TRY ASKING for an Archer’s Aqua at a college bar. At worst, you’ll be jeered right out of the
quad; at best, pointed derisively to the Carlsberg tap. Beer is in, ladies and gentleman,
and alcopops are out. Ladette culture has finally reached us in the seclusion of the Oxford
college, and a girl just can’t hold her head up like a man until she’s swigging Guinness
from a plastic cup.It all began so promisingly. The introduction of the RTd (Ready To drink, in marketing
terms) to Britain began with Hooch in 1995, and caused a consumption revolution.
Alcoholic lemonade – such a simple idea – appealed to young and old with its quaint
American style, bright colours and sweet taste. Since then, the alcopop has undergone a
transformation.The updated version, Smirnoff Ice, and teenybopper substitute, Bacardi
Breezer, hit the bars and became a late-nineties landmark. But now all that sweetness and
light has darkened and gone sour. Over 150 labels have muscled in on the market and the
novice drinker doesn’t know which way to turn. Spirits are desperately trying to claw back up
the market with such revolting inventions as the ‘Vodka Mudshake’ (isn’t it a long-
established fact that chocolate and vodka don’t mix?).Smirnoff Ice is sullied by the creation
of the Turboshandy
– a half-and-half mix with lager. Who killed the alcopop? It’s fair to say that teenage girls
and their harmless Saturday night excesses have done nothing but put money in the
pockets of the delighted vodka guys and, admittedly, litter suburban streets with their vomit.With bars and clubs responding to government pressure concerning underage entrance,
the poor teens and pre-teens haven’t got a chance.But the downward spiral began, of course, with some desperate journalist and the
controversy he mixed up.An American website, alcoholfreechildren. org, screams “Alcohol
is the #1 drug of choice among our Nation’s youth!” The FCUK attempt to branch out into
alcopops came to a sweet and sticky end when the Portman group deemed them to be
targeting underage drinkers. Hysterical mothers have conspired with the media to bring
about the slow but sure demise of this well-loved rite of passage.Let’s take a moment to
give them their due: alcopops have been more than just a way to get pissed. What you
order at the bar sends an important message – particularly for women: while a Jd on the
rocks shows admirable independence of spirit, a girl with a Reef is dependably fun and
approachable.But a middle way dawns with the revival of the cocktail. After a distressing
brush with the law, happy hour is still going strong, God be praised, and man and woman
alike are enjoying cheap cocktails by the bucket. Incidentally, according to Cocktail:UK, Hard
Sex on the Babysitter’s Bathroom Floor is in Britain’s top ten this year. I think we’re justified
in questioning their sources. At least we’ve found something to drink at the funeral of the
alcopop. A more sophisticated option by far than the Breezer, and yet kind to the delicate
tastebud, cocktails are the way of the future.ARCHIVE: 3rd week MT 2005