REVIEW: ZOA Energy Drink

Zoa Energy Drink Cans

I will watch pretty much anything with Dwayne Johnson’s name attached to it, so I guess I will also drink anything with Dwayne Johnson’s name attached to it. Because here we are with me trying out the Original and Original Zero Sugar versions of an energy drink that he helped develop.

Well, it’s not as if he didn’t put on a sleeveless lab coat and helped formulate energy drink samples in his trailer between Fast & Furious takes.

ZOA is available in several flavors that I’m too lazy to look up. I decided to go for just the Original and Zero Sugar Original versions because if these are bad and I bought every variety, I didn’t want to experience the spectrum of horribleness, even if it has Mr. Johnson’s name on them.

But I’m happy to report that these are okay. I know that’s not a glowing endorsement, but flavor-wise there’s nothing unique about them.

Zoa Energy Drink Glasses

If a flavor dictionary existed, the “energy drink” entry would taste like this. Remember when energy drinks first started getting popular and brands were popping up everywhere, and most of them tried to emulate Red Bull’s sweet medicinal flavor? Well, these taste like something from one of those brands. Not exactly like Red Bull, but something Red Bull-esque and less cloying. Also, the sugar-free version (sweetened with sucralose and ace-K) tastes better than the one that has sugar. The Original one has an unpleasant extra medicinal bite at the back end that’s a bit off-putting.

So if these taste like energy drink’s early years, what separates this from others, besides possibly being formulated using Dwayne Johnson’s arms as an industrial mixer? For one, it’s marketed as a “healthy” energy drink.

What does that mean?

Well, I’ll just copy over what it says on the ZOA website. It’s made with Camu-Camu berries and Acerola Cherries that provide 100% of your daily Vitamin C and antioxidants. Branched-Chain Amino Acids are added to help with muscle growth, electrolytes are included to keep you hydrated, and choline is in them to boost metabolism. Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12 are also included. Finally, it uses natural caffeine, which means it gets it from green tea and green, unroasted coffee beans.


Original and Original Zero Sugar ZOA Energy Drinks are decent tasting ways to get 160 milligrams of caffeine into my body. But I’d probably only repurchase the sugar-free one again. Also, because they aren’t horrible, I’m curious about the other flavors.

Purchased Price: $2.49 each
Size: 16 fl oz cans
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Original), 6 out of 10 (Zero Sugar Original)
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) Original – 100 calories, 0 grams of fat, 200 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 23 grams of sugar, 22 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein Zero Sugar Original – 15 calories, 0 grams of fat, 200 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Red Bull Summer Edition Dragon Fruit Energy Drink

Red Bull Summer Edition Dragon Fruit Energy Drink Can

As far as I’m concerned, it ain’t summer until Red Bull says it is.

Well, good news, that new Red Bull Summer Edition just dropped, and we are now in the midst of a Dragon Fruit summer.

Ah yes, dragon fruit, the magical fruit that hatched into my life about twenty years ago. We’ve all probably tasted dragon fruit in some form, but none of us have actually ever eaten a dragon fruit. Yes, I speak for everyone here. You’ve never had a dragon fruit, nor has anyone you know. If you dispute this claim, I regret to inform you that you are living a lie.

My introduction to dragon fruit – which should be one word – was in the early 2000s when I went through a 2 bottle a day Vitamin Water Power-C phase. Remember when we lied to ourselves about the health benefits of Vitamin Water, only to find out it was essentially melted Skittles with good marketing?

Well, I’m drinking a Red Bull, so I guess times haven’t really changed.

Anyway, I loved the flavor and was pretty pumped to see Red Bull utilizing the fiery fruit of legend.

Red Bull Summer Edition Dragon Fruit Energy Drink Label

I found the green can to be an odd choice, but then figured it was probably a tribute to the cosmic beings who brought dragonfruits to this planet. Because if you’ve ever seen an artist’s rendering, it’s clearly alien.

Red Bull Summer Edition Dragon Fruit Energy Drink Purple

When I cracked the can to a welcoming hiss, I was met with the wafting scent of an Ocean Spray mixed juice cocktail. It looked like one too. The cough medicine purple-ish color was possibly the darkest I’ve seen in an energy drink.

As far as the flavor goes, it brought me right back to those Vitamin Water days. It’s extremely vibrant and spritzy as you’d expect. The dragonfruit taste smacks you in the face at first, but transitions into an unripened berry sourness. I’d say it was almost like a mix of unripened strawberry and raspberry.

Unripe berries are a major buzzkill for me, but the flavor works in an energy drink. I’ve had some Red Bull flavors that left me flat and unsatisfied, but this one really did “revitalize my body and mind.®”

It started sweet, got sour, and finished with a Strawberry Life-Saver aftertaste.

I’d say dragonfruit is the perfect flavor to represent summer because it made me wanna cannonball into the nearest body of water.

For a fake fruit that looks like a pink fireball stuffed with vanilla bean ice cream, dragonfruit really does have a great flavor that definitely works in carbonated form.

Perhaps I will one day trek out into whatever treacherous jungle dragonfruits allegedly grow in and partake of the fruit itself, but for now, I’ll just pick up another can.

Red Bull Summer Edition Dragon Fruit Energy Drink Glass Can

This Red Bull gave me wings… and also an earworm because, for some reason, I’ve been singing “Red Bull, Red Bull” to the tune of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” since I drank it. I hope I can now pass that on to you, my fellow dragonfruit non-eaters.

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12 Fl. Oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 125 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 38 grams of total sugars, 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew Rise Energy



Remember when Mtn Dew Kickstart debuted back in 2013? I do because there was a little hubbub about it being marketed as a morning soda, causing, I imagine, nutritionists across the country to roll their eyes. Oh, I also remember because I reviewed the first two flavors.

Although they had around 80 milligrams of caffeine, they weren’t considered energy drinks because, according to Mtn Dew, they didn’t have the same ingredients, like guarana and taurine.

Well, Mtn Dew Kickstart is getting some inter-brand competition from new Mtn Dew Rise, which ARE energy drinks marketed to be consumed, as you can guess from its name and some of the flavors available, in the morning. While they’re energy drinks, they also don’t contain guarana and taurine. But they do have zinc and vitamin C to help support immune function, and citicoline, which, combined with caffeine, helps improve concentration.

Speaking of stimulants, a can of Rise has 180 milligrams of caffeine, which, I believe, is the most in a single-serve Mtn Dew product. As someone who likes Monster and Rockstar energy drinks with triple-digit caffeine levels, I appreciate all that sweet, sweet caffeine.

The line has SIX varieties —- Tropical Sunrise, Peach Mango Dawn, Berry Blitz, Pomegranate Blue Burst, Orange Breeze, and Strawberry Melon Spark. While these names sound exciting, I should mention that if you’re a consumer of all Dew, or a conDEWmer, if you will, many of these will taste familiar to you.


Let’s start with my favorite, the pineapple-flavored Tropical Sunrise. I prefer it over another pineapple energy drink introduced this year — Monster Energy’s Ultra Gold. While the Monster offering has 15 fewer calories and no sugar, Tropical Sunrise has just 25 calories, 4 grams of sugar, a more robust fruitiness, and 30 more milligrams of caffeine. This also brings up memories of one of my favorite Dew varieties — Maui Burst.

Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) – 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.


Two flavors I like equally, but not as much as Tropical Sunrise, are Peach Mango Dawn and Strawberry Melon Spark. The former has a pleasant, but artificial peach aroma and flavor with mango lingering in the background. I’ve never had a peach mango beverage before, but now that I’ve had one, I need to try more.


Strawberry Melon Spark is a combination of strawberry and watermelon. It tastes familiar to me, not only because of the delicious, recently released Mtn Dew Major Melon, but because of SuperNova, the strawberry melon-flavored Dew that came out in 2008 as part of the DEWmocracy campaign to determine the next permanent variety. It was my favorite of the three flavors participating, but it didn’t win. That honor went to Voltage.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Peach Mango Dawn), 8 out of 10 (Strawberry Melon Spark)
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) Peach Mango Dawn – 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein. Strawberry Melon Spark – 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.



Speaking of Voltage, I swear the Pomegranate Blue Burst one tastes like it. I was expected a bit more tartness from the pomegranate, but the sweet blueberry flavor tempers it. Berry Blitz tastes like it has blue raspberry with maybe a bit of blueberry. It has an almost cotton candy-like aroma and taste, which is also what I wrote when I reviewed Mtn Dew Amp Game Fuel Berry Blast. Samesies?

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Pomegranate Blue Burst), 7 out of 10 (Berry Blitz)
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) – 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.


Orange Breeze, as you can guess from its name, is orange-flavored. It’s the only Rise variety that has juice concentrate from the fruit it’s supposed to taste like. (The others get their juice from white grape juice concentrate.) The orange flavor is decent and has a slight sourness. This is the only one that tastes morning-appropriate, so I guess you can replace your OJ with OB as part of your balanced breakfast.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 180 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar, 0 grams of added sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

All six varieties use acesulfame potassium and sucralose as sweeteners to bring down the total sugar levels. Even though there’s not much of it (5 percent), the juice does help these from completely tasting like diet drinks. Also, because they’re not overly sweet or syrupy, they’re easy to drink.

With the caffeine content hitting triple digits and decent to good flavors, Mtn Dew Rise might be a better way to kickstart your day than Mtn Dew Kickstart.

Purchased Price: $24.99
Size: 12-count, 6-flavor sampler pack
Purchased at: Amazon

REVIEW: Monster Energy Ultra Gold

Monster Energy Ultra Gold Can

What is the Monster Energy Ultra Gold?

It’s a sugar-free, golden pineapple-flavored energy drink that’s part of the popular Monster Energy Ultra line, which includes such flavors as Watermelon, Fiesta, Rosa, Paradise, Violet, Red, Blue, and Black.

How is it?

Well, I know people are going to disagree with me about this because I’ve had folks tell me that this is one of their favorite Monster Ultra varieties. It’s good, but not great because I wish the pineapple flavor was stronger.

Monster Energy Ultra Gold Closeup

The perfect example of the pineapple potency I wish Ultra Gold had is Pepsi Pineapple. It tastes like I climbed a pineapple tree with a tall glass of Pepsi, grabbed a fruit, sliced off its skin, and squeezed its flesh so that its juice flavored the cola.

I know some of you are going to say I’m completely wrong about the level of pineapple in this energy drink, much like many of you are going to say I’m completely wrong about pineapples growing on trees. But I can taste how it might be just right for others.

(Side note: I find it funny that pines are a type of tree and apples grow on trees, but pineapples grow on short plants.)

Anything else you need to know?

I know it’s just a color, but the Monster Energy Ultra Gold Energy Drink can is a pleasure to stare at. It’s a gorgeous gold. Also, when I look at it, I imagine it’s the result of C-3PO getting recycled.


Monster Energy Ultra Gold smells divine, but its fruity flavor is too light to my liking. With that said, it’s still a tasty way to get 150 milligrams of caffeine into my bloodstream, and it’s good enough that I would repurchase it.

Purchased Price: More than one should pay on eBay
Size: 16 fl oz can
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 200 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of erythritol, 0 grams of protein, and 150 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Rockstar Juice TMGS Energy Juice

Rockstar Juice TMGS Energy Juice Can

What is the Rockstar Juiced TMGS Energy Juice?

It’s the third installment of the Rockstar TMGS line. For those not in the know, TMGS stands for tangerine, mango, guava, and strawberry. It follows the delicious original TMGS and the delightful lime-infused TMGS Twist.

However, unlike the previous two, which were sugar and calorie-free, this version has some sugar and calories because there’s actual fruit mixed into it. Granted, there’s only 8 percent, but that’s enough to boost the beverage’s nutrition facts to 20 calories and 4 grams of sugar.

How is it?

Rockstar Juice TMGS Energy Juice Glass

You’d think adding real fruit would make the already excellent original TMGS even better, but I can’t say it does. The fruit seems to make the beverage a cloudy orange color, which is dramatically different from the original’s cloudy pink.

If you’re familiar with the original TMGS flavor, you’ll have an idea of what this tastes like. The guava and strawberry are the most noticeable, while the tangerine in the background. But the mango is hard to notice.

It’s a tasty start, but then the sweet, tropical goodness lacks staying power. I mean, it’s not as if it’s sort of reverse Jesus-ed in that juice is turned into water. But when I finished the can, I didn’t have the same OMG I love you reaction I get from drinking the original Rockstar TMGS.

I thought I could blame artificial sweeteners, but there were artificial sweeteners in the previous versions, which are more satisfying than this.

Anything else you need to know?

As of this writing, it’s an ampm exclusive, but so were the others because TMGS not only means tangerine, mango, guava, and strawberry, but it also stands for ampm’s slogan, Too Much Good Stuff. That is something I didn’t know with the previous two. So obviously, I have failed Convenience Store Slogans 101.

One last thing. This has 160 milligrams of caffeine, while the previous two had 240 milligrams. Less flavorful AND fewer milligrams of caffeine! Don’t sign me up!


If you love the original Rockstar TMGS, stick with it for your caffeinated tangerine, mango, guava, and strawberry-flavored needs. Rockstar Juiced TMGS is fine, but it pales in comparison to the original.

Purchased Price: More than one should pay
Size: 15 oz can
Purchased at: eBay (available at ampm)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 20 calories, 0 grams of fat, 120 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar (includes 0 grams of added sugar), 0 grams of protein, and 16 milligrams of caffeine.