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By the end of high school, everyone knew who Dan Mayer was. He and his friends kept a website that was a must-read for students, a running yearbook/newspaper/inside-joke page where they championed everything from gorgeous women to the excellence of waffles. Mayer got his first web-design job at fifteen, when the father of a girl perusing Mayer's site at home leaned over her shoulder and marveled that a fifteen-year-old kid could have created such a thing. He hired Mayer to design his firm's website.
Mayer's obsession with computers -- coupled with a love of skiing cultivated through numerous childhood vacations to Steamboat Springs -- brought him to the University of Colorado in 2000 to major in computer science. And in Boulder, he again started chasing that energy dragon.
"In college, if you want to study enough to do well, complete all your projects and maintain a good social life, you have to live with a lack of sleep," he points out. "Energy drinks would wake me up and let me focus when I really needed to study or get some work done. Also, if I was tired from projects but it was a night I should really go out and party with some friends or try to meet some girls, an energy drink would pick me up and get me in the mood for going out instead of in the mood for laying around watching a movie and going to bed."
So he overcame his aversion to caffeine.
Mayer doesn't recall the exact moment he tasted his first energy drink, but he does remember that it was love at first tweak. The elixir was Red Bull. After one sip, like so many college students before him, Mayer began using the pioneering energy drink regularly: as a quick pick-me-up in the morning, an extra boost during long nights in the library, a sweetish taste-masker to mix with vodka. But unlike many of his peers, Mayer was absolutely fascinated by the energy-drink concept itself.
"I became intrigued by the whole notion of energy drinks," he remembers. "The different effects they could have on you, how you could use them. So pretty much anytime I saw a new one in a convenience store or something, I would buy it."
Mayer began compiling an inventory of the drinks in his head -- which drinks were good for focusing, which ones good for partying, which were low in sugar, etc. Word of his cerebral catalogue spread, and Mayer quickly became CU's unofficial energy-drink consultant. He handed out cases of Piranha energy drinks -- the convenient by-product of having a roommate who was a skier sponsored by EAS, the nutritional supplement company then based in Golden, which produced the beverage -- to anyone who wanted some. Other students would call Mayer and ask for recommendations on what to drink for certain situations.
Eventually, Mayer was getting hit up for energy-drink information so often that it got annoying, and in 2003 the college junior put his findings online under a domain name he still owned from his high-school web design experiments. The no-frills site offered a convenient drink-by-drink compilation of every product he'd ever tested, and pronounced that it was "all about the best drinks based on taste, energy and mixability." A few pictures showed Mayer and a buddy essentially wigging out on energy drinks, and more recent reviews were highlighted, but basically the site was a simple, opinionated encyclopedia of energy drinks. It was Mayer's tone and personality that made it something special.
His assessment of Red Bull, for example, started out with the standards -- the price of the drink, its active ingredients and a score on a one-to-ten scale -- followed by this review: The drink that started it all, Redbull. It might not have been the first energy drink but it was the first to really bring it to the masses. Redbull always had a great taste and had a kick that many others just can't compare to. Perhaps i am biased since i have liked it for so long but i think it also pumps me up more than most other energy drinks do. Redbull also can mix about 50% vodka before the taste really starts to go down hill. This is what makes it so good. Start a redbull and vodka with about 30% vodka and then after you have drank about half of it add more vodka so it is about 50% or more and it will still taste really good. Redbull and vodka is my drink of choice if i am trying to stay up and party all night, dance, or just to get pumped up for the evening. I wouldn't have a redbull as your last drink because then you can't taste it and won't feel its effects as much but it does make a great first round. So to the original king of kings i hail thee RedBull.
Red Bull scored a nine.
"I was really starting to get known around campus because of the website," Mayer says. "But when I first did the site, it was not that big in terms of hits; www.milkandcookies is what made me."