Alcoholic lemonades: what a brilliant idea. They were bound to find some sort of niche market, even if the manufacturers hedged their bets with butch brand names like "Hooch" and "Two Dogs", and dinky designer- beer bottles. The obvious original slot must have been that left by products such as Babycham: since the girlies stopped caring about seeming ladylike but still haven't taken wholesale to beer, wine sales have rocketed to the detriment of our home-grown drinks industry. So, invent something of roughly the same volume-strength as beer that women will drink in quantity and you can claw back some of the cash currently pouring out on New World Chardonnay.

And who has actually taken to them? The lads. Alcoholic lemonades are in danger of becoming the Special Brew of the professional classes. You see someone swigging a can of Special Brew on the train in the morning and you don't sit next to them. A bottle of one of these faux cocktails can be easily picked up along with your newspaper and many of your fellow commuters won't even realise that you're pumping down something that's actually 4.7 per cent volume. Those on - or over - the edge of alcoholism can swig the hair of the dog from the bottle and convince themselves that no one knows they're doing it. If you don't believe me, try opening your eyes on the next rush-hour train and reading the lettering on all those soft drinks cans in the hands of men in suits.

In the interests of Science I spent a lunchtime sampling examples of these brews culled from the shelves of my local newsagent with an archetypal lad. And I have to admit that they've grown on me. Hooper's Hooch I'm still a little uncertain of, as it has that slight yeasty after-tang of brewing, but Woody's Pink Grapefruit is going to have a place in my fridge: this dodgy-coloured nectar really tastes of its purported ingredients and even has the cloudy bits to match. An added advantage is that one can convince oneself that something based on fruit must have a high vitamin C content and must therefore do less damage than the straight stuff. Archetypal Lad actually cracked a smile after his second bottle and started suggesting going to the pub for a game of pool.

As happens whenever a new alcoholic brand of relaxation of the licensing laws hits the streets, the anti-everything organisations have been firing off comments. They will, they claim, teach children to drink. Yes, and Silk cut ads teach children to smoke, Oprah Winfrey's diets give children anorexia and Quentin Tarantino films teach them to go out and cut cops' ears off.

Actually, children are probably the last people to be seduced by what used to be soft drinks turning alcoholic: experimenting teenagers don't want to be seen clutching something so obviously redolent of childhood. They're far more likely to nick the vodka from someone's drinks cupboard and go down the local graveyard than slug their way solemnly through dozens of bottles of something expensive and hard to conceal about their person. Adults, meanwhile, like to surround themselves with childlike comforts, which explains the continuing success of restaurants which sell nursery food and the booming sales of Disney videos. If there's one sector of society that's at risk from a tin of Two Dogs, it's those people who've been searching all these years for a beverage they can keep down when they've got a hangover.

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