What is an Alcopop?


“Alcopop” is a term that is used by the general public in many countries but is not, in fact, used in the beverages industry. When people use the word, they usually mean single-serving pre-mixed drinks containing between 4%-12% alcohol by volume and juices, sodas such as Coca-cola, or other flavorings, colorants and additives.

Controversy with alcopop

Alcopops are usually very sweet and are produced in a way that a person can’t taste the alcohol; the alcohol becomes disguised and at times they can really taste like non-alcoholic beverages. Due to their bright colours, many critics of the alcohol industry in various countries feel that these beverages are being directly marketed to underage drinkers. In many cases, up until recently, “alcopops” were relatively inexpensive as well because they did not fall into the traditional categories of alcoholic beverage taxation laws. Because of problems in the 1990’s and 2000’s with underage drinkers consuming vast amounts of cheap alcopops, many national governments decided to dramatically increase taxes, making the cost of an alcopop somewhat more out of the reach of an underage consumer.

Types of alcopop

Despite the controversy over alcopops being marketed towards young adolescents, they have grown more acceptance among the older crowd and many actually prefer the pre-fab mixed drinks to beer, wine, or cocktails. There are several varieties of beverages that fall into the category of “alcopops”:

1. Wine coolers Introduced to the market in the 1980’s, wine coolers are a blend of white or red wine and fruit juices or carbonated soft drinks with other flavours. Some of the top brands of wine coolers were Bartles and James, Bacardi Breezer, and Canada Cooler.

2. Malt-liquor based beverages: In the 1990’s due to taxation laws in places like the United States which caused the price of wine coolers to go up, manufacturers found a way around this by producing sweet alcoholic mixed drinks with a malt beverage base. Technically, because of their malt base they were sold as beer products and enjoyed lower taxation rates. The malt base of these drinks was not hopped and were processed in a way to be almost flavourless, meaning the drink would taste the same as commercial soft drinks. Popular malt-based alcopops are Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Zima, and Smirnoff Ice. Producers of these beverages advertised heavily to young people and portrayed situations that young people would find themselves in.

3. Sprit based alcopops: These drinks are not disguised beer or wine; they are basically the same thing that a person could get at a bar, only served in a 330 ml can or bottle. While industry watchdogs claim that these spirit and soft-drink concoctions will appeal to younger drinkers, others quite rightly claim that the drinks contain far less alcohol than the drinks that would be prepared at home with a bottle of spirits and mixers.

Most spirit brands have their own range of ready-to-drink alcopops; some include Southern Comfort and Lemonade, Midori Melon & Lemonade, and Coruba & Cola. Other specific brands of spirit-based alcopops are Jack Daniel’s Hard Cola, Skyy Blue, and Six Degrees, which is based on absinthe.

Who drinks alcopop?

Because most of the alcopops that are available in the United States are flavored beer and are advertised to young women, alcopop is also called “cheerleader beer” or “chick beer”. The overwhelming majority of consumers are females who are under 21 years of age, which happens to be the legal drinking age in the country. People who are over 21 tend to view alcopops as “kids drinks” and there is a very strong stigma attached to drinking them. Women who are over the age of 21 usually do not like alcopops and claim they are far too sweet. Studies have shown that even the most dedicated of alcopop fans in the United States can only drink about 3 servings of alcopop in an evening; the amounts of sugar in the drinks can easily make a person feel nauseated. For this reason, some say that the media fuss over alcopops contributing to underage drinking is overblown.

However, in countries like Australia, alcopops are growing in popularity with the older crowd who want something different from a beer or a glass of wine. Alcopops are generally served with a glass full of ice and are considered to be refreshing. Making things interesting is the fact that men are also drinking alcopops. Again, due to the sugar content, people rarely have more than two.

In the United Kingdom, alcopops do seem to have contributed significantly to underage drinking and people who are of the legal age to drink do tend to shun them. Recent changes to taxation laws were enabled in order to combat underage alcohol consumption; while alcopops used to be very inexpensive, they are now out of the financial reach of most teenagers.
A northern alternative: the long drink

Europe has seen the same problem but higher taxes seem to have worked for now to prevent younger people from being able to purchase cheap alcohol. It must be noted that in countries such as Estonia and Finland, alcopops are not as popular as the traditional “long drinks” which are carbonated gin-based beverages with fruit flavoring that are also served in single-serve cans or bottles. Many bars and restaurants also have “long drink” on tap. Long drinks are popular with both genders and all ages; interestingly enough, underage drinkers will not drink alcopops at all but will acquire hard liquor, which can cause just as many or even more health and societal problems.

The verdict

If you like sweet drinks, then alcopops may be right for you. When taken in moderation, they can be quite delightful, but if too many are consumed, the sugar may cause nausea. Due to too many youngsters abusing the inexpensive alcoholic beverage, they are now no longer cost-effective, and for a sweet drink, you’re probably better off getting a properly prepared cocktail.

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