Alcopops, What In The World Are They?

The term Alcopop is a little misleading. It’s kind of like someone asking you what you drive and saying you drive a car. It’s a very broad term that covers a lot of different things. Alcopops are no different. There are some that are made with wine, there are some that are made with liquor, then there are some that are made from fermentation like a beer. The one thing that these drinks do have in common, is that they usually don’t taste like alcohol.

Alcopops, A Little Info For You

Bartles & Jaymes, the original wine cooler

There are a number of drinks produced and marketed around the world described as coolers or alcopops. They are usually sweet, come in small bottles, and range between 4% and 7% ABV. There are stronger ones that are simply pre-mixed spirits that have 12.5% ABV. Here are some characteristics of alcopops:

  • Malt beverages with fruit juices or other flavorings
  • Wine with added ingredients such as fruit juice or other flavors
  • Distilled alcohol and sweet liquids such as fruit juices or other flavourings

If none of this is ringing a bell then perhaps a little trip down memory lane will help jog your memory. In the 1980’s a new type of drink was being marketed by a company called wine coolers. All that’s left now are t-shirts like this one on Amazon. This started a trend that would continue until today. Shortly afterwards, Bacardi came out with a drink called a Breezer.

If those aren’t ringing any bells then maybe these will start to register. In the early 90’s a couple of new brands of alcopops came onto the market. Hooper’s Hooch and Zima became big hits in the market. Then when those brands started to fade they would be replaced by others. In the late 90’s we would see brands like MIke’s Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice begin to move into the market and would grab a seemingly permanent foothold in the market.

One of the biggest drawbacks to some of these brands was an outcry from the public in the mid 90’s that these drinks were flavored and marketed with teens and children in mind. The ads were often targeted and younger, hip audience. The flavors were easily identified as marketed towards a younger crowd as well. The evidence was hard to discredit. In many countries there were tax hikes or new regulations put into place to try and prevent underage drinking. Some retailers took matters into their own hands and banned the sale. It seemed like the market was going to reject these alcopops. Ultimately, enough regulations were put in place that it was still able to be sold on the market.

Popular Brands of Alcopop

One of the ways that brands were able to create staying power was by constantly staying up to date with trends and always introducing new flavors. Here are some of the companies that excelled at this.

Smirnoff – Touting one of the largest selections Smirnoff has certainly diversified to keep up with common trends. They offer their original version of the drink as well as flavors like Watermelon Mimosa, Grape, Pineapple, Mango, Hurricane Punch, Peach Bellini, Strawberry, Raspberry, and I could go one but I won’t. They offer it in a lot of flavors.

They have also offered several new additions, like their Smash! Brand which combines different flavor combinations and has a higher alcohol content. They, like many others have joined in the latest seltzer craze as well. Diversity has been their M.O. from day one, and it has worked.

Mike’s Hard Lemonade – Don’t let the name fool you, they are anything but a lemonade company now. In the same way Smirnoff did, Mike’s Hard Lemonade kept the brand alive by adding new flavors. They would keep the “Mike’s Hard” portion and then add the new flavor. Like Mike’s Hard Cranberry Lemonade, Mike’s Hard Margarita, Mike’s Hard Watermelon, and so on and so forth. They have also added “lite” flavors that have fewer calories and carbs. Keep yours cool with this Mike’s Hard Coozy from Amazon.

Jack Daniels – Although, Jack Daniels has been in and out they have remained relatively active in the alcopop market. They currently have Country Cocktails like BlackJack Cola, Southern Peach, and Watermelon Punch. They have had other previously smaller sized alcopops but the latest line has been around for awhile now.

Whiteclaw – A relative newcomer to the category, but it didn’t take long to establish its dominance in only a short time. It combines alcohol and flavored seltzer water to give you a smooth tasting drink without the excess calories and carbs that typically come along with the really sweet tasting alcopops. In a similar fashion to its competition it has different varieties of flavors to diversify its appeal to a mass crowd. It’s so popular that many have followed in its footsteps like Smirnoff, Henry’s (which has a popular line of hard sodas), and even Natural Light, which is known for beer, not alcopops.

Tales Of The Strange Alcopops

There have been some, how should we say this, freaking weird drinks out there. There are some things that just shouldn’t be mixed and these are some of the worst offenders.

Four Loko – Seemingly a good idea, this was basically an energy drink mixed with alcohol. The taste was good, but the results were not. Impairing your judgement and then getting hyped up is not a good idea. This was even labeled “black out in a can”. It was banned, and for good reasons.

Budweiser B to the E – Yes. That is seriously the name. It was a caffeinated beer. That’s not a joke either. This one didn’t last very long. Obviously.

Sparks Plus – Not far from Four Loko, Sparks added caffeine to the mix as well and things just did not go well for these kind of drinks. Deemed a public health hazard it was removed in 2009.

I think with every kind of market, it takes a while to figure out what works. It also takes a lot to recognize that it needs to change with the times. While not all of these Alcopops did that, some managed to find the niche and find some staying power. Remember, if you enjoy one of these tasty beverages, be sure to use a DD.

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