Wine coolers from the 80’s.

You know what I really miss? Remember back in the 80’s when you wanted to feign superficiality and dumb-blondness? You’d approach someone at a frat party with a bottle of whatever you happen to be holding at the time, you’d cock your head or flip your hair from one side to the other, and then you’d say, in a high-pitched, Southern Californian girlie voice, “Cooler?” As if you were offering someone that symbol of shallowness and bad taste– the then ubiquitous California Cooler. 

I don’t know where that expression came from or who started it, but it was brilliant and I want to bring it back. 

I searched on, just out of curiosity, to see if it even existed as a term. The only thing that came up was this: cooler: (n.) A sweet alcoholic beverage. Usually fruity flavored with vodka. Mike’s Hard Lemonade. And then the example: “It took me 5 coolers before I got tipsy! Next time I’m getting a six pack.”

Who ever submitted that entry is an idiot. Stick with your quasi-beer or fruity-vodka or whatever, dude. Mike’s Hard Lemonade is NOT a cooler. And second, “Mike’s?” or “Hard-Lemon?” doesn’t exactly carry the same nostalgic and relevant weightiness as “Cooler?” Besides, this entry is greatly misleading. The essence of the beverage, if I remember correctly, was that, when you drank it, the immediate urge to vomit followed shortly after having consumed it. It was so cheap and so badly designed that it made an entire generation of young alcoholics sick for a good five years. And those of us who were smart enough to avoid it, invented the catch-phrase in consolation. 

What exactly was a California Cooler I’m still not sure. Some uber-cheap concoction of wine, juice and soda, I believe. I wasn’t much of a drinker back then but I do remember someone handing me one, saying, “drink it. It tastes like peach schnapps.” I think we were in the woods behind my house at the time and after consuming half a bottle I rolled off the rock I was sitting on and puked into a pile of dead leaves. That was the beginning and the end of my wine cooler days. After that, I simply soaked in the culture that went along with it. It soon became evident what type of people drank those things. Under-aged bleach blondes and dudes that were trying to lay cheerleaders. I know that’s an awful sweeping generalization, but when you consider that the company made millions..well…it all becomes clear. 

The idiom itself, I’m guessing, sprang up organically as a mockery against “those” people. And eventually became a blanket expression for anyone not making any sense at all. It definitely made the user feel super superior. And it culminated into having so many uses. It passively defined a stereotypical group of idiots. It was a subliminal message to your core posse that there were bimbos in close proximity. Or it merely served as a direct assault upon some brainless faux pas one of your friends might have made out in public. 

Like this girl from college I knew. Her name was Lil. We were all snowed in one year during finals and she ate half a bottle of aspirin because, she said, she was hungry. How else can you define something like that but to say, “Cooler?”

Or this mimbo I knew from the frats in Newark where we used to party on weekends. I had no interest in this guy so, when he asked for my phone number I gave him this one: 867-5309. I used to think that was hysterical. The next week I haphazardly bumped into him on campus and he was all like, “hey, you gave me the wrong number. This one’s been disconnected.” Like I was a number off or something. 


You see how fun it can be? I want to go out to bars and go up to total strangers who are like, twenty years younger than me and I want to say, “Cooler?” and see if it catches on. Like how old hippies keep regurgitating that ever-present word “groovy.” Hell, that expression never died. So why should “Cooler?” If anything needs to come back into mainstream American culture it’s that. 

I mean, when you think of half the things fashion trendsetters have brought back, “Cooler?” is mild in comparison. Call me crazy, but large plastic earrings, the term “fabulous,” shoulder pads and moccasins with fringe should have been buried with Rod Stewart and jump suits twenty years ago.

All you have to do to bring this baby back is watch out for any thick-headed, moronic human behavior and when you see it, acknowledge it like this: just tilt your head a little to one side while asking someone…or no one at all…if they’d like to have a Cooler. 

Simple and fun. Works best with a bottle in hand.

I read an article back in ’07 that a beer distributor was thinking of bringing the California Cooler back to market. Underneath a shrewd exterior of doubt and cynicism (i.e. who the hell would drink this shit after what my generation went through?), I secretly hope it’s revived. It would definitely give more weight to my argument that this gem of an aphorism needs to be a part of pop culture once again. I mean, duh, if my attempt to bring “Cooler?” back is to be successful, I guess I can’t have one symbol of mindlessness without the other. 


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