Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Foco Pennywort Drink

There is a fair amount of what could be construed by some as "vegetable hate" in the text below, so as a disclaimer before this review, I would like to say that I absolutely love vegetables. In fact, when I cook for myself, I typically maintain a fairly strict and healthy vegetarian diet. Anyway, on to the content.

This drink has been sitting in my refrigerator for the past two months. I bought it at a local Asian market on the way home from a Vietnamese restaurant, and I have been avoiding it ever since. I always enjoy trying new beverages, and a lot of the "weird Asian drinks" tend to leave me at least pleasantly surprised, but there is still a certain sort of fear that comes with trying some of these beverages for the first time. Every so often, I let that fear get the best of me, particularly when the only information that I have at my disposal about the contents of the beverage is an image of a few leaves on the front of the can. 

I finally caved in yesterday and decided to just go for it and give this one a taste. The only ingredients in the thing are water, pennywort leaf extract, sugar, and citric acid (which is somehow used as an "acid regulator"), so I received no help from the container in trying to figure out what to expect. After struggling to force the almost unecessarily sturdy can open, I was greeted by the smell of liquified green vegetables. I'm not entirely sure why this came as such a shock, but the unexpected pungency of the aroma almost turned me off to the drink completely. I managed to hold it together long enough to take a sip, though, and quickly came to the thankful realization that this is one of those weird drinks that tastes almost nothing like it smells.

The taste of the beverage is hard to explain, really. I would unhelpfully assume that it tastes like pennywort, but seeing as I have never had pennywort, I can not attest to that. The drink is significantly sweet, and although the "vegetable juice" taste is there, it's not horribly pronounced amidst the added sugar. In terms of taste, the the closest comparison is that of a fruit/vegetable cocktail like V8 Spalsh with a little bit less emphasis on the fruit. The liquid itself, however, is rather thick and viscous, and gives the drink a heft more along the lines of a nutritional supplement rather than an every day beverage. 

Pennywort drink is not likely to be something that you will want to drink in large servings, if at all. The flavor has this sort of weird vegetable putridness that is not evident at first, but starts to become more noticeable the more that you drink. When I first started the can, I thought that I was going to like it, but after I got about four sips in I started to quickly get tired of the taste. I thought that perhaps it was just a drink that needed to be taken slowly, but even after almost an hour after opening the can, I still did not want any more of it and ultimately just ended up pouring it out.

This is a difficult one to recommend, even as an interesting rarity. Although I did like it at the beginning, it grew unappealing so quickly that I can't help but question if I actually liked it at the start, or if the incongruity between the taste and the smell was simply temporarily confusing my senses. Foco's concoction is enjoyable on some kind of a "not-quite-a-beverage" level, but as a beverage it kind of just gives me the feeling that maybe pennywort juice is one of those things that it's just okay not to drink. It's not terrible, and it certainly won't hurt you, but unless you have a strong desire to find out what pennywort tastes like, I think that this one is most likely safe to skip.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Golden Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 11.8 fl. oz. [350 mL]
Price: $1.00

Friday, May 27, 2011


Relaxation beverages seem to be quickly becoming the new "next big thing" in the beverage industry. Much like with the energy drink craze before it, the market for relaxation beverages has emerged rapidly from what seemed like little more than a novelty idea not much more than a year ago. Although market saturation is always a potential concern with any popular trend, relaxation beverages are still in the fun and interesting stage for the time being, with Zenify standing out as an exemplary and unique fore-runner in this new industry phenomenon.

Unlike other bevereages of its type, Zenify is not intended to simply relax the consumer. Touted as the "live stress free drink," Zenify focuses on calming the user to allow for stronger concentration and focus rather than "relaxing" the user, per se. Several of the relaxation beverages that I have had so far contain additives such as valerian root extract and melatonin, both of which are intended to invoke a very sleepy state of relaxation and are often used as medicinal sleeping aids. Zenify, on the other hand, primarily uses L-theanine and gaba, both of which are intended to calm the consumer while simultaneously promoting a sense of increased focus and concentration. While other relaxation beverages are supposed to help you really relax, Zenify is instead intended to be more of a mind-clearing agent that allows the user to better take advantage of the energy that is already present in his or her system. 

My biggest concern about Zenify before I had a chance to try it was the fact that it is sweented with Reb A (a stevia-based sweetener). I really don't like stevia very much at all, and I was scared that the stevia taste would spoil the rest of it for me. However, upon tasting it, I realized that this was not going to be a problem. The stevia flavor taste is not very pronounced, and it often took some effort to even track down the flavor in the first place. The overall flavor of the drink is along the same lines as the ambiguous citrus flavor of many commercial energy drinks, and leaves you with much of the same dry, almost bitter aftertaste. However, the taste of Zenify is less offensive somehow. It just seems more mild overall, and is a lot easier to palette than many of the other, similarly-flavored beverages that can currently be found on the mainstream market. The enjoyably light "energy drink taste" ironically puts many of the more conventional energy drinks to shame in the flavor department. Also, to set the beverage even further apart from its competitors, Zenify is also fairly low on sugars and only contains about 13 grams per 12 fl. oz. serving, which is almost always a good thing.

Aside from the satisfyingly strong level of carbonation, Zenify tastes somewhat like a mild citrus juice. A single serving of 1 can is very easy to drink, and aside from the small complaint about the dry aftertaste, the flavor is crisp and enticing and I have had no problem finishing each can that I've opened. As far as the focus and concentration elements of the formula go, I'm not sure that I can accurately speak to its effectiveness. Energy drinks have never seemed to affect me very much, and I thought that trying to gage the effectiveness of Zenify's supplemental elements would probably not be fair. The calming side of the beverage does work however, and I can feel myself become somewhat less worried about the remainder of the day ahead of me after sneaking in a Zenify in the afternoon. I don't necessarily feel more focused, but I do experience the promoted calming sensation. I feel like Zenify offers me just the right level of calm without making me tired, which can sometimes be a delicate balance, particularly later in the day.

Overall, Zenify tastes good, works pretty well, and is an all-natural and fairly guilt free (low calorie; low sugar) supplement for helping oneself to help manage his or her stress. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Zenify on store shevles in the future 

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Sponsored Sample
Size:12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: Sponsored Sample

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bundaberg Lemon Lime and Bitters

Those keeping track of things here at Drinkable Review know that I recently reviewed Bundaberg's Peachee and was fairly impressed with the product overall. I recently returned to my local World Market to pick up some more of the stuff, when I found this sitting on the shelf in the space previously occupied by the Peachee. According to the World Market employee with whom I spoke about it, the Lemon Lime and Bitters is a new flavor from Bundaberg, and they didn't restock the Peachee this time around to make room on the shelf. Although I was dissappointed by the lack of Peachee, I was immediately intrigued by the alternative, and decided to give it a try.

I have made plenty of cocktails in the past that mix bitters with soda, but never lemon-lime. I had a hard time imagining the taste while standing in the store, but I couldn't think of anything that would have made it bad, either, so I picked up a four pack. The smell upon opening the first one was pretty strong, and the smell of the aromatic bitters was definitely very pronounced. For those who are unfamiliar with bitters, it is an alcoholic, liquid mixture of aromatic spices that is added to certain cocktails a few drops at a time to give the drink a bit of a dry, spiced flavor. There are several other types of bitters (such as orange), but aromatic bitters are the most commonly used. As a disclaimer, Bundaberg's products are not alcoholic and contain less than 0.05% alcohol per unit volume.

Like the Peachee before it, this one is naturally brewed, and has a sort of heavy smell and consistency that reflects its method of preparation. Also, like the Peachee, I found this one to be a little bit too sweet for me to drink a whole bottle in one sitting. This reluctance to drink an entire serving is further amplified by the added bitters, as they are quite strong and although it adds a unique and interesting flavor to the lemon-lime, it is easy to tire quickly of the taste. The lemon lime elements of the soda are good, although not nearly as natural-tasting as the peach in the Peachee. I have yet to have a lemon-lime soda that does not have that candyesque "7Up" flavor. It's certainly not bad, don't get me wrong. I love the occasional 7Up, but I would like to have a soda that has the literal taste of lemon and lime juice.

Overall, this is a decent beverage. It's certainly interesting and worth a try, but I feel that the flavors could stand to be a little bit more balanced. The bitters are very pronounced (as they are wont to be in any beverage, really), and the lemon-lime base of the drink actually takes a bit of a background role in the face of the other spices. Pulling back a bit on the amount of bitters that get added to the soda would probably do this one some good. This, in combination with the syrupy heaviness of the beverage, makes Bundaberg Lemon Lime and Bitters a difficult one to recommend flat out, but it is definitely a unique experience and is enjoyable enough to warrant at least one purchase.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 11.5 fl. oz. [340 mL]
Price: $6.99 [Four pack]

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nuun U Hydration: Tangerine Ginger

As someone who has never particularly fancied water enhancers in the past, I have been trying an unusual number of them lately. One of my more recent selections was one flavor from Nuun's U Hydration series of all-natural water enhancement products. The thing that intrigued me the most about U Hydration is that rather than being a powder or a liquid like other products of the same type, the flavoring is offered in tablet form. Using tablets in beverages is certainly not uncommon. Those suffering from indigestion (also known as "hangovers") have been utilizing tablets to combat discomfort for years, but there was something strange and outstanding about finding a package of tablets that functions specifically as a flavoring agent.

There are a few extra benefits from using U Hydration, such as added vitamins and electrolytes, but the primary purpose is, as one would expect, to enhance your water. U Hydration is definitely fun to use, and watching the tablet dissolve in the water has an almost disturbingly entrancing quality. When stopping to really think about it, it's not all that exciting in retrospect, but the tablet does sort of hop around in the bottle from the buoyant force of the water as chunks of the slab bubble away, and it managed to hold my attention for a while. However, I have noticed that the tab does not typically dissolve completely on it's own and a little bit of shaking towards the end is usually required.

The taste of U Hydration is actually a bit difficult to describe. I was fairly wary of the mixture at first, as it smells like liquid pharmaceutical antibiotics. Luckily, it does not taste like medication and instead has an easy taste that is light and refreshing. The tangerine and ginger both tasted fairly natural (as natural as solidified, powdered essence will allow), and the concoction is not very sweet, if at all. I wasn't sure whether to expect sweetness or not, and I unfortunately do not currently have the package with me to check, but the unsweetened approach was a nice surprise and definitely sets this product apart from its competitors. The added vitamins and electrolytes also gave the drink a faint "children's-chewable-vitamin-supplement" accent and acted as extra thirst quenching agents. 

Although I like U Hydration overall, and would most likely recommend it (granted, I can not yet speak for the other three flavors), there are a few problems. First off, while the tablets are interesting and different, they take a good bit longer to mix into the water, as the flavoring must take time to break apart rather than simply homogenizing into the mixture. Also, the tablets are a little big, and are likely not going to fit into most disposable water bottles. This is taken into consideration, and the tablets are recessed in the middle like many typical solid-body pills. This allows the tabs to be more easily broken by hand, but it is still just another step in a process that is already almost three times as long as those of competing products. 

Another big issue for me is the price. Each 16 tablet vial costs upwards of 8 dollars, which is a lot to commit to an unknown, multiple-serving product. I have had my share of unfavored expensive drinks, but for some reason it is much harder for me to risk the money on multi-serving products, as I always dread the guilt of disposing of an entire container of something. Luckily, my money was not wasted here, although I will say that it took me a long time to work up the nerve to risk this one.

I don't know that I will make U Hydration a regular purchasing habit in the future, but I am definitely glad that I finally decided to try it out. The taste is mild and pleasant, and if nothing else it is a unique and refreshing take on the water enhancer in a market full of sneeze-inducing powders.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: 16 tablets [Each tablet makes one 16-17 oz. serving]
Price: $7.59

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Before I begin the review proper, I would like to take a minute to talk about World Market. As I'm sure many of you have realized by now, I spend a lot of time in World Market shopping for beverages and glassware. I get a significant portion of my reviewing material from World Market, and I think that it is a wonderful and interesting company.

That being said, World Market is currently running a donation drive aimed at aiding in the relief efforts currently being enacted in Japan. I've had this beer for a while now, but I wanted to hold off on doing this review until the media hype about the natural disasters in Japan died down a bit. I did so intentionally, as awareness of these sorts of events tends to die down after the media has covered the initial impact and estimated costs. Japan is going to be suffering the effects of the damages incurred during the recent disasters for years to come, and I encourage those who are able to take advantage of the opportunity being presented by World Market, which brings me back to my original point. 

Until this coming September, World Market is donating all of its proceeds from all sales of items imported from Japan to aid in relief efforts overseas. I know that, in general, people are quick to scorn those who "need" incentive to donate to a cause, but it is a good way for a company to offer its customers a method of organically helping out through their regular spending activities. I encourage those interested in helping the cause a bit here and there to take advantage of this fairly unique opportunity, and Sapporo is a great place to start.

Sapporo is a great beer. In general, I prefer the flavor depth and strength of darker beers, but as far as light beers go, this one is probably one of my favorites. Sapporo definitely has a lighter taste, and is not entirely unlike many of the western lagers available in the U.S. However, Sapporo seems to have a cleaner, more crisp flavor than many American lagers, and leaves a much less yeasty aftertaste in its wake. Overall, it has a mild flavor, and strikes a good balance between the yeasty and hoppy sides of things, giving the beer a pleasant mouthtaste and a smooth, tasty finish.

Probably my favorite thing about Sapporo, though, is that the aftertaste does not seem to linger as long in my system as a lot of other beers of its type. Many American lagers along the same vein tend to leave me with "beer mouth" for a good while after consumption, but Sapporo does not have the same effect. As with all beers, the flavor does linger for a time, but it dissipates much more quickly than usual, particularly if enjoyed along with a meal or snack of some sort.

Although Sapporo is not necessarily anything special, it is an excellent example of its type. The flavors are pleasant and well balanced, it sits well "after the fact," and it is very easy to drink overall. This one is definitely one to try out, particularly if you have a taste for lighter beers.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $8.99 [Six pack]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Taylor's Tonics Mate Mojito

I recently reviewed Taylor's Tonics' Chai Cola, only to find that once the novelty wore off a bit, I was left with a beverage that was actually fairly difficult to drink. I went back to my local World Market and found these sitting next to the chai cola and decided to give Taylor's another shot. I am happy to report that I have been having a much better experience with the Mate Mojito so far.

Taylor's Tonics Mate Mojito has none of the "novelty" element of its cola relative. Rather, it is a crisp, refreshing, and interesting blend of ingredients that work well together to create a light and delicious flavor. As the label suggests, the drink is a blend of mate infused soda water flavored with mint and lime. There is also a fairly noticeable dose of vanilla flavoring included in the drink that is unaccounted for on the front of the label. The inclusion of vanilla is not a bad thing at all, but it is a significant contributor to the beverage's taste and I am a bit perplexed as to why such a pronounced flavor would not be included in the immediately visible description.

I had my first bottle of this drink almost a month and a half ago, and I still to this very moment have trouble describing the taste to others. It is entirely unique, and in all of my experience trying beverages I have not encountered anything else quite like it. The only specific descriptors that come to mind when imagining the flavor are "clean" and "refreshing." The drink tastes very natural (as expected from an all natural beverage company), and every contributing flavor is very "real" and true to its respective source. Each individual flavor in the Mate Mojito is easy to pick out and identify, but the overall flavor of the beverage really is one of those rare "one-of-a-kind" tastes and is very tough for me to put my finger on. This is one that I think is best recommended as a "must try for yourself" sort of beverage.

I definitely do recommend this one to curious beverage consumers. It is unique and interesting, and is easy to drink all the way down to the bottom of the bottle. However, although I do recommend giving this one a try, I will go ahead and say that this is not a drink for everyone. The flavor is delicious, but it is strong and very pronounced. I can easily see people who are not fond of strong drinks not attaching to the Mate Mojito too quickly, and if you don't like even one of the ingredients used in the beverage, you are probably not likely to have the best of experiences with the drink.

But I like this one a lot. Definitely check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $5.99 [Four pack]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fizzy Lizzy: Grapefruit

I found this drink a while back at a nearby Whole Foods market, and I was immediately intrigued by the consistency of the beverage. Fizzy Lizzy touts itself as a soda, yet it has about an inch of sedimentary material in the bottom of the bottle. Typically, this sort of heavy sediment calls for a reasonable shaking of the container, but with this being a carbonated beverage there were obviously concerns. Upon inverting the bottle several times, however, the solid matter loosened up and dispersed into the liquid, leaving me with a rather interesting homogeneous suspension. The scent upon opening the bottle was undeniably that of natural grapefruit, and it wafted out of the bottle with such magnitude that a friend of mine who was sitting next to me at the time was able to smell it within seconds of the seal being broken. The smell was delicious, however, and was very reflective of the taste. 

Drinking Fizzy Lizzy is pretty much like drinking a grapefruit. The taste is very simple and straightforward, and the pulp in the soda further adds to the natural taste of the beverage. No extra sugar is added to Fizzy Lizzy, either, which also contributes to the very natural and citric grapefruit flavor. The carbonation is a bit on the low side, but that seems appropriate in this case, as I'm not sure that heavy carbonation and relatively thick grapefruit pulp would have worked very well together. 

Overall, I liked this beverage a good bit. The second half of the serving was a bit hard to finish, as the acid content seemed fairly high and the twelve ounce serving was a little bit too much for me. Also, the pulp emptied out with the beverage a bit disproportionately, as the last few sips contained a significantly higher pulp concentration. This is typical of drinks with heavy pulp, however, and I was pretty much expecting that this one would be no different. I would definitely buy this one again (or try some of their other flavors), but I do think that it would benefit from a smaller serving size. 

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Whole Foods [Greenville, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $1.69 [If memory serves]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Boylan's Orange Soda

In general, I am not a huge fan of orange sodas. I usually find that they are too sweet for me, and very rarely taste much like actual oranges. That being said, this is easily the best orange soda that I have had in my entire life.

I've always really liked Boylan's Birch Beer, but I haven't had much opportunity to try Boylan's other flavors. Upon trying the orange soda, however, I've decided to make it a point to do so. Boylan's orange is very, very good. As advertised on the front of the bottle, Boylan's sodas are sweetened with all natural cane sugar. The sweetness of the orange soda is just right, and is sweet without detracting from the taste of the orange flavoring. I've never really understood why so many orange soda makers add heaps and heaps of sugar to their beverages. Although Boylan's Orange is still a fairly sweet beverage (it is a soda, after all), it tastes as though Boylan's recognizes that oranges are already very sweet in and of themselves, and has taken this inherent sweetness into account when proportioning the ingredients.

In addition to the well-balanced sugar levels, the taste of the orange is very natural. Aside from some of the organic beverages that I've had, this is probably the "closest-to-natural" orange taste that I've had in a soda. The taste is laden with overtones of sweet citrus, and it is actually hard to determine exactly what kind of oranges are used in the flavoring. The overall taste comes closest to smaller species like mandarin oranges or tangerines, but resultant flavor tastes like a medley of different orange varieties. The flavor resonates on the olfactory, particularly in the immediate aftertaste, and the beverage tastes very crisp and clean in the long run, as the flavor does not linger for very long at all.

Boylan's Orange is an excellent beverage. My only complaint was that the carbonation levels were a bit under what I typically prefer, but that's a difficult complain to maintain when everything else about the soda is so enjoyable. This is definitely one to check out.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Columbia, SC]
Size: 16 fl. oz. [473 mL]
Price: $0.75 [Discounted]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rainforest Cola

First and foremost, I apologize for the obnoxious sticker covering up the logo on this can. Big Lots seems to have a bad habit of identifying the most important parts of beverage label graphics and subsequently deciding that that is, obviously, the best place to apply their fluorescent orange, non-removable sticker. However, it is very difficult to complain when a hard-to-find beverage is offered for only 50 cents.

Rainforest Cola is, as the can indicates, an acai infused cola. As I've noted on the blog before, acai has been on the rise lately in the beverage industry. I knew that it was only a matter of time before people started experimenting with mixing the fruit into sodas, and when I read about this one a month or two ago, I wanted to track it down and give it a try. My experience with acai flavored beverages thus far has been fairly polarized. The drinks that I've had so far have either been very good or just bad, with little middle ground. This is no different with Rainforest Cola and, unfortunately, this one does not fall on the "good" side of things. 

Although I am very familiar with the flavors of both cola and acai, I could not imagine the two together. Even upon smelling the beverage, I still had a lot of difficulty formulating an expectation about the flavor of the drink. That being said, I don't know that it would have mattered if I had been able to imagine the taste, as I don't think that whatever I could have come up with on my own would have been very accurate. To put it simply, Rainforest Cola is a bit odd. I could tell right away that it was not a beverage that I was going to enjoy, but I could not immediately determine why. The drink is not offensive in any way, and the taste is not necessarily shocking to the taste buds, but there is this underlying weirdness about it that I think turns me off to the taste. Despite the drinks tastes of being an acai infused cola, the acai is very heavy and blots out most of the cola taste. I tend to think of "infused" as meaning light and subtle in flavoring, but the acai is definitely prominent in Rainforest Cola. The tart nature of the acai and the wet and refreshing nature of the cola seem to constantly fight with each other, and the flavor that results is almost coffee-like in its bitter, "dry liquid" taste.

If you are a big fan of acai, you may like this one, as that's really the driving taste here. It's certainly not a horrible beverage, and I've definitely had worse, but I really just don't think that the combination of cola and acai is a good one. The flavors seem a bit contradictory, and while I commend Rainforest Cola for taking the risk inherent in experimentation, I think that a simple and straightforward acai soda would have been a much better approach.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $0.50 [Discounted]