When you write about the drinks/alcohol industry on a regular basis, you come to accept sooner rather than later that your email inbox will perpetually be full of strange pitches and disingenuous products that promise incredible health benefits. The era of Goop, with its fusion of hippie-lite pseudoscience with legitimate biochemistry, has been a boon to small companies striving for the bigtime by selling health tonic elixirs that promise to ameliorate the existential crises and ennui of even trying to get through a year like 2020. As a result, for every pitch I get about a new bourbon or scotch whisky, I also tend to receive one about a fabulous new drink that “balances energy levels” or “promotes tranquility.” Most are of a kind, and you quickly learn to tune them out.
Every now and then, though, something pierces through the veil by being so determinedly stupid, so unabashedly cynical in its marketing, that you just have to sit up and take notice. May I present today’s new contender in this field? It’s Confidence Drink, which promises nothing less than instant confidence in a can for anxious and nervous folks who need assistance in living their lives from 21st century snake oil salesmen. It’s the creation of two “Gen Z entrepreneurs,” who clearly scanned the social media landscape and saw the anxiety of their generation as a potential goldmine—one that would buy Confidence Drink for $20 per six-pack. As the website puts it:
Confidence is the brainchild of two gen z entrepreneurs who recognized the importance of mental confidence and how vital it is to live a full life. Witnessing their friends’ tendencies to overthink things and not be present in the moment, they launched a mission to create a product that gives people the mental freedom they need to thrive. Consumers have beverages to help them wake up, drift off, and keep calm, but there was no drink formulated to simply help you feel confident.
Smacking of a “better living through chemistry” ethos, the website of Confidence Drink goes on to make a series of florid claims about the drink’s ability to solve your various problems—turns out, it’s effective for everything from “lowering fear” to “kicking fatigue” to “reducing anxiety.” It simultaneously “balances mood” and “boosts mood.” It helps “keep the nervous system humming.” Hell, you might die if you don’t drink this stuff. Who needs a psychiatrist to prescribe mood-leveling medication when you’ve got a product that sounds ready to pitch on Shark Tank?
“This beverage was specifically formulated with a stack of powerful adaptogens and nootropics that create the feeling of mental confidence.”
One word that doesn’t appear a single time in the press release or description of Confidence Drink? “Flavor.” Neither does “taste.” Looking at the can, there doesn’t seem to be any implication of what it might taste like. In fact, you have to search through the entire Confidence Drink website and read through the FAQ in order to finally come to the question “What does Confidence taste like?”—something those Gen Z entrepreneurs apparently didn’t think was at all important in terms of selling the drink. As it turns out, “Confidence is a unique blend of natural flavors. People who love Confidence describe it as a delicious mix of berry, hibiscus and tea flavors. It’s fruity, refreshing, and sweet—but not too sweet.”
As for what’s actually in a can of Confidence, it’s what you would expect—the same sorts of vitamins, adaptogens and nootropics (all the hot buzzwords are present) you’ll find in other drinks marketed to the wellness/fitness community. It’s got 5-HTP. It’s got rhodiola. It’s got GABA, and ginseng, and magnesium and B vitamins. Some of these do indeed have health effects that have been clinically observed and recommended by doctors. But drinks like Confidence don’t sell themselves by linking to medical journals and studies. Instead, they promise things like delivering “the burst of confidence they need to immediately thrive in any situation.”
It should go without saying that this is absurd. The very idea of “mental confidence” is so vague, ill defined and ephemeral—the topic of thousands of dissertations and lifetimes of psychological research—that the thought of cracking open a skinny can before a big board meeting to load up on “confidence” is so grossly oversimplified as to be laughable. It’s like a pitch from bad science fiction, or parody of our 1950s-era desire to chemically mold our brains into the right shape through a colorful assortment of pills and potions.
Which is all to say: I can’t wait to see the line extensions for this stuff. When does the anti-depression drink arrive? Does it come in grape flavor? Does it mix well with gin?
Bonus: The FAQ contains one more pearl that I absolutely have to share.
Now who’s lacking in confidence?