Red Bull and vodka: sink or swim?

Robin Withall

What happens if you mix “the drink that gives you wings” with one that has the exact opposite effect? Well, if you’re the owner of a bar or nightclub that caters to the under-30 crowd, your sales are bound to go up. But if you are one of the many indulging in this latest party craze – drinking a mixture of Red Bull and vodka – the jury is still out.

To many Villanovans, Red Bull is known as a “study aid,” boasting a variety of stimulants – including caffeine, guarana and ginseng – sure to keep a sleep-deprived college student awake for an all-nighter.

But lately, due to popular main-line bars such as Brownies in Ardmore offering $2 Red Bull and vodka specials on Wednesdays and Fridays, Red Bull is also known as a mixer for vodka.

According to experienced Red Bull and Vodka drinkers, the concoction allows for longer nights of partying.

“When I used to drink vodka, I’d get so tired that I’d pass out after a few drinks,” said a Villanova junior who wished to remain anonymous. “Now that I mix it with Red Bull, I can enjoy the effects of alcohol and not worry that I’ll pass out if I have one or two extra drinks.”

Unfortunately, not many studies have been done on the effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol, especially in the United States. Red Bull has been banned in several countries including Malaysia, Denmark and France due in large part to concerns of mixing the energy drink with alcohol. The FDA has not even tested Red Bull by itself (because it is considered a food product and not a dietary supplement), let alone coupled with other products.

Despite the lack of clinical trials, there has been speculation among health experts about the negative effects of this craze. According to an article on in which these effects were discussed with an exercise physiologist and a dietician, “experts worry that the stimulation of these energy drinks may prevent people from realizing how much alcohol they’ve consumed or how intoxicated they are.”

Because they do not realize how much they have had to drink, students may be inclined to drink more than they normally would, leading to an increase in incidents of alcohol poisoning. Also of concern is the fact that the alertness caused by the Red Bull means that there is a greater chance of a student thinking that he is okay to drive than if he could feel the depressing effects of the alcohol.

While this may be the case, should you choose to use Red Bull as a mixer, it is important to keep tabs on just how many drinks that you have had. After all, adding Red Bull to vodka doesn’t change how the alcohol will affect you. It will just make you more aware of how sick you are once you’ve had that “one drink too many.”