Nov 9, 2010

Remember November: West Coast Coolers

To this day, I cannot tell you exactly what is in a West Coast Cooler. It's described as a "wine cooler". What is that? Is that normal wine, just chilled more? Is it a watered-down wine, or a souped-up wine? Is it coloured? Flavoured? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

This ad, apparently from the early 90s, does little to inform me, except to indicate that West Coast Coolers encouraged big hair, big dance moves and big sunglasses:

Admittedly I'm a teetotaller, so my knowledge of the grape and grain is rather limited. And I don't recall my parents ever having West Coast Coolers in the house, even when they seemed to be the drink de jour in the mid-1980s, so I never smelt or tasted one. By the time I was of an age to go to parties where alcohol was present, the girls tended to go for those Lemon Ruski Stollies that they could swig down by the six-pack before attempting to stand and realising the vodka content had somehow spirited away their sense of balance and decorum. West Coast Coolers seemed a distant, and rather daggy, memory.

My clearest recollection of West Coast Coolers though dates back to the years my family lived on Thursday Island, way up at the pointiest bit of Cape York. My father was the harbour master, and we lived in a ramshackle Queenslander provided for the HM by the state government. It backed onto the local football field. I remember my brother and I would run out to play on it. On Sundays in particular it would be covered in stripey West Coast Cooler bottletops. We used to pick them up and collect them, even turning them into a primitive currency. It was something like 75 WCCs to the Aussie dollar. Until I found an actual, real-life, sharp blue paper ten dollar note, flipping across the field in a strong breeze. Obviously, aged 5, that made me a billionaire, and I gave up WCC collecting to brainstorm ways I could spend my newfound fortune.


  1. I used to collect milk bottle tops, then blue-tongue beer bottle tops, then snow globes, and now, for some random reason, I collect the little clips from bread bags. Every month I tip them out of the box, arrange them into their rightful colours and count them. I have over 150. I think I need to get out more.

  2. I used to search through the stockpile of bottles under the house in a hope that one of them would have changed from a non-refundable one into a 20c return one.

    Also, this still brings me such joy.

  3. Actually the Lemon Ruski was a close relative of the wine cooler - I believe Ruskis were only about 1% vodka (in terms of the contribution to their alcohol count) and the rest dodgy cask wine, the flavour masked by rancid lemon cordial.

    I learned to drink beer instead.

  4. West coast coolers had three competing chemical hits - the sharpness of bad cask wine, the sugar rush of cheap citrus soft drink, and a tang of alcohol. The sugar cut back the nasty sharpness of cheap whites, to taste only mildly offensive. They were less offensive that beer, less sharp than wine, and didn't make you go pucker face like spirits.

    They were the first offensive in the battle to make teenagers used to soft drinks first experiencing alcohol not have to taste alcohol.

    The next step was the Ruskie, then came the Breezer, which was the Ruskie in different flavours. So far the ultimate is the Smirnoff Black - It's like lemonade with a hidden walking inhibitor.

  5. I got a west coast cooler the last summer, it was too hot and I couldn't stand it, so I purchased it and I am happy with my buy

  6. I think they're made out of wine and "fruit flavours". My parents used to be crazy about them in the mid 80s, and I remember it used to be a "special treat" when they'd order them at the local Chinese restaurant, and my dad would become highly intoxicated after half a bottle (welcome to my sad, sad world....). My boyfriend and I bought a packet of WCCs the other day for a bit of a joke. And let me assure you, they are as bad as ever.