Summer Soft Drinks…Harder Than You Think!
When is it ok for a kid to have a beer but not a lemonade? When it’s root beer and hard lemonade.
Many restaurant menus have a section for “soft drinks,” where non-alcoholic beverages like lemonade, tea, and soda pop are listed. If “soft” drinks exist, are “hard” drinks also a thing? Yes, any kind of beverage with the word “hard” in front of it is generally considered to have alcohol in it.
Before the year 2000, this wasn’t much of an issue. But since the turn of the century, beverages like hard cider, hard seltzer, and hard lemonade have become more popular, with occasionally disastrous results.
For example, in 2008, a University of Michigan archaeology professor went to a Detroit Tigers baseball game with his 7-year-old son. While there, he got the boy a lemonade. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but this wasn’t a soft drink. It was a can of hard lemonade, and before the game was over, the police were involved, and the boy was placed in foster care for three days before being released to his mother (who had not been at the game). The simple misunderstanding on the part of the father led to serious consequences for the entire family.
DISCLAIMER: While you’ll see some images here that depict brands of hard and soft root beer, lemonade and other drinks, this is NOT a criticism of those brands or types of drinks! We here at Bespoke are happy to enjoy a refreshing drink, hard or soft alike, and do not include these images for any other reason than to help you identify the differences so you don’t inadvertently run afoul of either law or the safety of yourself and your family.
Have a look at the images here to see some examples of hard and soft versions of common drinks:
It’s important for parents who are coming to America to understand that underage drinking is commonplace, though the rates have been declining in recent decades, according to the CDC. A 2019 survey found that almost a third of high school students had reported drinking in the past 30 days, with 5% driving after drinking and 17% riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
Peer pressure to drink alcohol can be very strong, and can be even more challenging if the beverage looks and tastes like something familiar and unobjectionable. There are a number of ways to deal with this kind of pressure—sadly, often saying, “no, thanks” isn’t enough to put an end to it.
One strategy is to be the designated driver. This is the person who has committed to not drinking (or doing any drugs) in order to be responsible for getting a carful of people home safely. This is a well known situation, and one that is more likely to be taken seriously, because other people are depending on their driver to be 100% sober.
Another option is to have a beverage already. If someone offers something alcoholic, it can be easier to refuse by pointing to the drink and saying, “I’m good, thanks.” While it should go without saying that everyone should get their own drinks to make sure of the contents, it may not be a concern your teens have been aware of before, so it’s always a good idea to remind them to get and keep their own drinks.
Parents can also take an active role here; when I was a teen, my parents told me that I could call them at any time and ask to be picked up from a party, and they would, no questions asked. This is also helpful if there is no designated driver, and your teen is nervous about getting a ride home from someone who has been drinking. You can also encourage your teen to blame you for their choice: “My parents are SO strict—they’ll definitely check me when I get home!”
The moral of the story? Not all beverages are as innocuous as they appear, so pay attention to the label, and remember that anything with alcohol in it will say so somewhere on the label, but it might not be obvious. Also, although there is definite peer pressure to consume alcohol, there are also ways to avoid it.