Forget coffee; I'll have a tall skinny merlot

Posted February 12, 2012

Forget coffee; I'll have a tall skinny merlot

I have an apocalyptic vision of the high street.

I imagine it, a few years from now, as a scene from an 18th century Hogarth painting. Binge drinking is rife. Drunken workers lie prostrate in the streets. Slatternly mothers tip unkempt, neglected children out of their laps.

What’s behind my nightmare? It’s the news that Starbucks is introducing wine and beer into its coffee shops. And that it plans to open another 300 stores in this country over the next five years. Hurrah, I hear you say. More jobs; more coffee and buns; more booze!! What’s the problem?

Well, let’s take a look at what we’ve learnt from our past mistakes. In the 18th century, gin and beer was so readily available that alcohol abuse was endemic. Obviously, that’s no longer the case. You don’t see cut price booze on sale to the masses any more. What do you mean we pile it high and sell it cheap in the supermarkets? When did that happen?

At least we don’t roll around in the gutter all day long, drunk as skunks. Ok, ok … maybe we do from time to time but not on the same scale as before. We now reserve that sort of behaviour for public holidays, Saturday nights when the temperature is sub-zero, or stag outings to European cities.

Actually, when you look at it, we haven’t changed that much in the last 250 years. We’re still a nation of boozers. The only difference is that we now regulate the sale of alcoholic drink and shame ourselves into abstinence with X-rated television advertisements.

The fast food boom in this country has already massively influenced the way we eat and drink. As an industry its sales rose by 10 per cent last year. This equates to 11 million cups of coffee. Just think how successful it could be at boosting our alcohol consumption.

How long before we have commuters turning up at their desks with a rosy glow on their cheeks and a rather more ‘devil may care’ attitude. Perfect for bankers but not the rest of us.

What about the young mums who meet up in coffee shops? If we want to create a truly Hogarthian nightmare then let’s get them and their kids on the hard stuff NOW. Forget about ordering Frappuccino (coffee froth) for the little ones. From now on it will be a ‘mini vino’ + straw for junior and a tall skinny merlot for mum.

So far Starbucks is only planning to sell booze in its American stores. However we all know that what starts as a trend in America eventually comes to the UK too.

It will be Gin Street all over again. Only this time round there will be no Hogarth to document the excesses of social behaviour. But don’t despair; we can always upload our drunken coffee shop frolics straight to twitter and claim our own ten minutes of fame.

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