Clear as Mudshake

In opinion on April 9, 2006 by karan

Recently, there was a fuss in the media about the new ranges of "soft" alcoholic drinks, premixed drinks which take the edge off the spirits in them. It was argued that these drinks encouraged young drinkers – specifically teen drinkers – to start drinking sooner, as they appeared to be targeted at that section of the market, and that would be illegal. The killer element was that these drinks were indistinguishable from non-alcoholic drinks for those teenagers, with the cited example being the "Vodka Mudshake" tasting like a milkshake to teenagers.

Based on my informal tasting of it last night, I would say that it's highly likely that your average "adult" couldn't pick them apart either on a blind taste test. The Cappucino flavour is nearly indistinguishable from a real coffee cappucino, and I wouldn't be surprised if the chocolate flavour was very similar to a chocolate milkshake (only crunchy). Furthermore, the percentage of alcohol is only 4%, meaning a single bottle is 0.6 standard drinks. Relative to some other premixed drinks, this is roughly half or less. 4% alcohol is less than a beer, and it lacks the distinct flavour of it as well. With all these factors considered, is it not inevitable that teenagers – who presumably have never tasted alcohol before – would not be able to tell the difference? Was there a control or reference drink that let them know the taste of the original alcohol?

I don't see what the fuss is, frankly. As long as there is control at the point of sale over who can buy the drinks, the number of teen drinkers will remain low, regardless of marketing. These drinks are clearly targeted at the section of the market that doesn't like the taste of alcohol, which is by and large young females – who, if controls are enforced, are legally entitled to buy them.

While there may be an argument that covering the taste of alcohol makes these drinks dangerous, by reducing the alcohol content significantly below that of typical spirit-based drinks, the risk if anything is reduced. Given a typical cocktail can contain anything from 2 to 4 standard drinks, it would take 4 to 8 of these premixed drinks to have the same effect as one drink. And buying the bottle directly as opposed to the cocktail somewhat reduces the risk of drink-spiking, either through the closed packaging or the consistent taste, something I see as a much bigger issue at the moment.

The media has once again clearly kicked up a fuss because it can, without looking at the issue in the independent manner it should.


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