I will admit that I initially picked up a bottle of GT’s ALIVE because I thought it was a bizarre Thanksgiving-themed drink.
I was at Trader Joe’s, a store that famously gets really into holidays. Festive theming sneaks into every nook and cranny of the place; TJ’s currently even sells an advent calendar for dogs.
The color scheme of the GT’s bottle screamed Thanksgiving. The turkey tail mushroom on the bottle looked, well, like a turkey. I overlooked the brand on the label as I picked it up, worrying I was going to find some upbeat Trader Joe’s copy about how we might as well drink gravy-seasoning-flavored beverages this time of year, because hey, who doesn’t want that, gobble gobble, etc.
The actual product was far stranger, however. It was “ancient mushroom elixir,” and it was flavored like root beer. Mushroom juice that (allegedly) tastes like soda.
“That’s completely unhinged,” I thought. And I added it to my cart.
I was not heretofore aware of the alleged powers of mushrooms (though I did watch every episode of Motherland: Fort Salem, so I do both respect and fear Mycelium, aka The Mother). According to the bottle, they are thus:
- Reishi is known as the “mushroom of immortality” and is used to “enhance the immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep, and lessen fatigue.”
- Chaga is “used extensively as an anti-inflammatory” and has been used for “thousands of years to balance energy, improve digestion, and detoxify the body.”
- Turkey tail—the sneak that made me think this was a Thanksgiving treat—“contains nutrients that can balance gut bacteria and offer anti-carcinogenic properties.”
As with any health-focused drink, I read this label and thought, well, as long as none of the mushrooms in this bottle are doing the opposite of what they claim to be doing, it’s worth a shot.
But when I got home, I hid it in my refrigerator. I’d bought it as something of a joke, but I was only pranking myself. What was I going to do, actually drink it? Every time I opened the fridge, I imagined the taste of cooked mushrooms (which I like!) mingling with root beer and dirt.
Then, finally, on a weekday afternoon in which the sun was just right and I was just thirsty enough, I decided it was time.
I turned the cap and didn’t hear the fizzy sound of opening a soda or kombucha, which was concerning. To my extreme surprise, it did smell like root beer, and more importantly, did not smell like mushrooms. It poured the dark golden color of apple cider; it looked nothing like soda.
“Your macro-dose of mushroom magic,” the text on the bottle said.
“Come on, try it, you wimp,” the liquid from within seemed to whisper.
So, I took a swig. And, look, I didn’t expect to write these words, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I think I actually kind of liked it.
Despite the lack of sound when I opened the cap, this drink was fizzy—though not naturally like kombucha. GT’s adds the fizz, which it refers to as “sparkle.” I love root beer, and although this is not a straight-up root beer, it does have the right essence. It’s like a root-beer-inspired earthy drink, just botanically flavored enough that it satisfied the “Yay, root beer!” sensory cortex of my brain. To be clear, it doesn’t have bite, and I’m not about to throw some scoops of ice cream in it and call it a float. But the flavor was balanced enough that the drink never felt fungal.
I detected a little apple cider vinegar essence, though not nearly as discernible as in some more vinegar-forward “health” drinks. According to the bottle, GT’s ALIVE contains 30g of raw apple cider vinegar, along with 600mg each of chaga mushroom, turkey tail mushroom, and reishi mushroom. It also contains 75mg of caffeine, which is a little less than your average cup of coffee.
I finished the whole bottle and was left with the existential question we all might face in our lives at some point: “Ugh, am I a mushroom drinker now?”
I’m not rushing out to buy a case of this stuff, but I will admit that I’ll probably pick up a couple bottles the next time I pass by them at the store. Will I try other flavors? I’m not sure, but the “Cola” flavor does inspire the same morbid curiosity in me that root beer did.