Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rhino's Relaxation Drink

From the looks of things, it seems that relaxation beverages have quickly become one of the "next big things" in the beverage industry. New relaxation beverages and shots are being released almost constantly: to the point where it has become impossible for me to keep up with all of the different products and companies that have been popping up lately. I have reviewed quite a few relaxation beverages for Drinkable Review in the past, and although I tend to enjoy them (even if I don't necessarily always reap the benefits that they claim to offer), I do occasionally stumble across one that sort of misses the point. Unfortunately, Rhino's Relaxation Drink is one of the less than stellar examples.

But first, I'd like to start with what Rhino's Relaxation does right. From a marketing perspective, Rhino's product stands out incredibly well on a shelf. Unlike the world of consumer electronics, white is still an eye-catching color in the beverage industry, as it is relatively rare that you will see a primarily white can/label/bottle sitting among all of the other busy and colorful graphics of a shelf full of competing products, all vying desperately for what is likely already your only half-committed attention. Because of this, when I do see a white can, I almost instinctively reach out to take a closer look. Rhino's seems to understand the power of having a "clean" label in a world of well-established and familiar logos, as their graphic is printed in a color that mimics the soft, natural grey of the aluminum behind it. The front of the can only includes the necessary information—no space is wasted on meaningless slogans, graphics, or disclaimers—and makes excellent use of empty space to keep the eye focused on the important details.

But what makes Rhino's Relaxation unique among interesting cans is the actual physical feel of the label. Rather than sticking with the smooth, metallic feel of a typical beverage can, Rhino's has opted to apply a sort of rough matte finish to their cans, giving them a tactile sensation not unlike that of Bristol paper or eggshell-finish wall paint. I was not expecting this when I picked it up in the store (although I did wonder for a moment why the can was not reflecting light in quite the same way as the others on the shelf), and the novelty of it caught me so off guard that I immediately placed the can into my shopping basket. Rhino's has produced a drink that quite literally feels unique—something that has become increasingly difficult to do in the rapidly expanding independent beverage market. 

Unfortunately, this is where most of my enjoyment of the beverage stopped. The relaxation offering from Rhino's product line comes in one flavor so far: blueberry/blackberry. I was, at first, very excited to give this one a try, as I am generally a fan of both blueberry and blackberry, but my excitement waned somewhat upon opening the can. Immediately after popping the tab open, my nose was greeted with a very strong, pungent smell that, for a moment, bordered on foul. The smell dissipated and mellowed out after a moment, but the first impression was made, and it was not a promising one.

Although I have learned that smells can often be deceiving, the actual flavor of Rhino's Relaxation was not entirely appealing, either. The blueberry and blackberry flavors were both noticeable in the drink, but the flavor as a whole was overshadowed by an acidic "energy drink" overtone (likely from the inclusion of too much citric acid) that muddled the flavors with a caustic sourness. The ingredients list also features black carrot juice, and while the carrot flavor is noticeable if you focus your senses carefully, it mostly just gets lost in the acidic flavor of the rest of the drink. All things considered, the flavor does not speak of "relaxation" to me like many of the other relaxation beverages that I have tried and liked. Rather, it tastes like one would expect a "high-octane" energy drink to taste: aggressive, with a faint hint of trying too hard. While I don't necessarily mind aggressively flavored beverages, the sour acidity of Rhino's Relaxation became too much for me to tolerate towards the end of the drink, and I eventually found myself pouring out the last couple of ounces. 

As I have said before in my reviews, I usually don't experience the alterations in consciousness that many do when drinking these sorts of drinks, so I feel that it would be unfair for me to spend time criticizing the drink's ineffectiveness when I knew from the start that it was not likely to affect me. With this in mind, I will keep my discussion of the functionality simple. The drink's "relaxation cocktail" contains a mixture of valerian root extract, L-theanine, lemon balm extract, and chamomile extract. If you are like me and are not easily swayed by anything less than pharmaceutical-grade supplements, then this drink is not likely to do much to help you relax. However, if you have previously had positive experiences with any of the ingredients listed above, then Rhino's Relaxation will probably do the trick.

Overall, I'm afraid that I can't recommend Rhino's Relaxation. Although I really liked the design of the can, I just couldn't get used to the flavor long enough to enjoy the drink. If you are a fan of some of the more mainstream energy drinks and you don't mind highly acidic overtones in your drinks, then you may find a lot to like in Rhino's Relaxation. Otherwise, it would probably be best to just steer clear.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Bi-Lo [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 8.3 fl. oz. [250mL]
Price paid: $2.49

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crystal Light Liquid

In further keeping with my recent tradition of seemingly non-stop water enhancer reviews, I have—thanks to some samples sent over by the wonderful people at Kraft Foods—one of the newest additions to the water enhancer market to talk about today: Kraft's new Crystal Light Liquid. By this point, most people are familiar with Crystal Light. As one of the first low-calorie drink mixes to reach widespread popularity, Crystal Light has become somewhat of a household name, and with the recent rise to prominence of Kraft's MiO Liquid Water Enhancer, it was only a matter of time before the company's trademark powdered flavoring mix was converted into a handy liquid concentrate.

As alluded to in the first sentence of the paragraph above, I have been reviewing a lot of water enhancers lately. These portable, "on-the-go" bottles of flavoring concentrate have become very popular over the past couple of years, and the industry is responding to this rise in popularity by releasing new enhancers en masse. It seems like every time I walk into the grocery store, there is a new water enhancer on the shelf with the rest of them. Some stores in my area have even had to install new, specialized shelving to make room for new brands and keep all of the tiny bottles organized.

Custom, dispenser-style shelving at a local Bi-Lo grocery store.

While I am always glad to see a new idea take hold so firmly in the beverage industry, the sudden proliferation of so many water enhancers into the marketplace has left me at a bit of a disadvantage in that it is becoming somewhat difficult to come up with adequately descriptive ways to differentiate between all of the different brands. Many of the water enhancers that are currently available are—if we are to be completely honest—fairly similar. Most of them use similar ingredients and sweeteners (most commonly a combination of sucralose and acesulfame potassium), have the same general serving size and number of servings per bottle, and offer flavor lines relatively similar to most of the competition.

Crystal Light Liquid is no exception to these standards. The sweeteners and list of ingredients are almost identical to that of MiO, and the serving size remains constant at 24 servings per bottle. Where Crystal Light Liquid differentiates itself from the rest of the shelf, however, is its choice of flavors. The array of Crystal Light flavors is not only a good bit different from many of the flavor lines currently available on the market, but it is also varied in and of itself. At the time of this writing, each flavor in the line (Iced Tea, Pomtini, Peach Bellini, Strawberry Lemonade, Mango Passionfruit, and Blueberry Raspberry) is unique, and no one flavor element is repeated between the different varieties of Crystal Light Liquid. So far, I have tried the Mango Passionfruit and Blueberry Raspberry, and I have been satisfied with each.

While I can't say that the two flavors that I have tried have been worlds apart from the taste of other water enhancers that I've had recently, I can say that I have enjoyed both of them quite well. The Mango Passionfruit flavor is appropriately sweet in a "fruity, but not sickeningly so" sort of way, and the Blueberry Raspberry has a fitting "berry" taste that cuts the sweetness with a hint of tartness. While they obviously don't taste particularly natural, the flavors are quite good, and the formulas seems especially well-balanced in comparison to some of the flavors offered by the competition.

One thing that I noticed almost immediately upon sampling Crystal Light Liquid was that the flavor seems a bit lighter than it does in other brands. The artificial sweetener—while certainly still present—is not quite as noticeable in the flavor, and the artificiality of the drink as a whole is not as evident in the experience as it has been in previous efforts to perfect the portable water enhancer formula. From my experience so far, Crystal Light Liquid makes for a generally more pleasant drinking experience than many of the other water enhancers that I have tried. It is one of the first enhancers that I have ever used in two glasses of water in a row, and I don't find myself facing the "last ounce struggle" (having to either force myself to finish the last bit in the glass or pour it out due to an accumulation of artificial sweetener aftertaste lingering in my mouth) quite as often as I do with quite a few other enhancers.

All in all, Crystal Light Liquid is a welcome addition to the exploding world of liquid water enhancers. If you are a fan of water enhancers and have yet to give this one a shot (or perhaps a squirt), be sure to pick up a bottle on your next trip to the store. You won't be sorry.

Verdict: Recommended

Samples sent courtesy of Kraft Foods, Inc.
For more information about Crystal Light Liquid, visit the official website at:
Or follow Crystal Light on Facebook or Twitter

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Victoria's Kitchen Licorice/Mint Almond Water

As many of you know by now, I absolutely love Victoria's Kitchen almond water. Although I was hesitant to try it at first, I fell in love with their original sweet almond water immediately after the first bottle, and then enjoyed the coconut flavor just as much. It would make sense, then, that I was very excited when Victoria's Kitchen offered to send me a sample pack of their newest flavor: licorice/mint.

Having finally learned from my unfounded hesitancy to try the last two flavors, I went into this one without the slightest hint of doubt, and I was not disappointed. I have been very impressed with Victoria's Kitchen so far, and this new flavor is no exception. This is not something that I say very often—even to myself—but I can honestly say that this is one of the best drinks that I have had in quite some time.

Much like with the Almond Water Coconut, the formula of the Almond Water Licorice/Mint is not drastically different from the normal taste of the unflavored almond water. Rather, the flavors are layered into the existing body of the almond water, being sure never to overtake the aromatic flavor of the almonds in the drink. This is fairly impressive, given that licorice and mint are also very aromatic flavors that have a natural tendency to overpower whatever ingredients with which they are paired. It is clear that a lot of time and attention went into getting the flavors just right while still staying true to the original vision of their all-natural almond water taste. The mint and licorice are both very present on the olfactory at first, lingering just long enough to give you the impression of the flavor before mostly dissipating into the tastefully balanced sweetness of the almond water. This may seem odd to some—the idea of a vanishing flavor—but I find that I really enjoy the effect. It offers a variety of independent but cooperative flavor experiences that allows each taste to be picked out and clearly identified, while still contributing to one complete and satisfying whole. Each return to the bottle actively encourages the drinker to keep taking "one more sip" to fully recognize everything that is going on in the beverage. Then, before you are really aware of how much you have consumed, your almond water is gone.

I really like this drink. If my interests were consistent and determinant enough to actually maintain a steady "top beverages" list, I have no doubt that this one would rank very, very high. The drink is made complex with simple ingredients, is interesting while still maintaining an "anytime drink" appeal, and is thoroughly refreshing (in the literal sense) without sacrificing flavor. And, as if there weren't enough positives, each bottle is naturally only 100 calories. While I have had combinations of licorice and mint in foods and candies in the past, this is the first time that I have ever experienced the pairing in a beverage, and after the stellar example set by Victoria's Kitchen, I hope that we start to see more companies experimenting with the flavors in the future. Everything from Victoria's Kitchen is sure to satisfy, but if you are stuck on which of their products to try first, this is definitely the best so far.

In other words, this one has my highest of recommendations. I can't wait to see what's next from Victoria's Kitchen.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Samples sent courtesy of Victoria's Kitchen, LLC.
For more information about Victoria's Kitchen, visit them online at:
Or follow Victoria's Kitchen on Facebook or Twitter

Sunday, February 17, 2013

MiO Fit

Those who have been following Drinkable Review for the last year or two will be well aware of my long, involved history with Kraft's line of MiO water enhancers. I have been sampling new types and flavors of MiO since the original line was released in March of 2011. MiO Fit, intended to be a more economical replacement for conventional sports drinks, is the newest addition to the ever-expanding MiO arsenal.

MiO Fit, as one would expect, operates very much the same as other types of MiO. You simply add as much or as little MiO as you would like to your water, and give it a quick stir or shake to mix everything up. MiO Fit differs from its predecessors, however, in that it is intended to be a replacement for conventional sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel, to name a few. Each bottle of MiO Fit is fortified with electrolytes and B vitamins to help replenish the nutrients that your body burns up during exercise. Although I have not used MiO Fit in an athletic setting (I'm...uh..."taking a break" from my old jogging routine), this is the same approach as most of the well-established "professional" sports drinks. Because they work in essentially the same way, MiO Fit has one distinct advantage over its pre-bottled competition: multiple servings per bottle. For the same price as three 20 oz. bottles of Gatorade (7.5 servings), one bottle of MiO Fit will convert 18 equivalent servings of water into delicious exercise fuel.

And I do actually mean delicious. To be honest, MiO Fit sort of surprised me in that the flavors were good enough to stand alone as tasty beverages even before considering the added functionality. Anyone who has had a sports drink is likely familiar with the lingering, salty aftertaste that is generally only appealing during breaks from heavy workouts during which your only concern is how quickly you can get a liquid of some kind into your face. But Mio Fit has, on the whole, managed to avoid this aftertaste. It is still noticeable if you focus carefully on detecting the flavor, but it is very easy to overlook during regular consumption. This is actually somewhat impressive, as electrolytes are—from a chemical standpoint—essentially just salts. It's fairly obvious that Kraft put some time and effort into hiding the lingering saline aftertaste that haunts so many other sport/performance beverages.

The flavors themselves are also very tasty. The Arctic Grape flavor is very tasty, and while it does smack of artificiality, the grape flavoring is actually fairly subtle and easy to drink. It is not overbearing like many artificial grape flavorings and works well with the mild flavor-altering effects of the electrolytes and vitamins. The Berry Blast flavor, however, is where I was most impressed. I have a long history of generally disliking beverages with the sort of vague "artificial berry" flavoring that has become so common of these sorts of drinks, so I was not particularly excited to try the MiO Fit version of the flavor. But despite my hesitation, MiO Fit is officially one of the first berry-flavored things that I have legitimately enjoyed. Like the grape, the berry was much more subtle and understated than I expected it to be, and the sort of caustic, chemical taste that normally comes with artificial "berry" was surprisingly absent. Both flavors are excellent, and while I prefer the Arctic Grape to the Berry Blast, I do so only slightly. Either flavor would make a great choice when trying to decide which to try first.

Overall, MiO Fit is a very welcome addition to the MiO family. Those who exercise frequently will find a lot to like in the portability and "value for money" of MiO Fit. But even for those who do not follow a regular workout routine, MiO Fit offers two wonderful new flavors to the MiO family. Functionality and appealing taste can often be difficult things to simultaneously work into the same beverage, but Kraft has done so with flying colors. Definitely check this one out.

Verdict: Recommended

Samples sent courtesy of Kraft Foods, Inc.
For more information about MiO and MiO Fit, visit the official website at:
Or Follow MiO on Facebook or Twitter

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Help Save Oogave

Today, there will be no review.

In its place, however, I would like to discuss an issue of personal interest and concern to me. Two years ago, I received my first email from a company offering to send me samples of their beverage to review on this site. Now, almost four years after their instantiation as an independent, health-oriented, organic beverage company, Oogave is in need of our help.

For those who are unfamiliar, Oogave is an independent soda company that produces a line of all-natural sodas sweetened with organic agave nectar. Oogave is a delicious, refreshing, and unique beverage in a market segment so often fraught with tiresome non-originality, and anyone who has the opportunity to try it should do so without hesitation. But while Oogave produces an amazing beverage, the company has found itself in a bit of a financial quandary this year, and has turned to the beverage community for assistance.

I don't want to belabor the point too much in this post, as Oogave has explained the situation in full in the description of their Indiegogo campaign, but the basic gist is this: Oogave needs $500,000 in donations (consider them "community investments, if you prefer) if they are to smoothly continue production into the next several years. For a small, independent packaged goods supplier in the United States, it takes about five years of sales to reach cash flow positive--business terms for sustained profit. Oogave has big plans for the next several years (signing on with major distributors such as Super Target and Sodexo), and if they can make it through this critical fourth year, they should be set to succeed in the years to come.

This, now, is where you come in. Oogave is currently a little bit short on cash in their plan for expansion into more major North American markets. Without the funds required to keep up with the costs of production, Oogave may be in danger of having to close their doors for good--something about which anyone who has ever tasted Oogave would be very upset. Oogave has estimated that they need approximately $500,000 in funds to reach cash flow positive, at which point they will be able to grow organically and continue seeking new opportunities for brand-building and expansion. If they can reach this goal, Oogave will stay in business and will continue to grace the beverage industry with their delicious products. If not, well...the future is very unclear.

If you are interested in helping Oogave reach this goal, head over to their Indiegogo fundraiser and take some time to read through their explanation of the issues at hand before determining how much money you might be able to contribute to the cause. Each level of donation does come with a corresponding reward perk, so if you are on the fence about bumping your donation up to the next level, just know that you will see some return on your investment (aside from a great company getting to stay in business, of course). If you are unable to donate, you can still do your part by sharing the information about the campaign with your friends, family, and social media networks.

$500,000 may seem like a long way off, but every little bit helps. If we all work together in donating and doing what we can to get the word of the campaign out to others, we should be able to help Oogave stick around for the long run.

For more information about Oogave and their products, please visit their website at:
Help get the word out with Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to share the link to their Indiegogo campaign ( wherever you see fit.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

Having a beverage review site on which one reviews all sorts of beverages can be, at times, surprisingly limiting in terms of approaching highly "technical" beverages. While I have allowed myself the freedom to review whatever sort of beverages I choose, my lack of any sort of formal system or grading rubric sometimes comes back to bite me when it comes time to review drinks as complex as Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA. The industry-specific terminology required to "adequately" describe the experience of drinking a Racer 5 would be a harsh departure from my typical writing style—a departure that I'm not sure would fit within the confines of my rather amateur reviewing persona. So, for now, I will do what justice I can to this incredible beverage with my only mildly relevant opinions. 

Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA is a superb beer. As I'm sure that I have alluded to before, India Pale Ale is currently my favorite type of beer, so I jump at the opportunity to try as many as I can. I first had Racer 5 about a year and a half ago at a bar in Columbia, SC, and I immediately fell in love with it. I quickly realized, however, that Racer 5 is apparently a bit hard to find in this particular area of the states, and I did not see it again until I stumbled across it at a beer and wine store in Asheville (North Carolina) several weeks ago. I am very glad that I did, too, because I had sort of forgotten during the interim just how good Racer 5 actually is.

The flavor of Racer 5 is actually sort of hard to explain. It is very complex, and the flavors shift over the course of each sip in such a way that pinning down one particular, descriptive flavor element is difficult. Because Racer 5 is an IPA, the hops are very present. However, they are such in a more mild way than other sorts of similar beers. IPAs are typically much more bitter than other kinds of beer, but Racer 5 manages to be bitter without actually "being bitter." It's a difficult concept to explain, now that I have actually sat down to do so. The bitterness is just more ambient than it usually is in other India pale ales; it's certainly there, but the hops aren't as strong on the tongue. If you like the flavor of a good IPA, but are regularly put off by the often extreme bitterness that lingers in the aftertaste, Racer 5 will suit you quite nicely.

The thing that interests me most about Racer 5 is that, while it is a bitter IPA, it is much more malty than other beers of its type. The malts come through very strongly both in the body of the beer and in the aftertaste, but they evolve as they do so. The beer starts off with a hint of sweetness on the tongue, but as the flavors progress the sweetness dissipates and moves in to a very "grainy" malt taste. The malt combines with the natural flavors of the grains used in the brew, resulting in a very interesting and constantly shifting flavor that will surprise you with something new and intriguing all the way down to the bottom of the glass. 

Overall, this is just an excellent beer. I have found that some of the best (or at least, most interesting) drinks that I have had have been the ones that result in a "you just have to try this one for yourself" verdict, and this one is definitely one of those beverages. Bear Republic's Racer 5 is great, and you should really try it sometime.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Weinhaus [Asheville, NC]
Size: 22 fl. oz. [650mL]
Price: $4.99

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water Coconut

When Victoria's Kitchen first contacted me about sending me some samples of their new Coconut Almond Water, I must admit that I was a bit...concerned. I very much enjoy their plain almond water, but my recent beverage history is riddled with bad experiences with coconut waters, and the last thing that I wanted to do was share another negative post about a new coconut something - particularly one from a company as competent as Victoria's Kitchen. This, as I found out immediately upon opening the bottle and taking my first sip, was a silly concern - one that almost makes me feel a bit presumptuous in retrospect. While I am ashamed to admit that I have now officially doubted Victoria's Kitchen two times in a row, I am also excited to be able to report that my preconceived notions about a beverage have never been more wrong.

In my original review of Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water, I actually touched upon my initial hesitation toward the drink due to its conceptual resemblance to coconut water. It's sort of funny, then, that the first foray into expanding the Victoria's Kitchen product line would contain coconut, but I'm very glad that it does. Victoria's Kitchen's Coconut Almond Water does not actually contain any of the all-overwhelming coconut water that I was afraid of, but rather uses a delicious and natural coconut flavoring on top of their already very solid almond water foundation. All of the original traits of the almond water are still there, but this time with the addition of a new tropical taste.

Coconut is one of those flavors that is fairly difficult to actually get right. While I enjoy the taste of coconut a good bit, I have definitely had plenty of beverages touting coconut as a main ingredient that were either overwhelmed by the flavor, tasted artificial or were just not very good representations of the various subtleties of coconut's relatively complex taste. Coconut is a complicated taste to match with other things, and then even harder to proportion after a pairing has been reached, but Victoria's Kitchen has gotten it just right. There is just enough taste of the coconut in the beverage to be noticeable without overpowering the almond water base, and the light sweetness of the drink really helps to bring the two flavors together. On top of the drink being very well-balanced, the coconut flavoring is also very natural and tastes like the actual meat of a coconut fruit, rather than the candied, unchewable confectionery flakes with which the term "coconut" has unfortunately become so synonymous. All in all, this is a very tasty twist on an already very tasty beverage.

While I never would have guessed that almond and coconut would have gone well together, Victoria's Kitchen has demonstrated very clearly that they do. The coconut brings an extra element to the almond water that gives the beverage a slightly more interesting level of appeal (the combination of flavors may actually be an easier sell to less adventurous, non-almond-loving friends), while at the same time enhancing the taste of the original drink and punching up the uniquely impossible to describe taste (I've resorted to calling it "roasted," but even that isn't quite right) of fresh almonds. If you like almonds or coconut or things that taste fantastic, you will love Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water Coconut.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Samples sent courtesy of Victoria's Kitchen, LLC.
For more information about Victoria's Kitchen, visit them online at:
Or follow Victoria's Kitchen on Facebook or Twitter