I’m not a Red Bull guy. My go-to for my rampant caffeine addiction is a big ol’ cup of black coffee as soon as I get out of bed. One of the reasons I don’t like Red Bull is because I think it tastes like battery acid. I recognize the irony of me criticizing the taste of an energy drink when I consume coffee so bitter it makes my face hurt. But I just can’t get over that intangible, unrecognizable flavor of Red Bull. It’s time for all of us to figure out what flavor Red Bull actually is.
What flavor is the original Red Bull?
For me, the first sip of Red Bull is an overwhelming feeling of confusion. It’s very sweet like candy, but just generic candy, not any specific flavor. There’s a little bit of a citrusy tang, but also the chemical notes of a cough syrup with bubbles in it. It’s a beverage that would send the best sommeliers into a tailspin.
So let’s take a look at the full list of ingredients in a Red Bull. We’ve got carbonated water, sucrose, glucose, citric acid, taurine, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium carbonate, caffeine, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, Pyridoxine HCl, Vitamin B12, natural and artificial flavors, colors. There’s also a fun little warning: Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, or persons sensitive to caffeine.
I’m not a food scientist, and I take every opportunity to let people know that; it’s often my opening line on first dates. So when I look at this ingredient list, the only things that stand out to me as “flavor” contributors are sucrose, glucose, and the citric part of citric acid. So it’s sugar and… a citrus fruit, but which one? To me there’s a big difference between a lime and kumquat.
What the heck is taurine?
The -ates and -ides in the ingredient list, I kind of understand. They are food chemicals that appear in a lot of processed foods for whatever reason. The only ingredient on the list that is a real mystery to me is taurine. I know it as a buzzword from when Red Bull was getting very popular and there were rumors going around that it was something extracted from a certain liquid produced by a bull. But what exactly is it?
I’ve read some internet articles about it and I can safely say… I still have no idea. Taurine is an essential amino acid that occurs naturally in our bodies and is also present in animal proteins. The taurine that appears in Red Bull and workout supplements is synthetic and usually far exceeds the recommended daily allotment of taurine intake. But does taurine have a flavor? Again, I can’t stress enough that I am not a food scientist. But actual food scientists do say that amino acids do have a flavor—some are sweet, some are bitter, some are umami. According to a Healthline article, taurine has a slightly bitter taste, which jives with Red Bull’s flavor. So, what does Red Bull taste like? A little bit like taurine.
How many Red Bull flavors are there?
Thankfully, Red Bull has released several other versions of their energy drink that contain specific flavors that are much easier to pin down. These include watermelon, blueberry, dragon fruit, peach-nectarine, coconut berry, strawberry apricot, fig apple, and “tropical.” At the very least, these are actual foods with recognizable flavors, so they probably cut through the confusion you might feel after drinking the original Red Bull.