Last week at a New Year's Day brunch, we were lamenting how Sparks will never be the same, and someone brought up Drank. Then, it reappeared in my life yesterday when I read this week's NYT magazine article about the new drink, an herby, B.S.-y blend of Valerian root, rose hips, and melatonin that's supposed to "slow your roll" as the slogan goes.
“Purple drank” is itself a slang term — along with “lean,” “sizzurp” or just “purple stuff,” among others — for a mixture of cough syrup (particularly in a prescription-strength version that contains codeine) and soda, which is closely associated with the rap scene in Houston. The effects of this home-brew concoction are narcotic, and it has been associated with several deaths. None of which is a secret: a number of hit rap songs by Houstonians and other Southern artists have referenced the stuff — or the various hip-hop stars who have died of overdoses, dating back to the 2000 death of the producer DJ Screw. Lil Wayne’s lyrics have made multiple references to sipping syrup.
This has attached some controversy to Drank, as well as to a rival drink called Purple Stuff, made by a different Houston company. “One of the most asinine things I have ever seen,” a public-health professor commented in one Houston Chronicle article that also included complaints from local religious figures and rappers. Not surprising, right? “I’m a little shocked” at the criticism, Peter Bianchi, the inventor of Drank, told me. “We’re not advocating drug use at all,” he continued, but merely offering an innocuous beverage to anyone who feels a little stressed out — carbonated counterprogramming, as it were, to the firmly established “energy drink” category.
I've written to Drank to see if there are plans to distribute anywhere in the Portland area—currently it's mainly available in the South, plus there's a distributor in Las Vegas—and I'll let you know what I hear back. The article makes it sound like the company could have just as easily pandered to the kombucha crowd, but the owner's experience as a researcher of the beverage market for private investment banks led him to go more of a Vitamin Water route. I kind of want to try the "anti-energy drink," even though Consumerist declared it "not worth it." (Like, duh.) I still want to see for myself what this grape soda-flavored garbage is all about. Has anyone on Blogtown had the pleasure?
I was going to embed the Keri Hilson feat. Li'l Wayne video which ends with Hilson sippin on Drank, but annoyingly the embed has been disabled, so go watch it here. I really like how the very last shot of her, right after her shameless shilling through a straw, is her throwing up her hands and shrugging sheepishly. Also, just to clarify, Drank does not contain any booze.