Drinks commercials have always  led the way in advertising. Here’s a Top 10 of our favourites, made in the UK, in the days before the creative genius of the advertisers was hamstrung by stricter regulations.

From the ‘Reassuringly expensive’ Stella Artois series to Castlemaine’s ‘Australians wouldn’t give a XXXX’ or Guinness’s ‘Good Things Come to Those Who Wait’, who can forget some of the drink industry’s most innovative and creative ads of the past few decades?

Stella Artois: ‘Reassuringly Expensive’

The ‘Flower Seller’ is one of a series of Stella Artois ads which used the ‘Reassuringly Expensive‘ slogan over a period of 20 years. It pulled off the adman’s great sleight of hand of turning a drawback into an advantage, and (like Carling Black Label and Castlemaine, below) relied on wit to get its message across.

The ads were known for their distinctive European cinema style, evoking such 80s classics as Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources

Tennent’s: ‘Caledonia’

One to bring a tear to the eye of exiled Scots anywhere in the world. Tennent’s Lager ‘Caledonia’ advert from 1990 ad instantly became a classic north of the border. Picture the scene – a young Scot crammed on the London tube, on his way to work in the City, overwhelmed by the noise, people and dirt. He walks through the gleaming steel and glass edifice of his office, then has some kind of personal revelation, chucks his security pass down on the desk and heads back up to Scotland, to be reunited with his mates in the pub. And a pint of frothing Tennents. Every Scotsman’s fantasy.

Cinzano “Can’t you just smell those Italian wines?”

Leonard Rossiter, star of British TV classics such as Rising Damp and Reginald Perrin, teamed up with Joan Collins to become an unlikely award-winning double act for Cinzano. A series of adverts took them on adventures around the world where Rossiter would have the chance to slip in the phrase “can’t you just smell those Italian wines, suffused with herbs and spices from four continents” before some mishap would befall Collins. This particular advert, which sees the pair sipping Cinzano on a plane, was made in 1978 when we were still in thrall to the glamour of air travel.

Guinness: ‘Good Things Come To Those Who Wait’

A new Guiness ad used to be as eagerly awaited as any Hollywood blockbuster. There were many mis-steps (who remembers the lamentable “Help for the Guin-less” series?) but the “Those who wait” films had tremendous fun with the idea that it takes up to two minutes to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. This ‘Surfer’ version has been feted as one of the finest.

Piat d’Or: The French Adore Le Piat d’Or

Despite its French name, and an ad campaign which insisted that “The French adore le Piat d’Or”, the French had actually never heard of the stuff. It was, though, a hugely successful brand in the UK, not when it was first launched in 1978, but six years later when this series hit our screens. So much so it remained in the Top 10 best selling wine list for the next 20 years.

Bacardi: ‘If You’re Drinking Bacardi’

This witty ad, which made its debut in 1990, amusingly contrasted the dreariness of life in Peckham, south London, with a more glamorous alternative in the Caribbean. It featured a group of young, tanned, linen-besuited men drinking in a beautiful beachside bar, or “Down the Dog and Duck – if you’re drinking Bacardi”, as the geezerish voiceover tells us. Running along a jetty to a waiting speedboat is “catching the last bus home”, and the gorgeously-plumaged parrot flying past is “next door’s budgie.” Today it looks sweetly innocent.


Castlemaine XXXX

A pair of Aussie larrikins are driving through the godforsaken outback in a racketty pickup, the back piled high with beer. There’s a woman on the back too – obviously the wife of one of the blokes – barely keeping her footing on the jolting flatbed. Crossing a gorge, the bridge’s timbers give way and the pickup is left hanging over the void, Italian Job-style. The lady takes stock of the situation. “Reckon we’ll be ok if we lose some weight off the back,” she shouts through the window. The blokes look at each other. “She’s game, your missus,” one says. As priceless then as it is now.

Cointreau: ‘The Ice Melts’

Surely one of the cheesiest drinks ads ever, featuring an archetypal smoothie Frenchman chatting up a glacial Brit, with Cointreau proving the social lubricant, so to speak. The hammed-up French accent only adds to the charm.

Budweiser: Wassup

Not just a funny advert, but one that created a new catchphrase that caught on both sides of the Atlantic. On the face of it not a lot of happens in this Budweiser commercial other than two mates chatting on the phone, lying on their sofas. Before their friends join in on other lines all greeted with the same “Wassup” line. The rest is cultural history.

Carling Black Label: Dambusters

There are so many things to treasure in this minute-long gem. The German guard’s sandwich. His expression as he sees the bouncing bombs hurtling towards him. His inspired, insouciant goalkeeping. The affectionate send-up of a British classic. The chaps in the plane squawking into their headsets, and the double punchline, for which this series became famous. Rightly considered one of the best drinks ads of all time – an accolade in no way diminished by the fact that it’s selling an insipid canned lager that any right-thinking beer aficionado wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.


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