what happened to our 80s wine coolers?

What Happened To Our 80s Wine Coolers? 

If you’ve been a wine enthusiast since the 1980s, you probably remember the rising popularity of wine coolers. And no, we’re not talking about the wine refrigerator. The term ‘wine cooler’ is better known now as a spin off of the wine fridge, but wine coolers were once known as a type of mixed drink. Although widely known in the 80s, wine coolers have seemingly vanished from our collective consciousness. In this article, we’ll go over the 80s craze that was wine coolers, what happened to them, and most importantly, how to make your own! Let’s get started. 

What Is An 80s Wine Cooler?

Wine Coolers are a colorful, bubbly alcoholic beverage consisting of a mix of wine and fruit juices, similar in style to a spritzer. The beverage is often combined with sugar and a carbonated drink, making it low in alcohol content with a distinctly sweet fruit taste. The wine can also be mixed with fruit concentrates or drink mixers. One of the perks of wine coolers is that they can be made with very cheap bottles of wine. This is because the wine’s flavor is largely subdued in the mixing process. It started out as a homemade drink, but began to be sold commercially as their popularity grew.  

The Complicated History Of The 80s Wine Cooler

what happened to our 1980s wine coolers?

Wine Coolers In The 1980s

By the beginning of the 80s, wine nose-dived in popularity. Believe it or not, this drop in sales is largely attributed to Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign. The campaign encouraged children to stop engaging in illegal drinking and drug use by offering various ways to ‘Just Say No’. The campaign was so influential that it leaked into popular culture and resulted in a major shift in the societal view of alcohol. Adults and children alike began reducing their alcohol consumption or not drinking at all.  

The wine cooler was the response of some North American homes. Mixing the wine with juice and carbonated drinks greatly reduced the alcohol content in a glass of wine. It was a less intense, family-friendly version of an alcoholic beverage for social drinking.

In this era, a man named Michael Crete became one of a growing fraction of North Americans to start mixing white wine with fruit juice. He often mixed his wine with pineapple or grapefruit juice, and club soda. They were a major hit amongst his friends. Since he was already working in the wine industry, Michael began thinking about putting his new beverage on store shelves. Working as a duo with his friend Stuart Bewley, Michael began selling his own pre-mixed wine coolers, aptly named the California Cooler. The main value of California Cooler was its convenience. Not only was California Cooler pre-mixed, but the bottle cap was a simple twist and pull, making it an easy drink to pop open after a long day. By 1985, sales of wine coolers skyrocketed and Michael and Stuart had a million dollar business on their hands. 

By the late 80s, nearly every major alcohol seller had jumped on the trend, and wine coolers were generating billions of dollars in sales. For the wine industry, there was no reason to not begin selling wine coolers. Since the “Just Say No” campaign had killed the popularity of wine, many sellers had a surplus stock that wasn’t selling. Wine Coolers circumvented this, giving wine sellers a new way to generate income while making use of their surplus wine. Commercial sellers got creative in an effort to stand out from their competitors, expanding the wine cooler with all kinds of types and flavors, from tropical to berry. 

Wine Coolers In the 1990s And Beyond

As society shifted to the 90s, however, the amount of wine coolers on the market reduced significantly. Suddenly, wine coolers became a forgotten gem of our 80s nostalgia. So, how did a beverage which arguably saved the wine industry during an economic drought become a distant memory? 

In 1991, the excise tax of wine rose dramatically, going from $0.17 USD to over a dollar a gallon. This not only demolished the cost-effectiveness of wine coolers for the industry, but also meant that wine coolers could no longer be sold at low prices. There was no longer much value in mass producing wine coolers, and the majority of the industry moved on. 

The wine in wine coolers was replaced with the much cheaper malt liquor, and the drink was renamed to simply “cooler”. You’ll still be able to find wine coolers on store shelves, albeit, in much fewer quantities than there once was. Modern wine coolers are mainly marketed to a female audience, with one famous standout being the Girls’ Night Out line of wine coolers. 

How To Make Your Own Wine Cooler

To make your own wine cooler, all you need is a bottle of white wine, a fruit juice or concentrate, and a carbonated beverage. Wine coolers are adaptable, so it’s hard to really go wrong with any certain combination. Feel free to experiment with different juices and sodas. You can even try mixing a bottle of rosé instead of the traditional white wines. 

Here’s my personal take on a unique wine cooler recipe to surprise your friends and family for every occasion. I thought of making something that would act as a long lost cousin of the popular champagne and orange juice mix. Promise, this isn’t something you’ve had before! 

what happened to our 80s wine coolers recipe

Easy 2024 Wine Cooler Recipe


  • 6 glasses of chilled white wine, the specific type of wine is up to preference. I used a simple Pinot Grigio.
  • 2 cups of orange soda. 
  • 4 cups of mango juice. 
  • A lemon or lime for garnishing, but you can also add it to enhance the citrus flavor. 


  1. Pour 6 glasses of chilled white wine into the pitcher
  2. Add 2 cups of orange soda and 4 cups of mango juice 
  3. Squeeze half of a fresh lemon or lime into the mixture
  4. Stir vigorously with a long spoon 
  5. Slice up your lemon and/or lime to use as a garnish on the rim of the cups
  6. Serve in a glass with ice

It’s as easy as that! There’s all kinds of flavor combinations you can create while making a wine cooler. 

Whether you were one of the many wine cooler enthusiasts in the 80s, or if you’re just looking to try something new, wine coolers are a fun opportunity to put your drink mixing skills to the test. Although wine coolers have become a bit of a historical artifact since the 1980s, wine coolers have stayed strong in the homes of many North Americans, and continue to be an easy drink to make at home. Even if wine coolers have noticeably fallen from grace, that won’t stop us from enjoying this fun, bubbly drink.

To living a full-bodied life,


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