In the alcohol industry they are known as RTDs (ready to drink) or FABs (Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages). These drinks, such as alcoholic lemonade, tend to be sweet, served in small bottles (typically 200ml), and around 5% alcohol by volume.
These drinks emerged onto the market in the mid 1990s with the launch of Two Dogs and Hoopers, both alcoholic lemonade drinks made in Australia. Many more have followed, as the drinks became increasingly popular, especially with younger people.
Some parts of the media expressed intense concern that such drinks might appeal to children as they tend to be sweet and brightly coloured. Many advertising campaigns have been criticised as trying to make alcopops appeal to young drinkers. Some now carry a warning stating that they are not for consumption by minors (under 18 in the UK). Other sweet, alcoholic beverages that had been around for years, such as cider and wine coolers, escaped this concern, perhaps because they were not marketed to young people.
In repsonse to this widespread criticism, the inductry set up the Portman Group in an effort to "self police" such matters.
While the amount of beer being sold worldwide has dropped drastically, the sale of alcopops has taken off dramatically. This is thought to be because the sweetness of alcopops appeals to younger drinkers more readily than the taste of wine or beer, and are less detectable on the drinker's breath.
In the United States, these beverages are called malternative drinks.