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Reviewed: Skratch Labs Limited-Edition Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs is onto something different –a drink mix optimized for hot water. Seasonal flavors are something we’ve seen from Clif Bar and Mountain Dew and elsewhere, but it’s new to the electrolyte drink scene, as is the idea of making something for hot water. This is a limited edition flavor; so next winter there should be something new. And to highlight the unique offering, it also comes with a glass jar, which you can reuse and reuse and reuse.

Skratch Labs appeared in late 2011 under the name Secret Drink Mix, or SDM. This was playing on the fact that creator Allen Lim had been making his own mix for riders he coached, riders who were supposed to be using other brands. After a few months, the name was changed to Skratch. We had SDM samples from the launch and reviewed Skratch Labs Exercise and Everyday mixes last summer. In short, we like the ideas that Skratch executes and we like their mixes. The idea of a lighter mix that isn’t too sweet and goes heavy on electrolytes works for us, though we notice the difference most on hot days.

We’re not huge fans of warm beverages in general. Maybe we’re not cold enough most of the time. But we started using the mix as a cold wave enveloped our riding area. We drank the mix warm pre-ride, we poured it into insulated bottles to drink during the ride, and we drank it post, ride, too.

The recommendation is to drink it warm. We tried mixing it with boiling water, but at the highest end of the temp scale, the flavor is lost in the scalding sensation. We found it best mixed with hot water from the tap, a temp at which the mix, if you’re not obsessing over it too much, seems like mulled cider lite. There is only the barest hit of “sports drink” tones. Cold, it comes across as herbal tea that was left sitting so long. The cinnamon works best with warm water, and any hint of that flavor pretty much disappears when the drink is cold.

The desire to drink on sub-freezing days seems to largely disappear for us. However, the test gave us an excuse to drink more. The mix stayed warm in CamelBak Podium Chill bottles for about 45 minutes in 20-something conditions. After an hour, it was cold. We still finished it; it’s much better than plain water.

But coming inside post ride, refilling a bottle with hot water, and adding mix, things were made right with the world. The temperature of the water coming out of our tap is just about right for drinking within a minute of pouring. And starting to refuel after a long ride where we didn’t drink enough, and we probably never drink enough on our four-hour winter treks, can never happen too soon. Besides, waiting for water to boil takes too long and leaves the resulting drink too hot, and a cold drink is unappetizing minutes after arriving home when chilled to the bone.

The glass jar is a nice touch. We tried Skratch’s Flip-Lock tin last year and it didn’t work for us. It seems that the sealing gasket wasn’t enough to keep our local humidity at bay, something that many in humid locations experienced, and the reason Skratch switched to glass jars. The jar has a thicker gasket and seals much better. The only concern is the size. It fits 1lb of mix exactly. When the package arrives, with the mix inside, the powder is to the brim, and removing the measuring scoop is a bit tricky. Putting it back in after the first few helpings was even harder. We found no easily repeatable solution. You can kind of dig room for it the first few times or leave it on top of the jar. The nice thing is that when we finish the Apples and Cinnamon, we can dump in the one-pound bags of mix we already have from Skratch. Still, if we were starting from zero, the bigger jar that they sell separately is definitely an easier fit.

We also spotted something surprising on the label. The quantities were keyed to an eight-ounce (approximately 250ml) serving size. This seemed very un-Skratch, as Lim is usually big on simple solutions, like a single scoop equally a serving and that scoop filling a standard 500ml bottle and keying the quantities on the label to meet the scoop and bottle. Turns out, Skratch revised the serving size to meet FDA regulations, as eight ounces is considered a standard serving size.

An exercise drink mix configured for hot water. Never would have thought of that. We’re glad Skratch Labs did, and we’ll be drinking this inside on cold days, regardless of whether or not we’re riding.