Red Bull Cola

By: Red Bull N.A.

I Paid: $5.99 for four 12-ounce cans (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3stars

Marketing: 3stars

There’s no compelling evidence that the mass of international consumers has been agitating for a Red Bull–branded cola product, but—demand notwithstanding—the company has blessed us with its take on an old-fashioned Coca-Cola. Containing caffeine from coffee beans but no mysterious taurine, Red Bull Cola appears to be the nightclub-branded soft drink you can take to work.

The result of the company’s efforts to build a better cola is something entirely unexpected: Red Bull Cola combines the teeth-melting, full-sugar sweetness of Pepsi with a deeply herbal and citric back end. The flavor registers as lemon-lime meets Indian tea meets orange Mop & Glo, but is ultimately pleasant. A glance at the ingredients list reveals at least part of the story: Along with sugar, water, and kola nut extract, there’s galangal, mustard seed, clove, cardamom, and pine, among others.

Who knew Red Bull had a sensitive, creative side?

Dave’s Dragon Dust

By: Dave’s Dragon Dust

I Paid: $14.95 for a 1.75-ounce shaker (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars

Marketing: 3stars

Any idiot can make a hot sauce—and many have—but it takes an artist to create a heat-conveying sauce or rub that has depth and balance. Oregon-based Dave’s Dragon Dust pulls it off; while the beautifully multicolored, powdery spice mix is incredibly hot, it’s got a smoky richness that fills out underseasoned red sauces, ground beef, deviled eggs, and other relatively blank canvases.

Sold at specialty stores and via its website, the dust is a blend of dried chiles, including hickory-smoked jalapeños, Scotch bonnets, Red Savina, and the Bhut Jolokia, a pepper recently distinguished as the Guinness World Records champ for pure heat. All are grown in Oregon without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

The site and bottle both play up the hot aspect of the stuff, but the marketing—though no doubt effective—misses the real point: The sweet/hot/smoked flavor of Dave’s Dragon Dust is far more than a mere shot of capsaicin; it’s closer to a garam masala or bottle of herbes de Provence, in that it provides a number of mutually supportive and richly textured tastes.

The price appears daunting, but each bottle is good for about 300 applications of dust, meaning that you can easily kick up nachos, chili, or salsa for about five cents a pop.

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