Jayne Dawson: My first step on the road to ruin was ...a Babycham

SWEET MEMORIES: Saucer-shaped Babycham glasses.
SWEET MEMORIES: Saucer-shaped Babycham glasses.
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Right, time to focus. What was your first proper alcoholic drink?

I ask because news has surfaced that alcopops are in terminal decline, with sales going down faster than an alcoholic lemonade.

In their day, which was mostly the 1990s, they were a controversial drink, feared to be the road to ruin for youngsters encouraged into drinking binges by the sugary sweetness of them, but no more. Their day is over.

In my day, there were no alcopops. What there was instead was a 1970s equivalent that went by the name of Babycham, so that was my first alcoholic drink. Any of you share that experience?

I experienced its seductive charms in the lounge bar of the Black Lion with my boyfriend, Freddie the Apprentice Plumber, when I was, sad to say, all of 15 years old - unless my mother is reading this, in which case I was 18. A mother’s opinion still counts no matter how old you both become, I find.

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Anyway, as I was only 15/18 there was no question of me approaching the bar - the very idea positively felled me with fear - so I sat nervously on my lounge chair while Freddie kept ‘em coming. And boy, could I get through a lot of Babycham. That saucer-shaped glassful with the glace cherry speared on a plastic cocktail stick - it went down in one.

I had no idea what it was, other than sweet and fizzy. Turns out it was a sparkling perry, like cider but made with pears.

In my head, Babycham was something like Tizer, which we drank a fair bit of in my house since my grandad drove a Tizer wagon. The word was that he had never taken a driving test either, since it tended not to be considered so important in those days, but I digress.

The posh stuff - wine - came along later. The first wine bar in Leeds opened in the late 1970s and I was there in the opening week and, I kid you not, I have never felt quite so sophisticated since.

There we were in a bar - not a pub - that sold nothing but wine! It was like we were French! A room full of smug people clutching their glasses of house white. We were the Yuppies of the future - at least they were - me, not so much.

I had gone off Babycham by then. Like alcopops now, it had fallen right out of favour, never to really emerge again until it became a novelty drink, just right for amusing your guests at Christmas.

Alcopops never entered my world at all, unless you count the very occasional alcoholic ginger beer. By the time they were invented I had pretty much given up alcohol in favour of tea and a nice scone.

But don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just Babycham, house white and then nothing for we ‘70s girls. There were all sorts of trendy drinks inbetween - lager and lime for starters. Or, on an adventurous day, lager and blackcurrant. Or perhaps a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. Or a barley wine, anyone?

We knew about cocktails too - and would occasionally indulge in a pernod with orange squash and lemonade - don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Actually, don’t try it. It’s a terrible combination.

Today’s teenagers are more discerning, it seems. They have gone off things with names like Hooch, Two Dogs and WKD, and prefer a cider or a craft beer.

But like your first record, your first kiss and your first cigarette, memories of your first real drink can take you right back down the time tunnel.

It’s not just what you drank, it’s who you drank it with and where you were and what you were wearing. It might have been the park, it might have been your friend’s bedroom, it might have been the posh room of a very middle-aged pub, but it’s always going to make your grown-up self smile.

A while ago I came across two Babycham glasses branded with the fawn logo and seized them full of eager nostalgia - but then I put them back down again. So I’m going to suggest a toast to our younger selves - but mine’s definitely not a Babycham.

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