If you read my previous Seoul Survival Series post about Bacchus, the hangover cure- it might have left you thinking Korea sounds like another confusing time in all of our lives. Peer-pressured alcohol consumption, ramen, energy drinks. . . college! It’s true that Korea can feel like a lot like college. Only this time you have lots more money. Not to mention, a job that induces drinking binges on the weekend as a way to forget the 60 or so speaking tests you gave last week.
Those of you who traveled out of state for college can relate to the overwhelming joy one has when you see that ‘thing’. The ‘thing’ that reminds you of home. Whether it’s a particular brand of cookies that you couldn’t seem to find anywhere or your favorite soda that you thought was discontinued. Let me tell you, that feeling comes over me every time I’m at e-mart (think Target) and they have a new offering in the “foreign” section. My most recent discovery was when they got Swiss Miss hot cocoa with marshmallows for like a week, I was in heaven.
But, I digress. . .
One drunken night at the Family Mart down the street from the bar I frequent, I saw the ‘thing’. My boyfriend had to come over and pick my jaw up off the ground and put my eyes back into my head. Red Bull. Real, actual, authentic Red Bull!!!!!!!
The term ‘authentic’ is actually a key point to my dialogue in this post. Koreans rip off everything they love about western culture. Thing about Korea is, they have LOTS of the stuff we enjoy back home, just with their own flavor. But sadly, it’s just not as good. For example, they have Kik-kers which are a sad homage to Kit-Kats. The packaging might even fool you into thinking they are the real deal. You get really excited and then you bite into one and discover you have been duped. If you are lucky enough to find authentic Kit-Kats, then be prepared to pay an arm and a leg. Korea is cheap, but they want you to buy Korean stuff so they dramatically mark up all the imports. I almost paid 1,000 won (about $1) for a fun size Snickers bar the other day. The Korean equivalent was only 250 won ($0.25).
So, I was skeptical of this Red Bull at first. Worried that I was getting my hopes up only to be disappointed. Convinced that they had borrowed the brand and tried to copy the recipe; but this wasn’t ‘Red Ball’ on the label and it was 3,000 won a can (about $3) so if nothing else the price convinced me I should be excited. I bought it, sipped it right there in the store, and was flying all over the store with my Red Bull wings. When I came down, I bought them out of all the Red Bull in their fridge and every time we went back to the bar I bought them out again. You see sometimes stores get the good stuff from back home on a whim but then never stock it again. I was going to make sure I had my fill.
Well, one company took notice. Mega giant Korean corporation, Lotte, started making and marketing Hot 6 and placed it on shelves right next to Red Bull. It’s cheaper, and tastes similar but just isn’t quite the same. I wrote it off as another way Korea tries, but fails, to mimic something made popular by western culture.
Fast forward to a couple months later.
A Facebook post got my attention, “Both Demi moore and i are addicted to red bull.” To which I commented that I was pleased to have both ramen and Red Bull back in my life after Korea started selling the energy drink again. The original poster inquired as to whether or not Red Bull actually derived from a Korean drink ripped off by an Austrian who remarketed it into the Red Bull we know and love today. He also included a picture. The picture didn’t have Korean writing, instead it had Thai. This correlated with the story I remembered, it came from Thailand. Still curious, and with nothing better to do on a late Saturday morning, I searched the interwebz. Come to find out the Thai drink ‘Red Gaur’ actually originated from the Korean beverage Bacchus. Yes, the hangover cure I mentioned in my previous post. So it all came full circle!
How about that?! The Koreans were the victims of energy drink recipe thieves. If you want the real, original energy drink you have to go back further than Red Bull, or even Red Gaur and pick up some Bacchus. You can even get it at your local Korean pharmacy.