The word at the bar tonight is more likely to be Bellini than Bacardi Breezer, as cocktails enjoy a revival as the young person's tipple of choice.

The word at the bar tonight is more likely to be Bellini than Bacardi Breezer, as cocktails enjoy a revival as the young person's tipple of choice.

Sales of alcopops have fallen by more than two thirds in the past three years, the latest figures show. Experts say that the image of bottled spirit and fruit mixes has been tarnished by concerns about anti-social behaviour and a move towards more sophisticated tipples.

They point to the Sex and the City effect, where the glamourous portrayal of independent women drinking cocktails has led to the success of specialist bars trading in spirits and hand-made tipples rather than bottled drinks.

Britons drink more alcopops than any other country in Europe. Despite a decline in sales, we still downed an average of 3.31 litres of flavoured alcoholic beverages (Fabs) in 2003, equivalent to £23 per head of the population. Britons spent £1.4bn on alcopops last year, but the research predicts that the market will fall by 23 per cent over by 2008.

Introduced to Britain in 1995, sales of Fabs more than doubled between 1999 and 2002.

But the growth has now slowed dramatically, with the increase falling from 27 per cent in 2001 to just 6.3 per cent last year. Sales of beer have fallen by 12 per cent in the past 12 months, but research has shown that increasing numbers of people are now turning to Mojhitos and Manhattans rather than bottled drinks mixers.

John Band, consumer market analyst at Datamonitor, said: "It seems like the alcopop bubble has finally burst. It was the marketing phenomenon of the 1990s but now alcopops have become a victim of their own success.

"They have convinced younger people and especially women about drinking spirits, but now they are increasingly seen as naff and girlie drinks."

Mr Band added: "The drinks industry introduced Fabs because traditionally, spirits had been seen as an older person's drink rather than a trendy thing for young people to buy, particularly because young women may not have liked the idea of the taste.

"They focused on the idea that the spirits had been made more palatable with their fruit content, like non-alcoholic drinks, rather than the spirits they contained.

"But this is a particularly fickle market, and now young women have got the taste for spirits, they want to move to something more sophisticated.

"There has certainly been that Sex and the City effect, where women now want to drink things like Cosmopolitans and Bellinis because they have seen their favourite characters drink them.

"Our focus group research has shown that people who were traditionally drinking alcopops are now more likely to say that they are buying cocktails in bars rather than a Barcadi Breezer."

The cocktail craze is difficult to quantify, because drinks are not sold by a brand.

But Mr Band said that the change in drinks tastes is also reflected by the success of new companies, such as the Revolution chain of bars which specialise in flavoured vodkas.

The chain started in Manchester, but has now spread throughout the country.

However, the alcopops market is fighting back. The latest brands to hit pubs and clubs are attempting to cash in on the craze for cocktails.

The Vladivar vodka company is preparing to launch as new brand of Fabs which will be marketed as cocktails rather than alcopops, with names such as White Russian to lure drinkers, rather than focusing on their fruit content.

Experts say that the switch in sales may also help the Government's efforts to reduce drink-related crime in Britain.

Studies have shown that anti-social behaviour is most prevalent in a MRVDs - Male Rigid Volume Drinkers - who down bottled beer or alcopops and are the most likely to consume to excess and end up in fights.

Cocktails may be enjoying a surge in popularity at present, but they have been a favourite tipple for some drinkers for almost 200 years. The first recorded use of "cocktail" was in America in 1806 and is thought to refer to the bartenders' habit of mixing up the dregs - or "tailings" - from barrels of spirits and serving the resulting mix from a "cock" (slang for spigot) at a reduced price. A far cry from today's classy concoctions, then.

100 WINES TO DRINK FOR YOUR LAST SUPPER

By Terry Kirby

They are the wines of your last supper, the ones that you to take to that desert island. They are wines to drink before you die - at prices to die for. And not many of them can be found down your local off-licence.

A panel of experts has compiled, for Decanter magazine, a list of the "100 Wines To Try Before You Die", irrespective of price and availability. The list includes dessert wines and champagnes.

Predictably, it is headed and dominated by the familiar names of the great and rare clarets and burgundies of France, with only eight representatives from the New World. France's other wine regions, such as the Loire and the Rhone are also strongly represented, together with a selection from across Europe,

Top of the list is the legendary claret of Château Mouton Rothschild 1945, which, if you can find a bottle, is priced at about £3,500. It is, says Michael Broadbent, one of the experts, "intense, concentrated, indescribable".

Next is the great dessert wine Chateau D'Yquem 1921, which is a mere snip at £1,375 and described as "a miracle of the last century", by the wine writer David Peppercorn.

The only non-French wine in the top ten is the £500-a-bottle Penfold Bin 60A 1962, a cabernet shiraz that is generally considered to be one of the great reds to come out of Australia.

There is also a Loire white, three great Romanée-Conti burgundies and a single Rhone red, a Hermitage, in the top 10.

However, at the other end of the scale, there are a large number of bottles at under £100, including the cheapest on the list, a £10 Moulin des Costes from the Bandol region of Provence, an area where the wine is often derided.

However, having paid such enormous sums for such rare wines, Decanter offers no clues what to do with a £3,500 bottle of wine if it turns out to be corked.

Comments