No crunk juice for me!

Gayle looks at the huge demand for alcopops and asks why we're now asking for our booze with a side order of chemicals...

REGULAR readers of this column will know how little acquaintance I am likely to have with 'hip-hop culture', as I believe it is termed.

Not long ago, I was reading an article about Hyphy, the slang associated with the movement and was very struck by the definition of 'crunk juice' - apparently a favoured drink, consisting of Hennessy cognac mixed with Red Bull.

Cognac mixed with Red Bull.

I am not a connoisseur of brandy or cognac, but the quality (or otherwise) of alcoholic drinks is a subject quite close to my heart. I can't imagine that the creators of Hennessy, who probably agonise over the precise quality of the taste produced by the ageing process, would be happy to see their fine distilled wine mixed with - well, I don't know if it is possible to libel a drink, but let me just say that my one taste of Red Bull made me feel sick.

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The cloying sweetness of what I think is a very unpleasant beverage would swamp the flavour of anything it was mixed with.

Among younger drinkers, there seems to be a demand for bland, sanitised concoctions that mask their alcoholic kick with a synthetic flavour. A generation weaned on alcopops has grown up with a taste for brightly coloured fizzy pop.

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Cider is enjoying something of a renaissance in popularity, and not before time - a good cider is a real pleasure to drink. But even cider is falling prey to the fashion for lurid new brands. Many cider makers now recommend 'serving over ice', that is, putting ice in the glass with the drink. Why on earth would you want to dilute cider with frozen water? If it tastes good, wouldn't you want to enjoy that unadulterated pleasure? And, of course, extreme cold will actually tend to kill the flavour of the drink.

Drinking cider, in moderation is said to be healthy. Apparently, a half pint of cider contains the same amount of antioxidants as a glass of red wine (and we all know how good for you THAT is. I read somewhere that a glass of red wine - not white - can count as one of your daily portions of fruit and veg!)

Having recently met someone who has an apple press, and is prepared to lend it, I am now toying with the idea of make-your-own cider. How much closer to perfection can you get than pressing freshly harvested organic apples and making small scale cider from the juice?

It remains to be seen whether we can actually produce a drinkable brew - or go back to buying commercially produced ciders.

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