It’s hard to beat a cold beer straight from the cooler on a hot summer day, or a chilled poolside cocktail. But it’s also hard to avoid the bloat that comes along with their high calorie counts. Cue hard seltzer—a refreshing alternative which, with fewer calories and about half the carbs of beer, has been getting some buzz as the health-conscious alcoholic beverage of the season. Another bonus? Because hard seltzer is low in sugar, it’s less likely to lead to killer hangovers.
The drink came on the scene in 2013, with the creation of SpikedSeltzer. Its immediate popularity has since spawned other brands, such as White Claw, Nauti, and Truly Spiked & Sparkling. Expect to see other companies popping up over the next few months—this trend is here to stay.
The good news is that less sugar doesn’t mean more artificial sweeteners or other nasty ingredients. Hard seltzer is made similarly to beer: through fermentation—though generally speaking, it is cane sugar, not malted barley, that is fermented, and the flavoring comes from real fruit. Of the options we found currently on supermarket shelves, all were of gluten-free except for Nauti, which is made slightly differently, with a malt base.
Although all of the brands we encountered were crisp and refreshing, our clear winner (ha!) was SpikedSeltzer’s Cape Cod Cranberry flavor, which tasted exactly like cranberry seltzer, with no trace of alcohol. A close second was Truly’s Colima Lime, which had small fizzy bubbles—reminiscent of champagne. If you enjoy the taste of beer, Nauti’s lineup might appeal to you most since their drinks taste more like a flavor-infused beer than seltzer.
One more plus: hard seltzers make excellent mixers without diluting your drink. Try substituting one in place of conventional seltzer for an extra-potent vodka soda or summertime punch. But proceed with caution: one can has about the same alcohol content as a typical glass of wine—more than beer—and is very easy to toss back.