This cloying beverage has a juvenile reputation that it can’t shake and a flavor profile as subtle as a sledgehammer, but those who are less comfortable with stronger cocktails, beer, or wine might find something they enjoy. Its unabashed sweetness and strong citrus flavors stand out in a sea of watery hard seltzers.
Style flavored malt beverage
Company Mike's Hard Lemonade Co. (Mark Anthony Brewing)
Brewery Location Levittown, Pennsylvania
MSRP $10 per 6-pack
Bright, refreshing, and incredibly easy drinking
Well-priced and easy to find
Broadly appealing to people who may not enjoy the taste of beer or spirits
Unabashedly sweet—some may find the flavor profile too cloying or juvenile.
About as reductive as it gets when it comes to packaged beverages
Crafted to remove gluten but can’t be considered truly gluten-free (It might contain trace amounts)
Color: This hard lemonade pours hazy in the glass with a powdery hue that looks similar to carbonated lemon juice.
Nose: The aroma leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination about what is in the glass. The overpowering scent of artificial lemon zest and peel, which lies somewhere between sour candy and a cleaning product, dominates. A harsh chemical scent peeks through on the finish, lifted into the nostrils by carbonation.
Palate: This drink immediately splashes across the tongue with the brightness and vibrancy of a sugary soda that is partially cut by soft acidity. The balance of tart and sweet brings to mind a lemon bar or lemon hard candy.
Finish: Syrupy sweetness gives way to a soft, lemon-scented acidity, which is buoyed by subtle carbonation. A lemony brightness lingers long after each sip.
Mike’s Hard Lemonade may be a punchline in the drinks world, but the brand’s success is no joke. After launching a blend of vodka, natural juices, and soda water in Canada in 1996, the company jumped stateside in 1999 and swapped out the vodka for a malt base. In fact, the spiked lemonade was one of the very first products in the ready-to-drink category, which has since grown leaps and bounds thanks to hard seltzer, leaving many others to flounder while Mike’s has managed to innovate and stay relevant. Today, the brand has added different flavors to its lineup and is pushing firmly into the seltzer market on top of the iconic lemonade that made it famous.
But despite two decades of solid sales numbers, there isn’t a joke about Mike’s Hard Lemonade that hasn’t been written already. The brand has never shied away from its product’s allure to people who don’t actually like the taste of alcohol, and the unabashedly sweet and citrusy drink has a reputation in many circles as the beverage of choice for underage drinkers in the U.S.
Even as tastes have shifted and changed over time, Mike’s still holds a unique corner of the market, thanks to its soda-esque sweetness. Among today’s hard seltzers, which offer plenty in the way of watery artificial flavors, this sparkling lemonade indeed stands out more than it has in decades. You may never dream of handing a bottle to someone who grew up with the stuff, but getting someone to try one for the first time would likely elicit more pleasantly surprised reactions than anyone would be willing to admit.
In most cases, Mike’s Hard Lemonade will probably retain its position as the training wheels of the alcoholic beverage world, but it might also make sense in situations where a refreshing, crowd-pleasing canned cocktail would work, such as an outdoor party or by the pool.
Mike’s Hard is owned by Mark Anthony Brewing, the same company that makes White Claw.