Homemade hard seltzer freshly poured into stemless wine glasses
Artisanal hard seltzer with fresh citrus and garnish

What is Hard Seltzer?

Hard Seltzer is the drink that your cousin was raving about just a couple of summers ago, swearing it was the best thing since Skinny Girl martinis. Typically low-cal, or at least marketed that way, boozy seltzers such as White Claw and Truly have really come into their owns in the past decade, ever since Spiked Seltzer (now Bon & Viv) came out swinging.

In many ways, drinking them feels like adding a few drops of natural flavor to carbonated water along with some liquor. If you’re a child of the 90s, you might even feel like Hard Seltzers aren’t far off from pouring cheap Vodka into Crystal Pepsi - which is coming back, by the way, thanks to Pepsico.

While we’re on the topic of Pepsico, and in that case, Truly, since Boston Beer Company makes Truly Seltzers, both Pepsico and the Boston Beer Company have cast their lines into the ocean of money that is alternative malt liquor beverages and recently released Hard Mountain Dew.

Now that is the chef’s kiss of collabs. Unless you’re into Aperol Spritz’s, then maybe it Hard Mtn Dew doesn’t appeal to you. It might mean that hard seltzer doesn’t either. If that’s the case, enjoy the Catalina Wine Mixer!

Who is the Hard Seltzer Market competing with?

Ok, back to hard sparkling water, err, seltzer. Beyond disrupting the low-carb margarita game, we’d like to think that summertime Hard Seltzer sales really cut into the Corona and Mike’s Hard Lemonade market, as they aren’t really designed to take on Craft Beer or Hard Booze such as Tequila or Gin as an alcoholic drink. Another way of putting it is that Smirnoff isn’t really worried. Unless we’re talking about Smirnoff Ice, then maybe they should be.

Light beer, well that’s another story. We’re definitely of the belief that these slim cans of fermented cane sugar with booze were meant to appeal to the health-conscious.

And lets not forget mixed drinks. The fruity flavors are essentially pre-mixed into the drink; like a daquiri, only with far fewer calories. Remember, it’s seltzer water, but with 5% alcohol content (for the most part).

Common Flavors of Hard Seltzer

In an usual twist, it seems like the big brands experiment more in the seltzer market than small hard seltzer brands when it comes to flavors. For instance, common flavors of White Claw include, Black Cherry, Ruby Grapefruit, and Lime, whereas Bud Light trots out their Holiday Seltzer Pack and it’s a tour de force of Christmas Cheer, including Sugar Plum, Cherry Cordial and Egg Nog. No joke, Anheuser-Busch gave us Seltzer Nog.

If you were to grab a variety pack of alcoholic seltzers off the shelf of your local grocery store, you could expect to find the flavors below in most 12 and 24 packs.

Here is a list of some of the most popular crafters of said flavored malt beverage. Many craft brewers have also added seltzer to their offerings, breweries such as 603 Brewery in New Hampshire.

Health Benefits of Hard Seltzer

Are there health benefits to drinking alcohol? Perhaps yes when it comes to red wine and resveratrol. However, we’re not totally convinced that a country handful of boozy sparkling waters is going to keep you hydrated, ya know?

If the question at hand is whether or not lower calorie alcoholic beverages are healthier than higher calorie ones, then yes, it’s probably a bit healthier. This is definitely true when you get into the Triple IPA range.

At the end of the day, too many seltzer pops will give you a headache. What’s cool, pardon the pun, is that you can cool down that seltzer-induced headache with a few hard seltzer popsicles courtesy of Bud Light. Oh yeah, boozy blue raspberry freeze pops are way further down the rabbit hole of the seltzer craze than the seltzer itself.

Beer vs Hard Seltzer

There’s no way to compare beer and hard seltzer. Yes, there are gluten-free beers. Yes, many breweries are trying to approximate OJ with their pulpy IPAs, as well as other fruit flavors. But the drinks are what they are, and that is not similar.

In general, beers aren’t gluten-free. Stouts couldn’t be further from the alcoholic carbonated water of seltzer.

Wine vs Hard Seltzer

Same goes for wine. A luscious red wine would never been confused for a spiked and sparkling seltzer. Yes, the crisp German wines and other ultra-thin whites can get close to seltzer levels of easy, carefree summer sipping. But like beer, wine is wine.

Read on to learn how to open wine without a corkscrew.

Hard Alcohol vs Hard Seltzer

There are aspects of hard liquor being similar to a hard seltzer, but it’s never straight up. It centers around drinks that you’re trying to make with mixers, mixers such as club soda and tonic water. The visual similarity ends the second you add a non-clear booze to the mix.

However, the popular craze that has taken the nation over seltzers has led to an increase in the pre-made mixed cocktails that sit on the shelves of many grocery & liquor stores across the United States. These mixed bevvies are include brands Cutwater Spirits whose Gin & Tonics are actually solidly respectable.

Cider vs Hard Seltzer

Cider actually shares some similarity to seltzer in its form and texture. The fruity flavor expression of ciders (apple, cherry, pear, pumpkin, etc.) along with the carbonation make it perhaps the closest in similarity, outside of drinks made with club soda and tonic water.

FAQs

What kind of liquor is in hard seltzer?

The alcohol in hard seltzer comes (usually) from the fermentation process of turning cane sugar into alcohol. How do we know? This is the type of stuff you have time to research in the pandemic.

What is the point of hard seltzer?

The point of hard seltzer is to fit into the space between beer, wine and mixed drink. Less booze than a margarita, crisper than all but the driest white wines, and less grams of sugar than your favorite milkshake double IPA.

If you’re into Rose, you would like a Truly. If you’re down with filtering vodka over actual pineapples, letting them sit for a week, and then pouring the juice, you’d enjoy a White Claw. If you miss Zima, first, our condolences, but yeah, you’d be all in on the hard seltzer craze.

Is hard seltzer a beer?

No, hard seltzer is not a beer. Like beer, it is an alcoholic beverage with an average ABV between 4-8%. But no, it’s not beer.

What makes hard seltzer different from other drinks?

Hard Seltzer loves their slim cans, so other than Coors Light, packaging is a fairly big difference. The common perception that seltzers are good for a keto diet is probably another difference.

The fruit flavors are another difference. We can’t remember the last time we had a Citrus Yuzu Smash IPA, but it might be out there.

Is Hard Seltzer gluten-free?

Many hard seltzers are gluten-free. Each brand has their own nutritional guidelines, so be sure to inform yourself by doing a little reading of the label. Beware “malted barley”, as you may already know if you have sensitivity toward gluten.

Is Hard Seltzer low-calorie?

One of the major selling points of this type of alcohol is the emphasis on driving down the carbohydrates, and thus, the calories. In that regard, many of the best hard seltzer brands boast that they are a low-calorie option.

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