Hard Seltzers: What’s The Buzz About?

Looking for a lighter, healthier alcoholic drink? Well, say hello to the newest trend in the alcohol world: hard seltzer!

With few calories, barely any sugar and free of gluten, hard seltzer is the perfect drink of choice for fitness conscious people or anyone else looking for that alternative “healthy” happy hour drink of choice.

Health-conscious consumers appear to be really loving Hard Seltzers. Part of this may be due to the health halo that surrounds a seltzer drink that’s marketed as refreshing, low-calorie, low-carb, and gluten-free.

What makes hard seltzer different from other clear carbonated beverages is the unique type of alcohol in it. Unlike a vodka soda or gin and tonic, the alcohol in most hard seltzer brands come from fermented sugars. So, when you crack open a bottle of seltzer, you’re just drinking fermented sweetened seltzer– and that could be a good thing for your health and waistline! 

The Rise Of Hard Seltzers

More than a quarter of Americans are looking to “consume alcohol beverages made with wellness in mind,” according to a Nielsen data report, which has inspired the creation of a new segment in the alcohol industry called “better-than” drinks. 

Hard seltzers, which started to appear on store shelves in 2013, quickly appealed to the health-conscious. The drinks are frequently sugar- and gluten-free, with around 100 calories or less that offer consumers a way to drink with clearer consciences. 

In 2018, alcohol-infused seltzer sales grew about 169 percent, to nearly $487.8 million, while volumes increased 181 percent, according to a January Nielsen report. The category now makes up 1.3 percent of the total beer category dollar share. Meanwhile, beer sales have flattened out, with category-wide dollar sales growing only 0.7 percent.

Clearly, this bubbly drink has taken over parties in the past years and is definitely seen as a lighter, healthier alcoholic drink. The portability of the canned or bottled libations also makes them an easy option for the summer. Plus, they can also add some sparkle and extra potency to cocktails.

Now that more brands are getting in the game, are these drinks any good? To find out, we decided to find out which are the best hard seltzer brands on store shelves. Here, we’ve rounded up 6 of our favorites, all of which are gluten-free, low-sugar, and big on taste.

1. White Claw

white claw hard seltzer image

ABV: 5%

Calories: 100 per 12 oz. 

White Claw isn’t just one of the best hard seltzer brands out there; it’s also the first. This seltzer is the one that started it all—and yes, it’s good enough to start a wave of copycats as a result. For that reason alone, it’s hard to imagine a list that doesn’t involve White Claw on it.

The brand uses a proprietary brewing process that uses fermented sugar, and a yeast strain that took more than a year to develop. No malt is used, but there is a bit of fruit juice and cane sugar added to the final product. It comes in black cherry, ruby grapefruit, raspberry, and natural lime flavors.

Also, their newest addition is their Pure Hard Seltzer (5% ABV), the first plain hard seltzer on the market, has a refreshing clean taste and clocks in at zero grams of sugar and carbs. It’s also perfect for adding your own flavor twist.

2. Truly Spiked & Sparkling Water

TRULY spiked & sparkling water

ABV: 5%

Calories: 100 per 12 oz. can

This is the most seltzer-like of all the hard seltzers—it would be easy to miss the alcohol in it, though it has a very slight after taste. The flavors are a bit more posh—including Colima Lime, Pomegranate, Sicilian Blood orange, and Grapefruit & Pomelo.

This drink is a standout with a scent that’s so fresh it almost smells like real fruit. The fact they can do this and come in at 100 calories and still pack a five percent alcohol-by-volume makes it pretty impressive.  

If you love seltzers that tiptoe close to being cocktails with a lighter, carbonated kick, you’re going to see why Truly Spiked is so popular almost instantly. It doesn’t need to be hard on your waistline making it a guiltless indulgence for dieters who just want a little buzz.

3. Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer

bon & viv spiked seltzer

ABV: 4.5%

Calories: 90 per 12 oz. can

BON & VIV Spiked Seltzer is naturally flavored and again– gluten-free. It contains 0 grams of sugar and is 4.5% alcohol. Each drink is made from purified water and the cold-pressed citrus essence taken from a variety of natural fruits. Flavors include Black Cherry Rosemary, Hibiscus Clementine, and Pear Elderflower.

It smells a little cough syrupy, but the flavors (like the Cherry Rosemary) helps mitigate that. For its taste, the flavor is very seltzer-ish, with no perceptible alcohol. Very big carbonation washes the taste away almost as soon as you can grab at it; sort of tastes like sweet spa water.  

Further, If you’re watching calories, Spiked Seltzer’s flavors might be one of your best options. With only 90 calories per 12 oz can, these carbonated cans are truly worth sipping. The result is clean and clear without the sugary sweetness of wine or the heaviness of beer. 

4. Henry’s Hard

Henry's hard sparkling water

ABV: 4.2%

Calories: 88 per 12 oz. serving; 106 per 16 oz. can

Henry’s Hard also ranks as one of the best hard seltzer companies to delve into both classic and exotic seltzer flavors alike. However, the real perk here is the fact that they are ultra-low calorie. In fact, coming in at just 88 calories, Henry’s Sparkling Water is the lowest cal drink on this list. 

Another stand-out stat for Henry’s? It’s 4.2 percent ABV, which is on the lower end of most alcoholic drinks, making it a good go-to for when you’re not in the mood to get too tipsy.

How about the taste? This refreshing seltzer has a nicely-balanced, sweet and tangy taste. Several tasters likened this to a shandy—and one taster labeled it “a less sweet version of Sprite.” This seltzer’s strongest quality was its subtle hint of lemon, which kept it from being overly sweet. 

5. Nauti

Nauti hard seltzer

ABV: 4.5%

Calories: 100 per 12 oz. can

This malt beverage from Wachusett Brewing Company had more of an “artificial” taste than the others, with a stronger alcoholic kick if that’s what you’re going for. Nauti was the mildest in terms of carbonation, scoring low on the bubble-strength scale. 

Additionally, it left mouths with what felt like a sugary film. In four fun and fresh flavors—black cherry, blueberry lemonade, mixed berry, and watermelon—you can’t go wrong. 

People who want to get a little naughty on their diet would probably find Nauti to be one of the best hard seltzer brands on this list. However, only those who dislike the taste of hard alcohol will be the ones who enjoy this brand’s flavor the most. 

6. Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer

ABV: 4.5%

Calories: 90 per 12 oz.

Yes, the classic vodka company also boasts one of the best hard seltzer brands to hit the mainstream too.

Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Water is described as “balanced” with a “slight alcoholic aftertaste.” The purified malt beverage has been “crafted to remove gluten.” While there isn’t any sugar or artificial sweeteners, the final product is the sweetest of all the options—it tastes more like a low-key soda than a seltzer. But that’s not a bad thing if you think about its 90-calorie count.

Its flavor proved lightly fruity and not too sweet, making it a crowd-pleaser for the majority of drinkers. They’re available in cranberry lime, orange mango, raspberry rosé, berry lemonade, and watermelon.

The real big perk here, aside from the classic Smirnoff flavor style, is the fact that it’s done by a company that makes it easy to find them in almost any liquor store. 

Summary

One of the best ways to quench your thirst without derailing your diet is called hard seltzer, or alcoholic sparkling water, or boozy seltzer—and it’s fizzy, fruity, and much lower in calories and carbs than beer.

Hard seltzer is the newest, trendiest thing on the market. Its popularity comes from the fact that it’s an alcoholic beverage that gets you buzzed, has low carb counts, and still manages to taste crisp and refreshing. It’s no wonder hard seltzer is so dang popular! 

As many people claim, you can never go wrong with hard seltzer. Whether you’re hosting a BBQ on your rooftop or simply kickin’ it with your cat, it’s a really refreshing way to cool off when the summer heat is in full force. So, get started on trying some of these — the flavor options are endless.


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