Summer is here. Alternating between the hot and sticky outdoors and the overchilled air-conditioned indoors create lethargic afternoons where you try to wrestle your brain away from daydreaming about summer holidays. The long daylight hours make you reluctant to return home immediately after work or school, so you go out with colleagues and friends and imbibe in friendly drink. Sometimes you imbibe a tad too much and find yourself in another level of stupor the next day. Can’t focus on work nor study, but when you know you really really have to and coffee doesn’t seem to work? What do you do?
The correct answer would be “rest” or “take a nap” but since we’re not clueless idealists and live in the real world we go for the quick fix: a picker-upper energy drink. Korea has its own variety of drinks available, along with a selection of “hangover cure” beverages. Most can be found at local supermarkets and convenience stores, a few can be found only at the pharmacy.
Here are the most popular:
Launched in 1961, this is the quintessential Korean energy drink. It’s the drink you give as a token of appreciation to delivery people, to the security guard of your apartment complex, to your tired and dozing colleagues at work.
It started off as nutrition pills in poverty stricken ‘60s Korea but was changed soon after to liquid form for easy consumption. The drink has gone through some changes over the years with versions Bacchus F and Bacchus D but still is the number one selling taurine drink in Korea.
It’s really hard for me to describe the taste – the drink itself has become a common lexicon in Korean, so most would simply say, “It tastes like Bacchus.”
Vita 500 (비타 500)
Although Vita 500 is more a vitamin drink and isn’t technically in the same category as the others, it is commonly thought to be an alternative when you’re not in the mood for Bacchus. It is apple juice based with additional vitamin C and B2 and is also caffeine-free. It comes in various sizes including a kiddie version.
2011 marks their 10th anniversary so a special edition is currently on sale, with the bottles featuring the 9 members of popular K-pop girl group SNSD (소녀시대, Girls’ Generation). Brilliant marketing strategy on their part – I’m pretty sure many fans have opted for Vita 500 over other drinks this year. Their homepage has many goodies available for SNSD fans as well.
Dawn 808 (여명 808)
Dawn 808, despite its looks-like-fake-medicine and immensely dated packaging, is the Godfather of all hangover cure drinks. It claims to be the first ever official hangover cure drink to be patented. The 808 signifies the number of experiments the maker had to go through to find the right formula.
Based on the principles of traditional medicine, the drink is made from natural ingredients taken from the leaves and roots of alder and mountain ash trees. The drink has no added preservatives.
Of course, this drink won’t alleviate hangover symptoms if you went all the way to 4-cha (4차) and drank down the house – heck, no commercial drink would ever cure a hangover of that proportion – but if you’re feeling just a bit queasy in the morning and can’t seem to really eat anything, it’s efficient enough. You can also drink it before consuming alcohol to prevent severe hangovers. I personally prefer this method, especially if I know I might be drinking on an empty stomach.
Conditon Power (컨디션 파워)
Conditon Power is another hangover cure drink that has been around since the ‘90s but has been recently upgraded. For some time, the buzz word in the “well-being” Korea-sphere has been heotgae (헛개, Oriental Raisin Tree). The fruit, leaves, and branches of the tree are known to have properties that decompose alcohol with the fruit being most effective. Condition Power is mostly made from its fruit essence with other medicinal botanicals such as milk vetch root and lotus seeds.
Morning Care (모닝 케어)
Morning Care is for hangovers as well. (Apparently we Koreans drink a lot and need a lot of help in that department.) Made mainly with a combination of ingredients from milk thistles, soybeans, guarana, onions, and xylitol, the makers suggest you drink it before consuming alcohol for full effect.
Powerten is an energy drink full of vitamins, amino-acids, royal jelly, and other natural ingredients. Their ad campaign emphasizes the occasions when the drink is most needed: studying, driving, while doing sports, and when you’re tired.
Not necessarily pertaining to the drink only, I find the tips about the above situations on their homepage extremely amusing. For example, to be able to concentrate on studying you should “always eat breakfast and always have confidence in yourself”; when you’re driving more than 2 hours straight, “do stretching exercises beforehand”; if fatigued “try to go to bed before 11:00 pm”. The site also states that in order to be a good golfer you need good manners, ability to concentrate, and power. At least they’re not claiming that all your problems would be solved by drinking their product!
Hot 6ix (핫식스)
Fairly a newcomer on the energy drink market, Hot 6ix emphasizes the “natural caffeine” of guarana, their main ingredient, on the forefront of their marketing campaigns. The fizzy drink also contains taurin, vitamins, amino-acids, red ginseng, and gasiogapi (가시오가피) which is loosely called Siberian ginseng in the west. The drink is quickly gaining popularity among the younger generation.
Heotgae Tree Project Coopers (헛개나무 프로젝트 쿠퍼스)
The famous heotgae makes another appearance in this drink with the super long name. It’s actually a dairy product; a drinkable yoghurt infused with additional medicinal herbs and plants. Even though it’s not an official hangover cure, the drink is known to relieve hangover symptoms thanks to the heotgae so that’s why it’s on this list. For those who don’t like the consistency of the other drinks or who would like to feel as if they’re drinking something “breakfasty” on those hangover ridden mornings, this is a good option. The drink has a slight brown tinge and has a pleasantly bitter taste that combines well into the yoghurt.
The name itself might be appropriate for a camera. Powershot is an energy drink with vitamins, guarana, taurin, and sansuyu (산수유, cornus fruit). The drink was released last year in an already competitive market and is trying to cover some ground.
I read a review from a student who drank this to successfully pull an all-nighter for an exam. As it says on the bottle, apparently this drink offers you “extreme energy”. Containing guarana, “Peruvian ginseng” maca, ginger, and apples, the drink tastes a bit like diluted cough syrup. Also launched last year, still have to see if this drink can make a dent in the market.
- All photos are from the official sites shown beneath each product.
- Most of the drinks above are inappropriate for young children and pregnant women, please check before consumption.