Pop­pers: reviewed from best to worst

From the dancefloor to a dick date, poppers give you an extra lift that lasts all of 10 seconds. Which should you avoid? And which should you take back to the bedroom? We get to the bottom of it.

Recent­ly, as I wait­ed to pay for a bacon-egg-and-cheese and an over­priced juice at my cor­ner Bode­ga, a cou­ple approached the counter with excite­ment. The girl gig­gled uneasi­ly, leaned into the counter, and whis­pered: Do you have… pop­pers?”.

You mean nail pol­ish remover!” retort­ed the cashier, open­ing a cab­i­net to reveal dozen dif­fer­ent­ly pack­aged small brown bot­tles. Which one do you want?”.

Even as a gay man, I could not assist her in the fraught task of select­ing the best alkyl nitrite vin­tage. Choos­ing which brand to buy can be almost as hard as get­ting the cap screwed back on while danc­ing or hav­ing sex. The label tells us: use this prod­uct only for its intend­ed use”, yet the vari­ety of false intend­ed uses” adver­tised on pop­pers bot­tles is in turn far sur­passed by the sheer num­ber of brands to choose from. 

As a chem­i­cal class, alkyl nitrites (AKA pop­pers) are vasodila­tors. Inhale, and they smooth mus­cles sur­round­ing the body’s blood ves­sels, relax­ing minds and sphinc­ters. First used in the 19th cen­tu­ry to treat chest pain, they are now a com­mon accou­trement of a wild night at the club, or in the bed­room. A fair­ly innocu­ous drug”, pop­pers remain mired in a semi-legal grey zone, with new recipes devised to evade creep­ing reg­u­la­tion. There are even Euro­pean” – iso­propyl nitrite – and Amer­i­can” – isobutyl nitrite – ver­sions (though for once, arguably, the Amer­i­can prod­uct is better). 

To hear from a true expert, I spoke with Javier who works at a sex shop in Brook­lyn. All the types of pop­pers are basi­cal­ly the same bull­shit,” he tells me. Pop­u­lar labels – like Jun­gle Juice, Man Scent, and Ams­ter­dam – are even pro­duced in the same fac­to­ry. Like much in late cap­i­tal­ism, brand­ing is near­ly every­thing. Buy Man Scent” to unleash your pig­gy fan­tasies, or maybe stick with clas­sic Rush” to accen­tu­ate the peak of your dance-floor abandon. 

So how should I choose which pop­pers to buy? There are a thou­sand and one labels to get you feel­ing like the Hol­land tun­nel”. It’s like fuck­ing the same dude,” Javier tells me, peo­ple have dif­fer­ent opin­ions”. Here, I give you mine:

That Real Leather Shop Stuff

Rat­ing: 5

Sold in intrigu­ing unmarked bot­tles (pic­tured above) from a cer­tain New York sex shop, this batch offers vasodila­tor-seek­ers – the OG expe­ri­ence. Brewed with the orig­i­nal Amyl Nitrite for­mu­la (shh!), they offer a minute-long glimpse of what ear­ly dis­co dance­floors must have felt and smelt like. Think the heat of a fire­ball shot drop­ping down your chest, except it keeps going until you sink deep­er into your hips and knees, hap­pi­ly melt­ing into the dancefloor.

Double Scorpio

Rat­ing: 4

Pro­duced by a bespoke pop­pers man­u­fac­tur­er in Austin, Texas, Dou­ble Scor­pio are pop­pers for the mil­len­ni­al well­ness set. Pure isobutyl nitrite, the unique line of farm-to-dis­co pop­pers are actu­al­ly pleas­ant to huff, com­ing in cute coloured bot­tles with a range of scents like euca­lyp­tus, pep­per­mint, amber, and hon­ey. While trendy” (if you can call a pop­pers brand that), my friend warns that you can’t take them while out danc­ing – they’re too heavy and slow and just make me want to lie in bed and get fucked”. Dit­to. Enjoy them in ten­der moments, with ten­der lovers.

Man Scent

Rat­ing: 3

Despite its black label and macho tar­get-mar­ket, Man Scent induces bliss­ful dizzi­ness rather than a pang of heat. Ela­tion wash­es over you slow­ly for the extend­ed romp. The so-so for­mu­la orig­i­nates from the same man­u­fac­tur­er as Jun­gle Juice, only this time chas­ing the dark­room crowd. 

Jungle Juice

Rat­ing: 3

For once, it’s good to heed the label and always test in an incon­spic­u­ous area first” so to avoid pop­pers whiplash. This label hits you fiery on the insides before aban­don­ing you on the sober beach, no heat, want­i­ng more. Despite the NEW!” plas­tered across its label, the graph­ic design would sug­gest oth­er­wise for this alto­geth­er mediocre high based on a deriv­a­tive for­mu­la. Best left on your hookup’s nightstand. 

Super Rush

Rat­ing: 2

The Bud­weis­er of pop­pers. Found at your cor­ner store and in a 19-year-old’s purse. As the name indi­cates, the cheap chem­i­cal hits you fast and heady like a bump of cocaine. Lit­tle dura­tion, and lit­tle relaxation. 


Loading...
00:00 / 00:00