After almost two years of physical restrictions and COVID-19 ruining our plans, getting back into a nightlife routine is taking some getting used to. I personally have resorted to adding coffee into my going-out regimen. Others might choose the classic Vodka Redbull, a drink that keeps you going despite your newfound laziness. A drink made with ¾ parts Redbull and ¼ parts (usually very cheap) vodka, the Vodka RedBull is typically served in a highball glass over ice. Despite this, Pitcher Night at the Boot has allowed frenzied freshmen to enjoy this cocktail out of a giant plastic jug. 

The beverage has an interesting history, too. The popular canned energy drink was first distributed in Austria in 1987. The ingredients and amounts of will vary based on the distributing country, but all RedBull contains caffeine, taurine, B vitamins (B3, B5, B6, B12) and simple sugars (sucrose and glucose) in a buffer solution of carbonated water, baking soda and magnesium carbonate. Mixing a shot of vodka into the energy drink first gained popularity around the 1980s in San Francisco, California at a spot called Legendary Butter Bar.

A friend spiked my curiosity about this popular drink after he told me his frightening history with the drink. For privacy reasons, his name will remain anonymous and we will call him “Joe.” Joe told me that Pitcher Night was his favorite freshman year… and he only ever ordered Vodka RedBull. It kept him up late and he loves the taste of RedBull. By the end of the year, Joe started feeling the effects of his favorite Boot drink. He didn’t know then, but the carbonation in the drink had given him a horrible condition called Gastritis, which is still affecting him two years later. I interviewed Joe to get every detail and spread the word about this frightening case.

Before college, did you ever drink redbull or similar energy drinks?

“I only occasionally drank Red Bull, but often I drank coffee.”

Do you remember your first vodka redbull?

“Yes, together with my older cousins when we took a trip to Vegas together.”

What do you think about the drinking culture at Tulane? 

“I think there is a large drinking culture at Tulane, and it can be easy to get caught up in it. It is definitely a lot of fun, but best to do it in moderation.”

How often did you drink Vodka RedBull after you started at Tulane?

“I always occasionally had it before, but then started a couple times a week when college started. It never started getting to be almost every night going out until sophomore year.”

How long after this did you start experiencing symptoms? What did it feel like?

“I never experienced symptoms until way later, during a month where I went out far more than I ever had, drinking about 6 vodka red bulls each night I went out. It felt like a weird bubbling feeling and intense pain in my chest. It was unbearable and still flares up when I drink anything carbonated.”

How do you feel now when you have that drink?

“I still crave it, but know that I will feel pain the next morning if I drink it, which is why I stay away from it now.”

How has this affected your life now?

“For about a month, I couldn’t drink alcohol. And now, I occasionally have to take meds in the morning if I am feeling any pain.”

How have you changed your habits after being diagnosed with Gastritis?

“I don’t drink Vodka RedBull anymore and can’t have carbonated drinks. I’m very careful with what I drink now when going out and it makes ordering drinks much more challenging. I know the pain the next morning won’t be worth it and I encourage everyone to stay away from RedBull, as tempting as it may be.”

Redbull has undergone lawsuits for false advertising, reported negative health effects, and cases of abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, and even death in young adults who drink the beverage regularly. The safe caffeine limit for adults is no more than 400mg per day. In some of these rare cases of heart attack, young adults reported only drinking 3-8 cans per day, which is less than that limit. One recent study in 34 healthy adults found that drinking 32-ounces (946 ml) of Red Bull daily for 3 days resulted in significant changes to the interval between heartbeats. Mixing energy drinks with alcohol masks the flavor and the high caffeine level prohibits the drinker from recognizing how drunk they are. If RedBull alone is enough to kill someone, mixing it with vodka should be avoided. Stay safe this Halloween (and always) by ditching this dangerous mixie and opting to mix with organic juice or lemonade.

For more information, please visit the links below:

About Grace Gottesman

Grace Gottesman is a junior from Seattle, WA who enjoys film photography, traveling, and cooking! Through the Crescent, Grace wants to share her love for art, mental health and wellness, sustainability, and her favorite city, New Orleans.

+ posts

Grace Gottesman is a junior from Seattle, WA who enjoys film photography, traveling, and cooking! Through the Crescent, Grace wants to share her love for art, mental health and wellness, sustainability, and her favorite city, New Orleans.