There’s a new trend that is suddenly populating the booze category: Hard Seltzers. Big in America, the rush is now on for brands to establish themselves as the early market leaders in the UK. For the uninitiated, a Hard* Seltzer is essentially fizzy flavoured water with added booze.
Their success is largely down to them being a way of supping alcohol without piling on the pounds – most of them make a big fuss over their lack of calories on the packaging. They will also make a big deal about other dietary considerations, such as being vegan and gluten-free. The flavouring and alcohol levels tend to be very low, which helps keep the calorie count low, and their light and breezy, fizzy nature is part of the refreshing appeal.
Whilst we perfectly understand this appeal, they’re not a drink that we would instinctively reach for – we’re not the calorie-counting kind and tend to prefer stronger flavours when refreshing ourselves with booze. But we’re more than happy to sacrifice a few units of our weekly booze rations to put the best hard seltzers through their paces… and here are our verdicts.
The best Hard Seltzers reviewed:
White Claw Hard Seltzers
Alcohol: 5% ABV
Package: 300ml can
Flavours: Lime; Black Cherry; Raspberry
The pitch: “The number one hard seltzer drink from the US”**
Our favourite: Black Cherry. This has the aroma and flavour of cherry cola without the cola. Or the sugar. Very light, fizzy, dry and refreshing, the neutral alcohol isn’t obvious at first but steadily creeps up, while the subtle cherry flavours linger a little after finishing.
58 Gin Seltzers
Alcohol: 4% ABV
Package: 250ml can
Flavours: Raspberry; Pink Grapefruit
The pitch: “The UK’s first premium gin-based hard seltzer.
Our favourite: Pink Grapefruit. The strongest flavoured seltzer we tried with a touch of sweetness coming through with the pink grapefruit and a softer kind of seltzer fizzing into action. Closer to a soft drink and gin blend, but very enjoyable.
Package: 250ml can
Flavours: Orange & Grapefruit; Raspberry & Rhubarb
The pitch: “The latest innovation from the world’s number one vodka”
Our favourite: Raspberry & Rhubarb. This had a lovely smell to it, with the raspberry slightly out punching the rhubarb. It was a bit more flavoursome than some other seltzers, although slightly artificial tasting. However there was a nice twist of acidity that always works well on a hot day.
Long Shot Hard Seltzers
Package: 250ml can
Flavours: Grapefruit; Strawberry & Rhubarb; Raspberry & Blackcurrant
The pitch: “A no-nonsense blend of fruit juice, sparkling water and alcohol, and that’s it. We won’t settle for anything artificial, so why should you.”
Our favourite: Strawberry & Rhubarb. The fruity additions were subtle in this one – enough to add fresh flavour while maintaining the essential clean, dry, seltzer feel. The strawberry and rhubarb was a winning summery combination and the natural juice made it a much more pleasurable drink than the others.
Hard Seltzers: The Verdict
With natural strawberry flavours, Long Shot’s seltzers are the superior choice for summer freshness
*In American they use the word ‘hard’ to describe a drink with alcohol that would normally not have alcohol. For example, ‘cider’ over there is what we call apple juice, so our kind of fermented ciders are known as ‘hard ciders.’
**White Claw has taken America by storm and the success of the brand is something the rest are hoping to cash in on. Started in 2016, sales in the US have rocketed every year resulting in shortages and restrictions on distribution. Americans are mad for it.
Note: These samples were sent to us for review