If you’re looking for a new drink option—beyond beer and hard cider—to stash in the cooler at your next party, hard seltzer may fit the bill. These boozy sparklers are easier to tote than a batch of Vodka Sodas, and their low calorie counts make them an appealing choice for that friend who’s always on a diet.
With the popularity of easy-drinking cocktails like spritzes running concurrently with the flavored water craze, it was only a matter of time before these trends merged into a single, sparkling, spiked beverage. And, sure enough, now you can choose from dozens of boozy bubbly waters. But four pioneering brands were first on the scene: BON V!V Spiked Seltzer, Nauti Seltzer, Truly Hard Sparkling and White Claw Hard Seltzer.
Each of these four brands produce multiple flavors of clear, spiked seltzer waters that are low in calories, lightly sweet and gently fruity. As the category grows, so does distribution. Nauti is mostly available in the northeast, but the other brands are easy to find on shelves around the country. When you pick up a can, be sure to thank it for helping to create one of the fastest-growing beverage categories in the country.
BON V!V Spiked Seltzer is made from purified water, champagne yeast and natural fruit flavors. It clocks in at a mild 4.5% alcohol, or about the same as a medium-strength beer. Each can is only 90 calories, but they don’t sacrifice flavor to get there, so if you really want to taste the fruit, this is the brand to buy. And if you do buy it, you’ll have several flavors at your disposal. Citrus lovers will like Lemon-Lime’s pleasantly tart flavor, while the Grapefruit option has a sweet citrus flavor that fans of Fresca or Squirt will recognize. Clementine-Hibiscus features a unique and mildly floral flavor, plus more sweetness than the others in the lineup. Cranberry has a very strong sweet-sour note, like SweetTarts candy, and other flavors worth sampling include Black Cherry, Mango and Coconut-Pineapple.
Hailing from Massachusetts, Nauti is the only grain-based drink of the bunch. (Good news for gluten-averse drinkers: The other three seltzers use a sugar distillate as their base.) The grain gives this one a distinctive beer-like aftertaste, and if you miss that old-school Zima flavor, Nauti is your jam. Black Cherry and Mixed Berry are your fruitiest options, while Watermelon is light, refreshing and hydrating. Raspberry-Lime has a pleasant sour kick that should appeal to those who like sour beers and ciders. Note that Nauti is the most regional of this bunch, so if you’re not in New England or New York, it can be difficult to find.
Truly is the most aromatic of the four featured brands, although its strong nose doesn’t always translate to flavor on the palate. Paleo diet adherents will like that Truly boasts just two grams of carbs per serving. Truly regularly puts out new flavors, and consumers might find as many as a dozen options on the shelf. But a few classics include Lime, Pineapple, Wild Berry and Blueberry-Acai. The Lime is crisp, refreshing and the best option for anyone wanting a simpler drink. The Pineapple is sweet and tropical. Wild Berry is full of juicy California strawberries, raspberries and Marion blackberries, while Blueberry-Acai is equally tart and sweet.
White Claw is the biggest, baddest of the bunch in terms of market share, so it’s the hard seltzer that you’re most likely to find in all corners of the country. The brand’s range of flavors is extensive, from Natural Lime, Lemon and Ruby Grapefruit to Black Cherry, Mango and Watermelon. Each is just 100 calories and two grams of carbs per 12-ounce can. The Natural Lime and Lemon flavors feature mild sweetness against a mostly neutral background, so if you want a flavor for mixing, they’re your best bet. Mango, Black Cherry, Ruby Grapefruit and Mango veer toward the sweeter side of the spectrum, but still maintain a refreshing nature that quenches your thirst on a hot day.