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Over the last five years, hard seltzer has gone from a bubbly upstart to a category juggernaut, sold at grocery stores, bars, and sports stadiums far and wide. Hard seltzers appealed to customers looking for lower-calorie alcoholic beverages that still delivered big flavor and refreshment, one slim 100-calorie can after another.
It’s a tried-and-true template that can make it tough to tell hard seltzers apart, a fizzy blur of boozy water flavored with black cherry or grapefruit. However, not all hard seltzers are created equally. Some favor real fruit juice or organic ingredients, while other brands look to cocktails or exotic fruits for flavorful inspiration.
To help you make sense of the effervescent offerings, here are the best hard seltzers to drink right now.
Best Overall: Quirk Spiked & Sparkling Seltzers
It’s tough to stand out in a sea of similar hard seltzers, bubbles and translucent liquids as far as the eyes can see. But Neil Fisher, the head brewer and a founder of WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley, Colo., has a clear winner in mind: Boulevard Brewing Company's line of Quirk Spiked & Sparkling Seltzers, which stands out “as the benchmark for everyone else to chase.”
The flavor combinations are unexpected, such as Pear Yuzu and Blackberry Sage, and uncommonly delicious due to the use of real fruit. The clincher is the carbonation level. “It’s the only hard seltzer I’ve tried that gets anywhere close to the carb of traditional seltzers, which is my biggest critique of nearly everything else on the shelf," says Fisher. "My only gripe with Quirk is that it hasn’t made its way to Colorado yet.”
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Best Keto-Friendly: Upslope Spiked Snowmelt
If you’re looking for a flavorful hard seltzer and to limit your carbohydrate intake, “Upslope’s Spiked Snowmelt is hands down the one to beat,” says Fisher. The Boulder, Colo. brewery’s baseline of hard seltzers features just 2 grams of carbs and sugar each per 12-ounce serving, “rivaling the fruit character of seltzers with three to four times as many net carbs,” says Fisher.
The unique flavor combinations, sold in a variety 12-pack, includes Juniper & Lime, Tangerine & Hops, and Fisher’s favorite, Pomegranate & Açaí Berry. Upslope also partnered with Boulder sports nutrition company Skratch Labs on an electrolyte-infused series of hard seltzers made with the company’s Hydration Drink Mix.
Best Low-Calorie: Corona Hard Seltzer
Among the many mass-market breweries entering the hard seltzer race, Zach Mack, a beer writer and owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City, finds Corona’s 90-calorie hard seltzer to be the best. “It’s the only release I’ve had that doesn’t have the dull, aspartame-like, faux-sweet finish that makes my stomach drop a little bit after every sip,” he says.
Corona's hard seltzers also contain zero carbs and sugar, and the lively flavors—Mango, Tropical Lime—“are all executed in a way that makes them inoffensive, if not perfectly enjoyable," says Mack.
Best Spicy: Press Premium Blood Orange Chili
Heat-seeking fans of hard seltzers will love Press' properly spicy Blood Orange Chili. The 110-calorie offering does not skimp on the Scoville units, mixing fragrant citrus with nose-prickling peppery spice. It’s a balance of heat and subtle sweetness, while simultaneously remaining refreshing. The flavor variant would also be terrific topped off with a splash of tequila or vodka.
Best with Vodka: High Noon Sun Sips Seltzer
Forget fermented sugar—the 100-calorie High Noon Sun Sips are made with vodka blended with sparkling water and fruit juice. This gives “it a very different flavor from the majority of products on the market,” says Kate Levenstien, the CEO and founder of Cannonball Productions, which produces the first nationally touring Seltzerland festivals. The crowd-pleasing flavors include Watermelon, Peach, Pineapple, Grapefruit and Lime.
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Best for Seltzer Fans: Arctic Chill Weekender
No hard seltzers taste as close to the booze-free original as Arctic Chill. The collaboration between Mass Bay, the parent company of Harpoon, and the family-run Polar Seltzer company blends Polar’s popular flavors, such as Pineapple Pomelo and Ruby Red Grapefruit, with a 100-calorie alcohol base. “The flavors are honed in just right and the carbonation is really on point, making them taste more like an earnest effort and less like a company chasing sales figures,” says Mack. Levenstien is also a fan, adding that the hard seltzers are “very drinkable without being too sweet."
Best Fruited: Willie’s Superbrew Mango & Passionfruit
Willie’s Superbrew is super transparent about its ingredients, listing the percentage of actual fruit juice used in each of their seltzers. According to Mack, using real fruit instead makes varieties such as Blueberry & Lemon and Pineapple & Lime “drink more like an on-the-fly, low-alcohol cocktail than it does a can of artificially flavored soda water.” He personally loves all the flavors, but often gravitates toward the Mango & Passionfruit “because it tastes like a beach day in a can.”
Best Rosé: Smirnoff 4 Ways to Rosé
You can drink rosé hard seltzers all day thanks to this Smirnoff mixed pack. It contains a quartet of takes on the popular pink-hued wine: Pink Apple, Strawberry, Raspberry and White Peach. The 90-calorie spiked seltzers have zero sugar and just 1 gram of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving, making these rosé-inspired seltzers a great low-calorie option as well.
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Best Cocktail-Inspired: Beaches Hard Seltzer Cocktail Inspired
Cocktail fans, take note: Earlier this year, Superfluid Supply, the alternative-beverage division of Michigan’s Short’s Brewing, released Beaches Hard Seltzer Cocktail Variety Pack—four cocktail-inspired hard seltzers. The 95-calorie, zero-sugar Margarita, Mojito, Paloma, and Piña Colada flavors are “amazing,” says Levenstien. “They are delicious and make you feel like you’re at your favorite beach...even if that beach is actually your couch.”
Best Organic: Maha Organic Hard Seltzer
The Sanskrit word “maha” means “great,” a fine adjective to describe this hard seltzer that’s made with certified organic ingredients including malted barley, cascara, and fruit juices such as black cherry and raspberry. Maha is also designed with athletes in mind, and each variety includes a proprietary mix of vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Best Black Cherry: White Claw Hard Seltzer
It seems that every hard seltzer company has a black cherry variety, but White Claw remains the undisputed champion. This is, not surprisingly, White Claw's most popular flavor, and as they claim on their site, a great introduction to their line of flavors, all 100 calories and 5% alcohol.
This Black Cherry seltzer balances the tartness of a plump cherry with a sprinkle of sweetness, creating a flavorful template that many brands try to replicate.
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Joshua M. Bernstein is a veteran journalist specializing in beer, spirits, food, travel, and other intoxicating ways of the world. He regularly writes for The New York Times, Men’s Journal, New York magazine, Wine Enthusiast and Imbibe, where he’s a contributing editor in charge of beer coverage. Bernstein is also the author of five books: "Brewed Awakening," "The Complete Beer Course," "Complete IPA," "Homebrew World" and "Drink Better Beer." He loves drinking crisp pilsners and all things lager.