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Before we see any retrospectives of the year try to preemptively declare this the “summer of [blank]”, let’s set the record straight — this is undeniably the summer of hard seltzer. Yes, tinto de verano is having a moment with the NYT posting their viral recipe (here’s our fave canned version if you don’t want to make your own), and yes, it was the summer of hard seltzer last year, too. But it seems we’ve all emerged from a tough three years ready to once again embrace the light, crisp, and fresh flavors of spiked sparkling water.
Long gone are the days when White Claw was the only name in town—in fact, over the past few years, the best hard seltzers have exploded in popularity, bringing forth tons of convenient alternatives to those who want something lighter on the alcohol by volume (and calories) then say, a heavy IPA or shot-loaded cocktail.
Ideal for leisurely sipping on the beach, or throwing back at a BBQ and still maintaining a conversation, the best hard seltzers stick to around 90-150 calories for one 12 oz. can, but also tend to only fall around 4.5-8 percent ABV (so you’re not wasted after one drink).
Buy Best Hard Seltzer Brands $16.99+
You can also shop many of the best hard seltzer brands online these days, with everyone from Amazon to Drizly delivering cases to your door. No need to run to a liquor store only to find your favorite hard seltzer brand sold out.
We’re loathe to call them trendy, but with everyone and their mother releasing a new hard seltzer (see: this SNL sketch), brands are getting pretty creative with the simple malt beverage and bubbly water: there’s wine spritzer-esque seltzers, spiked iced tea seltzers, hard smoothieseltzers, and we don’t think it’ll be long before there’s a hard craft beer seltzer at this point. But with a flood of spiked seltzer flooding in, how do you choose? We’ve rounded up our favorite lightly-flavored, gently bubbling beverages so you can pick your flavor of the summer.
1. Flying Embers
One of the new players in the spiked seltzer trend, you can’t go wrong with Flying Embers‘ bubbly — this is the graduate school of seltzers, moving on to a more elevated taste after leaving your old-school days of Mike’s Hard Lemonade behind (who also, coincidentally, now offer a hard seltzer lemonade).
The carbonation here is almost as light as champagne, which makes sense, since Flying Embers has a unique fermentation process using champagne yeast mixed. They’re most well-known for their hard kombuchas, but all of their seltzers are naturally-flavored, with a crisp, clean taste that is particularly bubbly-forward. You won’t get the same level of sweetness here as some of the mass-appeal brands like Corona or Bud Light’s forays into the seltzer wars. But their flavors are super refined, with offerings like passionfruit elderflower, clementine hibiscus, and watermelon chili.
Their flavor combinations in the Flying Embers “” variety pack are also particularly sophisticated and almost cocktail-like (including a Gin and Tonic-inspired flavor, made with juniper and zesty black lime peel). With just 95 calories and 5% ABV, Flying Embers knows how to keep it as light and refreshing as if you were on your own private island.
Buy Flying Embers Variety Pack $28.49
2. Nude Hard Seltzer
BEST NEW HARD SELTZER
There’s no better feeling than going nude for summer — at least when it comes to what you’re drinking. We love the offerings from new Canadian-based brand, Nude, which taste like ultra-premium La Croix, with just the right amount of fizz and flavor and just the right buzz (I.e. no sugar-induced hangovers here). Everything is made from all-natural ingredients (think raspberry, peach, lemon and lime) and each can comes in at 100 calories, with 0 carbs, while being 100% vegan, keto-friendly, sugar, and sweetener-free.
Nude’s fittingly simply cans look right at home in your fridge or cooler and are an elevated take on hard seltzers, with no need for unnecessary branding that scream “PARTY TIME.” This is a hard seltzer you can sip at a party, sure, but also a great drink to crack open as you wind down your day at work or want a refreshing pick-me-up after a day on the golf course or tennis courts. Nude also makes Hard Iced Teas and vodka sodas too.
Buy Nude Hard Seltzer 6-Pack $10.99
3. Nütrl Vodka Seltzer
Looking for a way to replace your standard summer bar order of a vodka soda? Nütrl’s vodka-based (rather than malt-based) seltzer feels like a club cocktail you could serve in a red solo cup, or in an ice-filled tasting glass — we mean this in the best way possible.
Nütrl’s seltzer aims to focus on simple vodka, blended with sparkling water and then mixed with real fruit juice. Emphasis on the fruitiness here, because these seltzers smell and taste remarkably flavorful (especially the pineapple and watermelon flavors). We wouldn’t even consider put them in the same category as some other seltzer — this is pretty much a light mixed drink, but still at just 100 calories and 4.5% ABV.
It also just feels heavier than other seltzers on our list, which is great when you’re looking for a drink that doesn’t just taste like a hint of a hint of a hint of fruit. It’s just as refreshing though, with tart, sweet flavors like classic and strawberry lemonade. You don’t have to flag down a bartender to crack open one of Nütrl’s cocktail-like seltzers, though.
Buy Nütrl Vodka Hard Seltzer Variety Pack… $16.49
4. Casalú Rum Seltzer
You can throw a stone and hit seltzers a-plenty made from vodka or tequila, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any rum-based varieties — enter Casalú, a very necessary “tropicalation” of hard seltzer. Coming from a Cuban household myself, I can tell you that rum’s the spirit of choice in many Latino countries, and Casalú (a mashup of the words “casa” and “salú” — a casual way of saying “welcome to our home”) aims to share that culture and break the norms of what a hard seltzer can be.
If you’re ready to graduate from pounding back Cuba Libres, Casalú’s first flavor “Limón” is an excellent alternative, crafted with dark aged rum, a hint of limón, sparkling water, and agave. With a smooth and refreshing taste, the seltzer delivers the perfect amount of buzz at 5.9% ABV without getting cloyingly sweet or taking you to “hangover regret” city. So kick back en la playa or con tu gente, crack open a can (or two), and disfrútalo — like most things in our community, Casalú is an experience meant to be shared.
Buy Casalú Rum Hard Seltzer $9.99
5. HaiBall Whiskey Seltzer
HaiBall had some beef with proliferation of “flavored” hard seltzers, so what did they do? The madlads went and spiked sparkling water with five aged whiskies: 17 YO Single Malt Scotch, High Proof Bourbon, 3 YO American Rye Whiskey, 12 YO Blended Scotch Whisky, 10 YO Japanese Whisky, and a hint of 8-year-old Peated Scotch. Phew. Capturing the delicate art of the Japanese in a can, we can confidently say HaiBall is a superiorand more mature-feeling alternative to all the sweetened malt beverages out there.
Don’t get me wrong, cans like Mike’s Hard have their time and place (the time being the mid-2010s and the place being smuggled onto the Jersey Shore), but HaiBall is a seltzer tailored to perfection at 5.9% ABV — cherry-pick barrels juices blended with near-obsessive care. You taste the oakiness and sweet vanilla of Bourbon right off the bat, then the spiciness of Rye, with just a hint of Scottish smoke to round out the palette. Complex yet unfussy, layered yet refreshing, and dare we even say a little sexy, these are what you break out when the in laws come over but you don’t want to play at being Tom Cruise in Bartender.
Buy HaiBall Whiskey Seltzer $29
6. Ficks Craft Hard Seltzers
Ficks wants you to join the “Farm to Fizz” movement—which is just another way to say that craft and independent local breweries have seen the seltzer light and are coming for the summertime market.
Crafted in California’s wine country, Ficks not only locally sources ingredients, but their drinks are just packed with full-bodied fruit flavored. You get that unmistakable punch of real fruit because of their cold-pressing process (similar to juicing) for flavors like blackberry, cranberry, grapefruit, and lime. All are as fragrant as if they were just picked off the vine, but with enough zest and bubbly tang that they embody the best of what spiked seltzers have to offer.
Skipping the malt liquor was a good move here, as the fermented orange juice base combined from other ingredients really lets the sweeter flavor profiles shine without becoming too cloying or artificial. Like a boozier juice box, at 5% ABV and a mere 100 calories, drinking one of these feels like a less pretentious ride through wine country. Although, this would still pair well with a cheese board.
Buy Ficks Hard Seltzer Variety Pack $19.99
7. SUNBOY Spiked Coconut Water
Coconut-based drinks are a funny thing. Go too light on the coconut, and it can feel like you’re drinking a weaksauce health beverage. Too heavy, and you’re essentially chugging sunscreen. SUNBOY’s coconut water-based canned bevvy is the Goldilocks of seltzers — sippable, refreshing, and hydrating enough to not forecast a hangover in your future.
“You’ll thank us tomorrow morning”, is Sunboy’s motto, and when you crack it open, you’ll taste why. Spiked coconut water rich in electrolytes and just a squeeze of real pineapple juice combine to make a drink with 80% less sugar and calories than a standard cocktail. Like a lighter-weight piña colada at 5% ABV and 130-150 calories, it’s meant to be not too sweet, but still satisfy the craving for some thing tropical-tasting (pineapple is the best out of the other two flavors, passionfruit and tangerine).
We’re still skeptical on hard seltzer’s ability to pass as a good-for-you beverage (see Maha above), but when you’re out in the hot summer sun for an entire afternoon, more hydration is always more. For sessionable poolside sipping, Sunboy should be your go-to.
Buy Sunboy Spiked Coconut Water $14.99+
8. Lunar Hard Seltzer
Guys, seltzer reallydoesn’t have to be boring, we promise. Lunar is the first Asian craft hard seltzer brand using traditional Asian flavors like lychee, yuzu and Korean plum, and they all taste as real as real gets.
But this isn’t your cliche lychee martini — the seltzer is light and refreshing, with subtle flavors rather than artificial and overpowering ‘natural flavors’ so often added after the fact. Everything from the fermented, sweet Korean plum syrup, to the aromatic lychee puree reminiscent of lychee jelly cups are sourced directly from Asian countries.
These recipes were tested and retested again and again, and though they stay in the usual range of 4.7% ABV as other seltzer, using premium ingredients means these seltzers are going to have “real calories (120), and a touch of real sugar”. This is probably your favorite chef or tastemaker’s favorite seltzer.
If you can get your hands on it, try the “Teresa Teng,” a collaboration with the team behind Taiwanese restaurant Win Son in NYC and named after the celebrated Taiwanese singer who your parents likely grew up listening to.
Buy Lunar Hard Seltzer $14.99+
White Claw is the quintessential hard seltzer brand, with many people treating White Claw as a synonym for hard seltzers in general.What is the hard seltzer of Summer 2023? ›
1. MIKE'S HARD LEMONADE SELTZER PINEAPPLE. Number one on the list is Mike's Pineapple. You can get pineapple flavors in the Harder variety, too.What are the most popular alcoholic seltzers? ›
- 1 Mike's Hard Lemonade Seltzer Pineapple37%
- 2 White Claw Iced Tea Mango36%
- 3 Blue Moon Light Sky34%
- 4 Truly Passion Fruit34%
- 5 Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer33%
- 6 White Claw Hard Seltzer33%
- 7 Truly Hard Seltzer32%
White Claw is the best selling hard seltzer.Is hard seltzer healthier than beer? ›
Benefits of Choosing Hard Seltzer
It tends to have fewer calories and less sugar than mixed drinks, beer, or hard cider. Most hard seltzers have about 100 calories and 2 grams of carbohydrates in a 12-ounce can. In contrast, a beer of about the same size has about 150 calories and 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates.
While every person has a different level of alcohol tolerance, it is unlikely to get drunk off one can of Truly. A can of Truly hard seltzer only has 5% ABV and one can of the drink typically raises your blood alcohol concentration by 0.02% BAC. To be considered legally drunk, you have to have 0.08 BAC.What are the new White Claw flavors in 2023? ›
White Claw's newest drinks in 2023
Beyond the straightforward vodka product, White Claw is also releasing White Claw Flavored Vodka in mango, black cherry, and pineapple flavors. Whereas the original product has 40% alcohol by volume, the flavored vodka contains 30% ABV.
A greater percentage of Millennials consumed each of the following types of alcoholic beverages: spirits, 47%; beer, 45%; wine, 45%; hard seltzer, 39%; craft beer, 37%; and canned cocktails, 29%, than Gen Xers and Baby boomers. Between 39 and 43% of Gen Xers consumed spirits, beer, and/or, and wine.Are seltzers better for you than hard liquor? ›
Although they have lower calories than most other alcoholic beverages, they aren't truly “healthy,” despite advertising suggesting so. As with all other alcoholic drinks, patients should be advised that hard seltzers are best enjoyed in moderation.How many seltzers for a buzz? ›
Generally speaking, a person who weighs around 130 lbs should consume between 2-3 cans of the seltzer in order to begin feeling the effects of intoxication. For someone who weighs 170 lbs, the number may increase to 3-4 cans.
Sales of hard seltzer declined 5.5% in the last year, according to data from NielsenIQ, a market research firm.What hard seltzer has vodka in it? ›
White Claw is not the first major alcohol brand to bring a popular hard seltzer product into vodka. Last October, Boston Beer launched Truly Vodka Seltzer, made with six-times-distilled premium vodka and real fruit juice.Which state sells the most White Claw? ›
The Buckeye state loves its Claws.Is truly hard seltzer better than White Claw? ›
Truly wins here with five percent ABV, which is the same as their original hard seltzer. White Claw's Vodka + Soda is only four and a half percent—that's less than what they offer with their classic lineup. The biggest difference, however, between the two from a nutrition standpoint is the amount of carbs per serving.Is truly or White Claw more popular? ›
Sales in 2020 more than doubled the previous year's. White Claw is still king, but by July 2021, 150-plus brands of hard seltzer were available in the United States: Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors stocked stores with seltzerized offshoots of Bud Light, Natty Light, and Coors Light.Which hard seltzer has the most alcohol in it? ›
Several brands have introduced spiked seltzers at varying alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages. Four Loko's seltzers have the highest alcohol content at 12% with Mighty Swell next at 5%. Michelob Ultra and Press spiked seltzer are both 4% ABV.What was the first hard seltzer brand? ›
The History of Hard Seltzer
The first real hard seltzer brand was made in 1993 by Coors when they introduced Zima, which is no longer in production today. R.I.P Zima; we barely knew you.
- Henry's Hard Sparkling Water.
- Canteen Watermelon Vodka Soda. ...
- Coors Seltzer. ...
- Vista Bay Hard Seltzer. ...
- Arctic Chill Ruby Red Grapefruit. ...
- High Noon Sun Sips. ...
- Polar Seltzer Artic Summer. ...
- Good Company Hard Seltzer Peach. ...