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Best Overall: Quirk Spiked & Sparkling Seltzers at Drizly
The flavor combinations are unexpected, such as Pear Yuzu and Blackberry Sage, and uncommonly delicious due to the use of real fruit.
Best Low Carb: Flying Embers Hard Seltzer at Drizly
Featuring piquant flavors like Pineapple Cayenne, the Flying Embers line includes dry-fermented seltzers with 0 grams of carbohydrates.
Best Low-Calorie: Corona Hard Seltzer at Drizly
Corona's hard seltzers contain zero carbs and sugar with lively flavors like Mango and Tropical Lime.
Best Spicy: Press Premium Blood Orange Chili at Drizly
The 110-calorie offering does not skimp on the Scoville units, mixing fragrant citrus with nose-prickling peppery spice.
Best with Vodka: High Noon Sun Sips Seltzer at Drizly
Forget fermented sugar—the 100-calorie High Noon Sun Sips are made with vodka blended with sparkling water and fruit juice.
Best for Seltzer Fans: Arctic Chill Weekender at Drizly
These blend Polar’s popular flavors, such as Pineapple Pomelo and Ruby Red Grapefruit, with a 100-calorie alcohol base.
Best Fruited: Willie’s Superbrew Mango & Passionfruit at Drizly
Willie’s Superbrew is super transparent about its ingredients, listing the percentage of actual fruit juice used in each of their seltzers.
Best Rosé: Decoy Premium Seltzer Rosé with Black Cherry at Drizly
This wine-based rosé seltzer integrates the tart, earthy flavor of black cherry for a well-rounded taste that belies the slim 80-calorie tally.
Best Cocktail-Inspired: Beaches Hard Seltzer Cocktail Inspired at Drizly
They are delicious and make you feel like you’re at your favorite beach.
Best Organic: Maha Organic Hard Seltzer at Drizly
Each variety includes a proprietary mix of vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Best Black Cherry: Vizzy Black Cherry Lime Hard Seltzer at Instacart
The flavor that defined a category gets an update with the addition of bright, lively lime.
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.”
Best Low Carb: Flying Embers Hard Seltzer
A company originally known for their kombucha, Flying Embers is a recent entry to the seltzer game and has distinguished itself through the use of natural ingredients and processes, such as fermenting their seltzers with champagne yeasts. Their dry fermentation method results in a finished product with zero sugar and zero carbs—about as Keto-friendly as a hard seltzer can get. The unique lineup boasts flavorful entries like guava/jalepeño and pineapple/cayenne, and 1 percent of all profits are donated to causes supporting first responders and their communities.
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.
Related: The Best Ice Makers
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.
Related: The Best Cocktail Glasses
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.
Related: The Best Canned Cocktails
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.”
Related: The Best Low-Proof Cocktails
Best Rosé: Decoy Premium Seltzer Rosé with Black Cherry
While some brands market "rosé" seltzers made from alcohols based on sugar or malted barley, we think a rosé seltzer ought to have some wine in the can. Made from Decoy premium wines, sparkling water, and natural cherry flavor, this rosé seltzer is technically a wine spritzer—a simple cocktail, popular in central Europe, comprising wine, sparkling water, and optional fruit flavor. With its northern Italian cousin the spritz catching fire stateside in 2018, followed by the hard seltzer boom of the subsequent summer, it was only a matter of time before canned spritzes like the Decoy rosé began to make their mark. (Also, in a category defined by packaging emblazoned with bright colors and stylized fruit, think how you'll stand out as the only pool-partyer with a duck on your beverage!)
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.”
Related: The Best Nonalcoholic Beers
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: Vizzy Black Cherry Lime Hard Seltzer
If there's a definitional flavor of hard seltzer, it has to be black cherry—it is, after all, the most popular flavor offered by the most popular brand. The nascent seltzer category is ever-evolving, though, and producers are fast coming up with intriguing riffs on the stalwart flavor. The black cherry entry from Vizzy includes a touch of lime in its flavor profile, applying the principle demonstrated by the bramble cocktail that a drink defined by dark berry character will benefit from a dose of bright citrus. The result is a flavorful and well-balanced seltzer that can also boast the additional benefit of infusion with vitamin C.
Related: The Best Camping Cocktails
Our top recommendation is Quirk Spiked & Sparkling Seltzers (view at Drizly), which nail both flavor and carbonation levels. For a keto-friendly alternative, look no further than Flying Embers Hard Seltzer (view at Drizly), featuring zero grams of both carbs and sugar.
What was the first-ever hard seltzer?
No, it wasn't Truly or even White Claw—today's hard seltzer category traces its roots to the introduction in 2013 of SpikedSeltzer, a brand which was acquired by AB InBev in 2016 and later rebranded as Bon & Viv (and, eventually, BON V!V). However, contemporary hard seltzers owe at least some debt to nineties-era "alco-pops" like Zima and Smirnoff Ice—although those products were considerably sweeter, and were never marketed as specifically being part of a healthy lifestyle.
What kind of alcohol is in hard seltzer?
Most hard seltzers source their boozy kick from alcohol derived from fermented cane sugars, although some are based on malted barley, just like their nineties alco-pop forebears. (This methodology explains why seltzers are typically categorized as "flavored malt beverages," or FMBs, despite many of them containing no malt.) There are also a few seltzers that use wine, vodka, or fermented juice to add the "hard" element.
Why is hard seltzer so popular right now, and is it just a fad?
The meteoric rise of hard seltzer can be attributed to the confluence of two simultaneous trends: 1) the increased popularity of non-alcoholic flavored seltzer and sparkling water, as American consumers moved away from high-calorie soda during the 2010s, and 2) the broader interest in a "health-conscious" lifestyle—driven by celebrity influencers, depicted and disseminated in social media, targeted at both women and men, and championing gluten-free living and the embrace of low-ABV beverages. Hard seltzer was the tailor-made tipple for that particular intersection—and, as long as consumers keep gravitating toward gluten-free options and don't return en masse to high-sugar or high-ABV beverages, hard seltzer's market share should only continue to solidify.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
This roundup was edited by Jesse Porter, who's been a huge seltzer fan since he was a kid (although admittedly much of that interest derived from seeing old cartoon characters spraying it at each other). That said, he didn't think he was into hard seltzer until researching this piece—and now, for better or for worse, there's no going back.
Joshua M. Bernstein is a veteran journalist specializing in beer, spirits, food, travel. 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.
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