Stranger Drinks: 4 Drinks Everyone Loved in 1985

Fans of the hit Neflix show, Stranger Things, patiently awaited the return of the show's third season. Now, over 4-million viewers have finished the science fiction series, which centres around the residents of Hawkins, Indiana during the summer of 1985.  

Interest in all things 80s has never been higher... 

1985 - Back to the Future was #1 at the box office. Wham! dominated the music charts. The Commodore 64 was state of the art personal computing. Sony introduced the Discman, and there were 4 drinks everyone loved:

1. White Zinfandel 

I1970s California, Bob Trinchero, of Sutter Home Wines, embarked on a mission: to make the most intensely flavoured Zinfandel wine possible (Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape commonly grown in the United States). After pressing the grapes, he quickly removed much of the liquid – leaving far less juice than usual to remain with the grape skins and therefore take on a much deeper flavour. This left Bob with a problem: what to do with the liquid he had removed. His solution – bottle it as a new variety ‘Oeil de Perdrix’ (French for “eye of the partridge”). Sales of this new wine were OK, but mostly to his existing customers.  

And then there were two happy accidents for Bob.  
First, Californian law required him to relabel his wine as White Zinfandel as the sole use of a foreign term on labels was prohibited. Second, his juice suffered ‘Stuck Fermentation’ (the wine’s sugars unintentionally stopped converting to alcohol) meaning Bob was left with a much sweeter wine than he had ever produced before. The result – the dry Oeil de Perdrix became the sweet White Zinfandel and massive popularity followed. White Zinfandel became a cheap, sweet wine which sold out year after year.  

White Zinfandel’s popularity peaked in the 1980s and then began to decline. Wine drinkers become more sophisticated, and by the 2000s were demanding well-made rosés instead as they were refreshing, crisper, and easier to pair with food. 

2. The Wine Cooler 

By the mid 1980s, 20% of all wine drunk in the United States (a billion dollars worth) was a ‘cooler’. Using wine as a mixer certainly wasn’t invented in the 80s. Sangaree is a Caribbean drink which found popularity in 18th century Spain as Sangria - later made popular in England and the United States through Hispanic immigration. But, the pre-packaged coolers of the 80s did one thing well: marketing. Dreamed up by a beer salesman with a talent for throwing pool parties and attracting celebrity sponsors, canned coolers were a hit. He started ‘California Coolers’ in 1981 investing $140,000. Four years later, he sold the company to Brown-Forman (owner of Jack Daniels) for $200 million. 

However, rising wine prices, increased competition, and a reputation for coolers being a drink for underage partiers lead to rapidly plummeting sales. EventuallyCusine Noir described coolers as, “the ‘it’ yuppie drink of the 1980s and the joke drink of the 1990s.” 


While America enjoyed their coolers, Australia had its Shandys. Well before the 1980s, the English in the 1850s were drinking ‘shandygaff’ - a mix of beer and ginger ale. By the 1920s a Bavarian tavern popular with cyclists was serving Radlers, a mix of lemonade and beer (Radler is German for cyclist) and its popularity spread across Europe.

Eventually its popularity reached Australia where a local spin was put on it: the portergaff, a mix of Stout beer and lemonade.  

4. Chardonnay 

Although Chardonnay remains popular, it was at its height in 1985. In the United States, labelling bottles simply as “White Wine” become unfashionable and more attention was being paid to specific varieties by consumers.
In Australia, at the same time, entrepreneur Bob Oatley funded a local push towards Chardonnay through Rosemount’s Roxburgh and Diamond Label. These were strong, buttery Chardonnays which became synonymous with Australian wine, successfully marketed in the US and the UK as “sunshine in a bottle”. But, as the global desire for all thing big began to decline in the late 1980s, so did consumers' taste for large unsophisticated Chardonnays. 
By the early 90s, New Zealand had begun dominating white wine sales in Australia with their Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. With high acidity and crisp tones, it was the opposite of the big, buttery chardonnays. And, the so-called 'ABC' (Anything But Chardonnay) movement was repeated by both consumers and media.
Since then, Australia has begun to produce its own high-quality Sauvignon Blanc, more subtle and refined than its New Zealand predecessor. Fresh, crisp and subtle florals have become the new benchmarks for exceptional Australian whites.

So, if you’re feeling nostalgic or simply want to celebrate successfully finishing the latest season of Stranger Things - consider revisiting these 4 drinks for the complete 80s experience.