Which Alcopops Are Ok To Drink Now We're Grown Ups?
The Debrief: In recent years they have fallen from grace - but can you still buy them, and are they actually gross?
There are certain defining moments you experience when growing up, that lodge themselves in your head and sow the seeds of what you will become. Some are the stuff of myth, John Hughes movies leaping off the screen and into your life – prom night, first kisses, unexpectedly good exam results. And some are not – like your first proper experience of booze.
Mine was a single Watermelon Bacardi Breezer, after a solemn conversation with my mum about the dangers of excess. I’d be willing to bet that your first proper drink was something similar. You probably weren’t as horrifyingly lame as me, but it probably was an alcopop.
They were the official drink of the mid 2000s. I remember an advert for Bacardi Breezers that showed a cat escaping from his elderly owner to sneak into a nightclub, and wishing so hard that I too could slip into that world of adventure and late nights.
As my friends and I grew up, their older brothers would buy 4 packs for us, and we’d drink them and dance to The Killers and occasionally spill them onto cream carpets. But those bottles that shone so bright at camp-outs and secret house parties – where are they now?
I decided to track down what was left on the alcopop shelves and find out whether we stopped drinking them because they are, as most of us claim, disgusting, or whether we have just become terrible snobs, sipping more sophisticated drinks in an effort to convince ourselves we are grown up. I was Homer, and this was my Odyssey.
The holy grail of premixed drinks, and to my knowledge the only one that can still be found on the dustiest shelf in Wetherspoons. A moment’s silence, please, for Reef, Bacardi Breezer and Archers Aqua which eluded me on this quest.
It would be biased to discuss WKD without passing comment on its colour – fluorescent, glowing, maybe even pulsating, in a certain light – but for all its blinding tones, I just cannot hate it.
I blame nostalgia, the sweet, slush-puppy flavour stinging and delighting in equal measure as I’m dragged back to being 15, lying on a trampoline at half past midnight, giddy with the excitement of my best friend’s parents being away for the weekend and the prospect of bouncing until we threw up in the flowerbeds.
Smirnoff Ice was always the bridesmaid to the slightly edgier Blue WKD, a role which it has maintained by ageing in the worst possible way. The unfamiliar label looked like it was knocked up using Wordart, was apparently printed on used tinfoil and hung off the bottle in a less than alluring way.
It’s no wonder the kids are turning towards fruit ciders these days, with their minimalist design and sexy, exotic names (anyone who can pronounce the following gets a custard cream: Old Mout, Kopparberg, Rekorderlig).
Still, if you were handed Smirnoff Ice and told it was an Organic Cloudy Lemon Vodka Spritzer, you wouldn’t know any better. Don’t lie to me pal, you wouldn’t.
Caribbean Twist Mixed Up Mango
I can only assume this was invented by someone who has never been to or even heard of the Caribbean, and is totally unaware that it produces some of the best drinks in the world.
Memory had not prepared me for this abomination. My veins surged with sugar, and for a moment I felt all powerful, before realising I had been sick in my mouth and I might have developed type 2 diabetes.
At least it lived up to its name - twisted and mixed up, but not in the ways it wanted to be.
WKD Iron Brew
I feel like I’m about to bring shame on my home nation when I proclaim that, honestly, I’ve had worse. It’s not the real deal, and I’m pretty sure it’s not ‘made from girders’ (one for the fans there), but it slipped down quite nicely, accompanied by the faint drone of bagpipes in my mind.
However, it’s still dogged by that fated packaging, the marketing that launched a thousand Bebo skins – and really, if vodka and Irn Bru is your choice of tipple, you could just buy the two ingredients and be done with it.
WKD Limited Edition: Las Vegas
Oh Lord this purple abomination is seriously grim. It reeks of a last ditch attempt by marketing executives in shiny suits desperately making spider diagrams and listing things underage drinkers would think were cool.
One of them must have hemorrhaged before they landed on Las Vegas – popular with middle-aged stag parties and people who disguise their gambling addictions as a fun holiday pastime, but not so much bored suburban teenagers.
This tasted like mud, or puke, or rotten flesh, or maybe a combination of the three that had been left to fester under the hot Nevada sun. No dice.
It’s unlikely I’d ever choose a WKD or Smirnoff Ice over a nice craft IPA, or a decent gin and tonic – and yet, I’d feel a twinge of sadness to see them disappear off the shelves entirely. Would it be exaggerating to say that things might have been different had I not drank alcopops in my teens? I don’t think so.
They were part of growing up, the oil that greased relationships we were only just figuring out how to have. And like the Now! That’s What I Call Music CDs I collected and archived under my bed at home, or the cheap jewellery I hoarded from Dorothy Perkins and still have tucked away in a drawer, there’s part of me that wants them to continue existing, hidden but always just in reach.
So if I ever crave the sticky refreshment of a blue raspberry drink, combined with the bittersweet, slightly faded memories of being 16, I’ll know exactly where to find it.
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