Native Sommelier Goes Viral on TikTok Reviewing Power Drinks

What made you decide to become a sommelier?
I just always liked wine. It was one of the first things I came across while working in restaurants. I started working in wine soon after leaving Cornell and worked as a sommelier in Boston until 2006. I’ve been doing it ever since.

So why start this TikTok series? What was the inspiration?
My wife is fit and bought various energy drinks. We were sitting on the couch one day and I think this is how my mind works – I started sommeliering her because there was no better term. I started smelling them and talking about how they tasted because a lot of those flavors are so strange.

I drink energy drinks like everyone else – I wasn’t passionate about them or anything – but my wife thought it was fun listening to me describe them and said, “You should start a TikTok channel.” I wasn’t even sure what TikTok was, three months ago. But it was entirely my wife’s idea.

It’s supposed to be slightly satirical and make fun of wine a little bit. Little did I know that anyone would ever really watch. I might be thinking, “Oh, we’re going to get a few hundred views.” Now I have a video that – and I’m not bragging, I’m just absolutely thrilled – has 1.9 million views.

Can you tell us a bit about your process of making these videos? I noticed that you usually take requests from your followers.
Someone gave me the advice that the point is to sync your process with the algorithm that TikTok wants. And one thing it wants is user engagement. At first I didn’t have any inquiries because nobody was really watching. And then at some point I had a request about every video. Now I have a table of around 290 queries to keep track of. It’s also fun because people feel really passionate about these drinks, which in turn was something I had no idea about.

The process is pretty straightforward. I try the drink and treat it like wine as much as I can. I’m just trying to describe the drink as best I can. [For a high-quality energy drink,] It’s like wine – I’m looking for complexity in taste and a balance of flavors.

Why do you think Big Somm Energy is so popular with TikTok users?
I think the availability of energy drinks is part of that. You are at all Royal Farms, gas stations and supermarkets. They are ubiquitous in life these days. And for people who have some understanding of what a sommelier is, it usually has to do with being chic or the person looking at you for not ordering the right bottle of wine. And that’s not true – it’s a stereotype that many of us have been trying to overcome for years. But it’s out there. Unlike something you can buy at a gas station, it’s an ironic element in my opinion.

What was the most eye-opening or surprising part of this whole experience for you?
The answer and the growth of the account. And just the excitement people have, not just for the drinks but for the reviews too. People are really excited about it and drink a lot of these brands. This is huge business and very varied. Before, I could probably only name Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar. There are probably 40 or 50 brands that you can find in stores. Lots of celebrities have brands. The Rock has one – I get this request very often [laughs].

What’s your favorite energy drink that you have tried so far?
The one I rated the highest was called Mango Loco by Monster. I gave that 96 points. That sounds so nerdy, but I really try to judge them objectively based on overall quality rather than my personal preferences. My favorites are probably the Celsius drinks on a personal level.

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