Brace yourself for a new era of Booze Britain: from any time within the next couple of weeks, children will be able to purchase liqueur chocolates.
Those alcohol-infused treats – bought exclusively by your nan and literally nobody else – have been blocked to under-16s for decades, the fear being that 12-year-olds will start inhaling boxes of creme de menthe sweets, drunkenly vandalising benches and abusing swans. But the government are on a drive to tackle red tape legislation, and the liqueur chocolate ban (which supposedly makes business difficult for corner shops) is just one of many unnecessary rules to be scrapped.
Predictably, this hasn't gone down very well with alcohol-misuse campaigners. They've gone on the fear-mongering warpath, arguing that drinks companies will use this legislative change to take advantage of youngsters, giving them a taste for the hooch at a young age. That, once they hit puberty, they'll start raiding their parents' liquor cupboards, exactly like every British teenager already has for generations.
As far as I'm concerned, these campaigners are missing three key points. Firstly, that liqueur chocolates are fucking vile, meaning nobody with working tastebuds really wants to eat them. Secondly, that children are not stupid; they're still more likely to give a stranger a tenner for a tinnie than spend £7 on a box of these. Thirdly – and perhaps most importantly – that the alcohol content per individual chocolate must be tiny.
This final point got me thinking. How many of them would, say, your adolescent cousin actually have to eat to get a buzz on? There's some (pretty implausible) evidence that people have got drunk off the chocolates before. But really, it seems highly unlikely that anyone would physically be able to eat enough of them to feel the alcohol without first being sick all over themselves.
I decided to answer my own question by buying as many liqueurs as I could afford and putting them into my face. Turned out I could only afford four boxes (80 chocolates overall) and that, if any minors want to do the same, they're going to have their work cut out for them; I had to visit five supermarkets all over South London to get my hands on some. Next, I went to Halfords to pick up a pocket breathalyser so I could measure, legally, how fucked up I was getting.
According to a probably unreliable source on the internet, 450 grams of liqueur chocolate equalled one bottle of wine. That made my four boxes of chocolates equal to about a bottle and a half. Would I get drunk or diabetes? White-girl wasted or just severely unwell?
I couldn't stop thinking about the time Preston from Never Mind the Buzzcocks ate loads of liqueur chocolates on Celebrity Big Brother that one year and threw up four times. But putting him and his chocolatey vomit out of my mind, I sat down to begin my mission.
Laying the four boxes out in front of me, the task ahead seemed enormous. There were too many chocolates to fit inside one 5'3" human girl. Nevertheless, I started with a breathalyser test to get my resting level. It was 0.00. I was ready to go.
I took a bite of the first chocolate – a Courvoisier one, I think – and immediately remembered what I'd told myself the first time I'd tried a liqueur chocolate: "Never again."
Ten chocolates in and I already felt nauseous, but more the sort of nausea you get from eating five advent calendars in one sitting, not the stomach-churning sickliness you feel after ten shots of cognac.
I gave it 20 minutes to let whatever booze was present in the chocolates dissolve into my bloodstream. Waiting over, the breathalyser read 0.03. Between 0.03-5 is apparently two-thirds of the legal driving limit. I was well on my way.
Everything I ingested was truly foul, but the whiskey ones actually made me sick up in my mouth a little bit, so I stuck to Irish cream and Cointreau where possible.
Fifteen of these in, I started to feel both frustrated and vindicated: I wasn't getting drunk, which was annoying because I'd have liked to have benefitted in some way from the experiment, but also good, because it suggested the campaigners = moralising idiots.
However, by chocolate number 20 I began to feel like I'd had a drink. After a wait, I had another go on the breathalyser. Devastatingly, it still only showed 0.03.
Scouring the web for advice, I read somewhere that the sugar and fat in the chocolates might lessen the effects of the alcohol, making me feel less drunk. So, I figured, it was time to start consuming them some other way.
I tried biting the sides off and licking everything out. I tried pouring them into my mouth using the chocolate as a cup. I tried drinking them through a straw.
At 30 chocolates, I stopped again. The breathalyser said 0.05 – still within the two-thirds of the legal limit range.
This was all or nothing. I had to do more, if only to prove I was better at meaningless challenges than someone from The Ordinary Boys. My mouth was gluing up with shit chocolate and knock-off Baileys, but somehow I made it through to 45 without vomiting. I tried the breathalyser test again, but it kept malfunctioning, jumping between 0.00 and 0.07. Either way, I definitely felt like I'd had a couple of drinks.
But how could I be sure without any scientific proof? Breathalyser gone, I decided to do some activities and measure whether or not my ability to complete these activities was impaired.
First, I wanted to test whether I was road worthy. But not in a car, because a) that would be irresponsible as I'd technically been drinking, and b) I don't know how to drive. So I borrowed a bike from my mate Alice instead.
I struggled to get on, but that might have been because I'm a lot smaller than her. However, once I was up, I was away. Forty-five liqueur chocolates hadn't impaired my ability to ride a bike around in circles whatsoever.
Physical reactions tested, I moved onto the mind. Sitting down at a computer, I pulled up a BBC Bitesize KS3 maths test. Despite the fact it only contained six questions, it took me 15 minutes to achieve a score of 50 percent. I'm either less intelligent than an 11-year-old or I was a little bit drunk. I'd like to believe it's more of the latter.
Finally, from mental to primal reactions, it was time to see whether the chocolates had given me anything approaching beer goggles. To do so, I got YouTube up and searched for the new video from McBusted, the Busted-McFly supergroup (minus the beardy one who left Busted to start an emo band).
I'd never fancied Matt Willis – there was something about his shit-eating face in the "What I Go to School for" video that put me off from the word go. But I'd heard he'd had an edgy "rock" makeover, and if there's anything I get hot for it's a rock 'n' roll bad boy.
However, despite the black T-shirt and tattoos, he still wasn't doing it for me. Solid no. That other one in Busted looks like the Weetos P rofessor now. Another solid no. Moving on to the McFly lot, Dougie was the only yes. But then he's always been a yes, so that didn't really tell me all that much.
In total, I didn't want to sleep with most of of McBusted. Mind you, perhaps it was the terrible song's fault, or the fact I was watching lots of grown men guitar-jump in unison. Or perhaps I just wasn't that tipsy after all.
After all that excitement I had an energy slump and felt a bit sad. 'Maybe it's alcohol ennui,' I thought. But, in all likelihood, it was probably down to the fact I'd just eaten an average human's weekly sugar allowance in 45 minutes. Whatever the cause, I knew there was no way I'd be attempting the same task in a hurry.
The bottom line is this: there's no point in fear mongering. What's important is awareness and education, not whether a child has access to liqueur chocolates or not. If a child really wants to try alcohol, they'll steal a beer from their parents, not take a long trip to Tesco for some very weak alcoholic chocolates.
Plus, even if they do make their way through a dozen packs in an attempt to get pissed, trust me, that will 100 percent put them off alcohol until they're legally old enough to drink.
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