt any sort of the "energy" that they supposedly confer upon people, and they do not taste good and are terrible for your health. Also, this twelve ounce can cost me $2.13. Aside from the few exceptions that I find at my local health food store, I think it's safe to say that energy drinks are done for me. They've been done pretty much since they became popular, but I think this one was the last straw.

Verdict: Not at all recommended