Warning: ‘May be extremely calming’

The opposite of Red Bull, these ‘anti-energy’ drinks claim to provide instant relaxation

Warning: ‘May be extremely calming’

At the end of a hectic day, people in need of some relaxation might curl up with a good book, listen to soft music, or maybe stretch out in a yoga class. For those in search of “extreme relaxation,” though, there is Drank, an “extreme relaxation beverage” on sale in the U.S. and about to come to Canada. Just as time-strapped individuals might chug coffee or Red Bull to stay alert, those seeking the opposite effect should take note: calm now comes in a can.

A fizzy, berry-and-lavender-flavoured concoction, Drank promises to “slow your roll.” To accomplish this, it contains a “calming blend” of melatonin, rosehips and valerian, supplements meant to fight anxiety and promote restfulness. (“Warning! This beverage may be extremely relaxing and calming,” the website cautions.) According to a food blogger at About.com, it really does the job: “Not long after I had my can, I noticed a pretty strong desire to go take a nap,” the reviewer writes. “It really did mellow me out.” The flavour of Drank got top marks, too, though it tasted surprisingly sweet, quite a lot like an energy drink.

Peter Bianchi, the Houston-based CEO of Innovative Beverage Group and Drank’s creator, compares indulging in a can to “putting your feet up in a recliner on a cold winter day.” Available in the U.S. for over a year, Drank’s popularity has exploded, Bianchi says, adding that it’s coming to Canada because “consumers have been screaming for it.” (They’re in need of some extreme relaxation, by the sounds of it.)

Drank isn’t the only so-called “anti-energy drink” out there; over the past year or so, a number of them have hit store shelves. Quebec-based Slow Cow—whose bovine logo is so relaxed, it appears to have fainted—is sold in convenience stores across Canada, and will move into the U.S. within the next few weeks, says owner Lino Fleury. (The logo isn’t a reference to Red Bull, he notes; it was selected because “not many animals are slower than a cow.”) Like Drank, Slow Cow contains valerian and other supplements, like hops, intended to soothe rattled nerves and promote mental acuity. But it shouldn’t put anyone to sleep: in fact, Fleury and others shun the term “anti-energy drink,” preferring “relaxation drink” instead.

Even though Drank and similar products are meant to sharpen the mind—Slow Cow is an excellent choice right before an exam, Fleury says—most insist they have little in common with energy drinks like Red Bull. Their claims, however, can sound similar: Rockstar, the “world’s most powerful energy drink,” boasts a “potent herbal blend” of supplements like milk thistle, and claims to be ideal for busy individuals “from athletes to rock stars.” (According to Health Canada, most energy drinks contain caffeine.) Relaxation drinks shouldn’t be confused with alcoholic beverages either, Bianchi notes: “People don’t have to chug a bottle of whisky to relax. Now, they can do it responsibly,” and without the side effects of alcohol, he says.

Some manufacturers, though, are less shy about comparing their drinks to other (illicit) substances—like Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda, an “all-natural soft drink” that promises to impart a sense of calm “within minutes” of consuming it. Mary Jane’s contains kava, says creator Matt Moody, a South Pacific root said to promote relaxation and calm. It tastes like “a cross between a cola and a sweet tea,” says the 28-year-old Moody, which covers up the taste of the kava—a flavour he compares to “dirt.” Moody doesn’t recommend the drink for anyone under 18, and suggests people limit themselves to two bottles a day. (Health Canada has warned consumers about kava’s possible association with liver damage, and so Mary Jane’s isn’t available here.)

For those who don’t have time to swig a whole can, anti-energy drinks even come in shot form. With the stated goal of “getting you chill ASAP,” iChill calls itself the “world’s first relaxation shot,” and urges users to “unwind from the grind.” The drink, which contains valerian, rosehips, and melatonin—but no sugar, carbs or calories—has “no side effects except chilling,” according to the website, “unless you call a desire to be mellow and forget the day’s stress a side effect.” (For busy people looking for the opposite effect, Red Bull comes in a shot, too.)

Whether these drinks really are calm in a can, one thing is certain: their popularity is only expected to grow. But can a drink provide a feeling of relaxation? Sure—but until now, that drink was called beer.