New RTDs rightly target adults rather than teenagers, says Don Kavanagh.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - RTDs have a bad reputation.
Every anti-alcohol lobby group loves to hold them up as an example of drinks companies luring youngsters into a life of debauchery with candy-coloured lolly waters and, in a sense, you can see why.
There have been - and still are - some obviously youth-oriented RTDs on the market, bubblegum-flavoured bright things that bear about as much relation to a grown-up drink as a raspberry and lemonade.
Things are changing, albeit slowly. With the Government looking at regulating the RTD market, manufacturers have had to move away from the high-strength, low-price, "flog 'em off to the teens" type of drink.
And thank heaven for that.
Apart from the dubious morality of marketing drinks that are easy to confuse with a soft drink, it's good news for consumers that manufacturers and distributors are taking these drinks a bit more seriously. The very name RTD is not entirely appropriate anyway; beer is ready to drink, as is 20-year-old single malt.
Part of the anti-RTD backlash has been that perfectly acceptable premixed, spirit-based drinks have been tarnished alongside whey-based giggle-juices that were manufactured solely to make a quick profit.
Little comparison that can be made between, say, an Iron Bru-flavoured WKD and a premixed Gordon's gin and tonic. One is something that disguises its strength with sweetness, the other is a perfectly acceptable G&T, if a little light on the gin for my taste.
So it was good to get some adult-oriented drinks for a recent tasting. The Jim Beam Black and Cola was particularly excellent. Even the appearance of two-litre casks of Midori caught me out, trapping me into expecting a huge sugar-rush of sweetness. Instead, they delivered a surprisingly good drink, even for someone who isn't the world's biggest fan of Midori.
So, when you are stocking your fridge with RTDs over the summer, try to remember two things - responsible service of alcohol and providing your guests with a good drink in a handy form.
People have become more demanding about what they drink and, though many of them may slosh down substandard premixes in the safety of their own homes, most will prefer to go with a quality product when they are out on the town, if only to impress their friends.By Don Kavanagh