The Joys of Modern Life 57: Alcopops

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WHEN I was a teenage girl I longed to find an alcoholic drink that tasted like lemonade, mainly because I was dying to get drunk but couldn't stand the taste of alcohol. My first boozing experience - a shared half-bottle of vodka followed by hours of vomiting - had put me right off spirits. I found the bitter tang of beer even worse. So imagine my delight when alcopops crashed the grown- ups' keg party, allowing me, just 18, entry alongside them.

These rainbow-coloured bottles of fizz were at once exotic and reassuringly familiar. Friends and I guzzled them by the crateload, even managing to convince parents that they were "oh, mostly fruit juice, I think". Finally we could get tipsy without holding our noses and retching after every mouthful. Just like punk rock, the moral panic sparked by the new drink only made it more desirable.

A few years on and I'm still a certified alcopoholic. Bright, breezy and sickly sweet, they're the skint girl's cocktail. With half the calories of a Pina Colada, you can even choose them to match your lipstick. Better still, they offer salvation from that awful female dilemma between ordering a pint or a half. In our heart of hearts we still feel shy with a pint in our fist, but we know half pints are just too new-ladette for words.

On the practical side, it's far easier to flit through a crowded bar with a bottle than a sloshing glass. Held in the hand, a small bottle is one of the most satisfying shapes going. For the same reason that people twiddle with cigarette packets in public, it is wonderfully comforting to clutch its smooth roundness.

Alcopops don't spill on your shoes when you're dancing and they don't give you beery breath. A faint bubblegum odour maybe, but who'd find that a turn-off? In fact, a friend told me that before he snogs a girl, he buys her an alcopop.

Most important, I raise my glass to the alcopop's unashamed synthetic nature. In an age of earnest food concern it is very refreshing to down something so devoid of nutritional content.

If such a thing exists, alcopops are surely genetically modified booze.