New Booze Round-up Reviews The Drinks Cabinet

Hard Seltzers. UK review special round-up!

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.

Hot on the heels of seltzers is Hard Tea – a similar concept but with fermented tea providing the boozy backbone.

Whilst we perfectly understand the seltzer appeal, it’s 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.

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+++++

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.

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+++++

Smirnoff Seltzers

Alcohol: 4.7%

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.

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+++++

Long Shot Hard Seltzers

Alcohol: 4%

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.

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+++++

Lilo Hard Seltzers

Alcohol: 3.5%

Package: 250ml can

Flavours: White Grape & Elderflower; Cranberry & Rosehip

The pitch: “Lighter and lower in calories and alcoholic volume than any other hard seltzers available in the UK”

Our favourite: White Grape & Elderflower. A simple sip but with a little more sophistication than most – the grape’s acidity marrying nicely with the fragrant elderflowers.

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+++++

Berczy Alcoholic Sparkling Water

Alcohol: 4%

Package: 250ml can

Flavours: Peach & Raspberry; Lemon & Lime; Passion Fruit & Turmeric

The pitch: “An innovative and refreshing approach to alcoholic drinks”

Our favourite: Lemon & Lime. A lovely fruity smell akin to a good lemonade and a natural flavour with a dry, refreshing feel.

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+++++

TIOS HARD TEA

Alcohol: 4.4%

Package: 250ml can

Flavours: White Tea Margarita; White Tea Mojito; White Tea Light & Stormy

The pitch: “Hard tea and all natural flavours. The new trend coming from the US following in the popularity of hard seltzers.”

Our favourite: The mojito. The rum, mint & lime flavours are nice and punchy in this drink and the tea gives it an extra lick of crisp refreshment. Lovely.

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+++++

Hard Seltzers: The Verdict

We were mightily impressed with Lilo’s White Grape & Elderflower and Tios Hard Tea is an excellent alternative to seltzers with a little more punch to the flavour. But with natural strawberry flavours, Long Shot’s seltzers are the superior choice for summer freshness

*In America 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.

Notes: These samples were sent to us for review. This piece was originally published in the summer of 2020 and we have subsequently updated it with new products.

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