This week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) updated its 2023 consumer price inflation basket of goods, which reflects households purchases and the cost of living. The new additions included e-bikes and frozen berries. However, out of 16 items to be ditched, one of the most significant was alcopops.
The last time I had one of these was circa 1998, so it’s a surprise to me they still exist. Nobody, to my knowledge, has bought one in the past decade.
Yet they still occupy supermarket shelves in their ready-to-drink sections, even if some are in disguise as hard seltzers.
Perhaps it’s just the word that’s redundant, especially in some quarters. If you type ‘alcopop’ into the search menu on the Waitrose website, they will offer you alcohol-free beer, a mop or YAZOO Chocolate Milk.
ASDA knows though. They still have a market.
To me, an alcopop seems as retro as a SodaStream. They give me flashbacks to the age of boob-tubes, trip hop and smoking being allowed in clubs.
Once the dance floor had been christened by a splash of Bacardi Breezer or Smirnoff Ice, you’d walk as if your soles were made of Velcro. When the lights went up, cigarette butts and club flyers had been decoupaged, and you could take a cross-section and pass it off as an artwork by The Boyle Family.
Back then, I was usually clutching a coppery bottle of Moscow Mule. I never liked vodka, but that gingery drink seemed more sophisticated than Hooch, though it would still leave my teeth coated in a sugary film. Also, in my defence, though I was partial to the occasional alcopop, I never went near any of the blue ones. That is the colour of personal hygiene and cleaning products.
However, others did, as there was no such thing as a sophisticated palate. You would just be bludgeoned with sugar.
For something that tasted like a penny mix, those drinks were expensive on a student budget, so I would nurse one until the dregs were warmer than the DJs sweaty forehead.
Back then, there was also a valid concern these drinks’ cartoon-y packaging and colourful contents were aimed at underage drinkers. Indeed, while the French give their children a small glass of wine at dinner, we have alcopops in the park.
Despite the controversy, they took the late Nineties by storm. I was not immune to the hype. Before then, all I ever drank on a night out was Jack Daniels and Coke, or snakebite.
Cocktails hadn’t been invented. Well, they had, but if you asked for, say, a negroni, the bar person would have to fire up their dial-up internet to look up the recipe. Or find a book, then source vermouth and Campari from their mum and dad’s drinks cabinet. Their mind would be blown by the giant ice cube that’s required.
I revisited Hooch recently, by mistake. I was sent a bottle from a newly opened Edinburgh ‘90s nostalgia bar NQ64, where there are arcade games from the ‘past’ and old school drinks.
It certainly got my nostalgia synapses twitching, but it was just as horrible as I remember. Let’s hope they’ve permanently fallen out of the basket.