How The Vodka Red Bull Became The Party Pick-Me-Up Of The '00s

If you were a college student in the 2000s, chances are you have had a vodka Red Bull somewhere along the line, or at least seen one served in a bar. But where did this cocktail that simultaneously gave you both a burst of energy and a tipsy feeling come from? It at first had difficulty breaking through in the market — not everyone enjoyed the slightly medicinal taste paired with their booze. But Red Bull turned that around when they decided to enter the west coast's club scene. 

According to Punch, the vodka Red Bull made its U.S. debut around 1999 in San Francisco at a bar called Butter, where one could buy an eight-ounce can of Red Bull mixed in a Mason jar with two ounces of Svedka vodka for $8. Perhaps Butter pushed the cocktail a bit harder than other drinks, considering it had a $50,000 deal with Red Bull to promote the beverage. It quickly became its signature drink, becoming a fan-favorite of regulars and newcomers alike. "If not for Butter's place and role in the community, it's unlikely the R.V. [Red Bull vodka] would have blown up the way it did," party promoter Vlad Cood told the publication. "That's why Red Bull bought their way in. To get in bed with the scene."

On top of that, Red Bull hired on-campus college student brand ambassadors. While the packaging read "not recommended ... to be mixed with alcohol," the students could do whatever they wanted with the energy drink, including making vodka Red Bull cocktails. And so the drink exploded in popularity in the '00s, both on college campuses and in bars nationwide.

The undoing of the once favored vodka Red Bull

But the popularity of vodka Red Bull didn't come without its downfalls. "Consumers should be aware that there are safety issues here with mixing energy drinks and alcohol. It may lead you to make poor decisions because you aren't really aware how intoxicated you are," Cecile Marczinski, a faculty member at Northern Kentucky University, told ABC News. "Sedation or tiredness is a cue to stop drinking at the end of an evening. But mixing alcohol with an energy drink may lead you to drink more than you normally would." But despite the potential adverse effects of overdrinking vodka and Red Bull, consumption has remained permissible, unlike other alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko, which was banned on several college campuses.

Still, vodka Red Bull remained the choice of many party-goers and bar crawlers throughout the '00s. But the cocktail began to lose its luster by the decade's close. It got a reputation for being a drink that could get you inebriated super quickly, and that often led to a downhill of a night. "People became much more judicious about serving it. The possibility of things going badly became much more apparent," Peter Cipriani, a Boston bartender, told Mel Magazine.

Despite its fall from grace, vodka Red Bulls are still featured on some bars' menus today. And, according to, the recipe hasn't changed one bit: two ounces of vodka, one can of Red Bull.