Liquid cocaine

By Jeff Edwards

By Salon Staff

Published February 7, 2001 11:48PM (EST)

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Red Bull originated in Austria, huh?

How disappointing to see not a single reference in Jeff Edwards' article to the original Thai version of Red Bull ("Krating Daeng"), which comes in tiny brown bottles and squat, half-height aluminum cans.

In fact, the name, logo and essential formulation of the drink were all licensed (in exchange for a 51 percent controlling interest) from the Thai family whose company, T.C. Pharmaceuticals, has been making Red Bull for generations.

The Thai version, still sold in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and China, and available in most Asian grocery stores in this country, is much more concentrated --- with a taste more like liquid Smarties candy.

One part of Red Bull's marketing strategy seems to be to promote confusion between the European and Thai versions of the drink; the Red Bull North America Web site seems not to mention the Thai connection at all. I wish Jeff Edwards had thought to ask its spokesperson about why this is.

-- Dave Chumsartoon-LaDelfa

What your article failed to mention is that such "energy" drinks are a mainstay of the Japanese diet. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been the pitchman for one of these products for years. "Shwarz-chan," as he is affectionately called, pitches the restorative qualities of such drinks to tired salary men, cramming students and overstressed housewives. One ingredient that, thank God, is not included in these sorts of drinks here in the U.S. is nicotine.

-- Deldelp Medina

Red Bull's marketing department got a shot in the arm in 1996 in the form of a futuristic billboard placement in the successful PlayStation racing game Wipeout. The game was a huge hit, had lots of fictional sponsors dotted along the slipping scenery and had a great rave soundtrack (including not-yet-a-hit "Firestarter" by the Prodigy, sans lyrics). When I played this in college I thought Red Bull was just another fake ad until I went to London months later and found it for sale at a gas station. I even took an empty can back to Randolph-Macon College to show my Wipeout buddies. Now it's everywhere in mixed-drink land -- and I tell you, nothing helps post-tequila shot pounding like a can of Red Bull.

-- Dean Browell

Salon Staff

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