Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to determine the features of alcopops which make them attractive to Australian adolescents, which features are most important in determining choice of ready-to-drinks (RTDs) over other alcoholic drinks, and whether these vary by age and gender. Design/methodology/approach – Mixed methods study. Participants in Study 1 (focus groups) were 72 adolescents aged 12-17 from New South Wales, Australia; four groups each from Sydney (metropolitan area), Wollongong (regional) and Dubbo (rural); and in Study 2 (survey), 1,263 adolescents aged 12-17 recruited through schools, mall intercepts, and online. Findings – The predominant factor influencing preference for alcopops across both genders was taste, followed by alcohol strength and cost, although the association between price and choice was complex. Convenience was an important factor, including ease of carrying and concealing, as was the physical appearance (particularly for younger drinkers). Non-drinkers and experimental drinkers reported that advertising was a key influencer. Practical implications – These results elaborate on previous research, indicating that alcopops are appealing to young people for a number of reasons (including taste, cost and alcohol strength), many of which differ in importance depending on age and gender. Given that advertising was found to be a key factor in the preference for alcopops, alcohol-related media literacy education may help young people to resist these harmful persuasive messages. Originality/value – This study goes beyond previous research into the role of taste preferences to explore the complexity of reasons for adolescents' alcohol consumption. In doing so, this research provides the basis for future educational and policy interventions.