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Spiked seltzer is definitely trending, but it's more than just a passing fad. Crisp, refreshing, sparkling, and gently flavored, hard seltzers offer a convenient alternative to soda-based mixed drinks.
Hard seltzers are primarily malt beverages. Some are fermented from fruit juice, while others have an actual vodka base. The flavors range from simple fruits to intriguing combinations, and the carbonation levels vary greatly. With all the options, there's sure to be a spiked seltzer to fit everyone's taste, whether you're drinking it straight or using it as a cocktail mixer.
Touted as diet-friendly, hard seltzers are similar to the average light beer. The majority have around 100 calories per 12-ounce can, though they have less sugar (from 0 to 5 grams) than beer. Hard seltzers are a good choice for keto diets, averaging 2 grams of carbs, and many are gluten-free. They also tend to be rather light, falling around 4.5 percent to 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Here are the best hard seltzers.
Best Overall: Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer
Credited with starting the trend, Bon & Viv is a perfect introduction to spiked seltzer. Originally called "Spiked Seltzer," it was created in response to the popularity of vodka soda drinks in bars. It has a brilliant carbonation that’s similar to sparkling wine, which isn't surprising because it's cold-fermented using champagne yeast.
Bon & Viv offers a classic option, which is unflavored, and many others, including black cherry, cranberry, grapefruit, and mango. All are naturally flavored, and the flavor duos—pear elderflower and clementine hibiscus—bring botanicals into the mix for a real treat. There’s even a coconut pineapple seltzer, which should make any piña colada fan happy.
These seltzers have a clean, crisp taste and are sugar- and gluten-free. At just 90 calories with 2 grams of carbs and 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), they’re also nice and light.
Best Gluten-Free: White Claw Hard Seltzer
It's safe to say that White Claw is mostly responsible for bringing hard seltzer to everyone's attention. These slim white cans are so popular that there have been shortages. The brand even outsold Budweiser during the 2019 summer season. Made with a blend of seltzer water and a “gluten-free alcohol base,” these seltzers are lightly sweetened with cane sugar and use natural flavors and fruit juice concentrates.
This seltzer appeals to both wine and beer drinkers. White Claw’s flavors are basic—black cherry, lime, mango, raspberry, and ruby grapefruit—yet well done and nicely balanced with the sparkle. Watermelon is a fun find in the lineup, and both the lemon and “pure” (unflavored) seltzers can easily replace sodas in any mixed drink.
White Claw weighs in with the average hard seltzer stats: 100 calories, 2 grams of both sugar and carbs, and 5 percent ABV. If you’re looking for something lighter, look for silver cans of White Claw Hard Seltzer 70. The flavors are limited, but they’re sugar-free, 70 calories, and just 3.7 percent ABV.
Best Natural Ingredients: Truly Hard Seltzer
Just as readily available and popular, Truly is a must-try on the seltzer scene. It's definitely different from White Claw, and many people find that they prefer one or the other. Truly is like drinking flavored, gently sweetened club soda. Its base is "beer made from cane sugar" and includes natural flavors.
The berry and citrus flavors (particularly lime) are the most popular, though the tropical fruits are good, too. Passion fruit is a flavor you won’t find from every seltzer company, and the watermelon and kiwi seltzer is a delight on hot summer days. Naturally gluten-free and kosher, Truly’s seltzers contain 100 calories, 2 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of sugar. They’re on the strong side of seltzer, but at 5 percent ABV, it’s just like drinking a beer—only far more refreshing.
"Truly revamped its recipe in three months over the summer of 2019, and the drink went from bland and forgettable to smooth and juicy. The bubbles are softer, the taste feels clean and natural, the aroma mimics deliciously fragrant fruit snacks, and there's no bite from the alcohol." — Taylor Rock, Associate Editor, Commerce, The Spruce Eats
Best Sugar-Free: Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water
Colorado brewery Oskar Blues hopped on the hard seltzer bandwagon with its sugar-free Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water. Made with water from the St. Vrain Creek, it's a Rocky Mountain delight that will catch your attention—if not with the bright cans, then with the fresh flavors.
Designed with a food-driven, younger crowd in mind, Wild Basin is fun and funky. Enjoy its cucumber peach, melon basil, lemon agave hibiscus, or tried-and-true lime flavors. No other seltzer company has made a yummy strawberry coconut variety or employed the tart taste of the subtropical yumberry. All are naturally flavored and boast a pleasant sparkle that will surely liven up any cocktail. Try them in a Champagne recipe for a bubbly twist of flavor.
At 5 percent ABV with 100 calories and 1 gram of carbs, Wild Basin stacks up to the big names in seltzer. As a bonus, they’re also gluten-free and vegan.
Best Flavors: 2 Towns SeekOut Hard Seltzer
Most seltzers opt for the slim can, but SeekOut goes with the traditional beer can style. Produced by Oregon’s 2 Towns Ciderhouse, makers of some fantastic hard ciders, the alcohol in these seltzers is fermented from real apple juice rather than the sugars that are so common. This adds an intriguing background depth of flavor, but they don’t taste like apple wine. Each includes just a few natural ingredients; it’s so simple that there’s no need to decipher the list.
SeekOut has a very limited flavor selection. It sticks to blending two complementary flavors and the results are amazing. Flavors like raspberry Meyer lemon and pineapple passionfruit seltzers are perfect for summer, while clementine grapefruit is a citrusy dream. The key lime mint is like a light mojito, and gin lovers will find the cucumber juniper most impressive.
These seltzers are gluten-reduced and weigh in at 5 percent ABV. Each can contains an average of 100 calories and 2 grams of carbs and sugars.
Best With Vodka: High Noon Sun Sips Vodka & Soda
Unlike the majority, High Noon is made with vodka. The base for this Memphis, Tennessee, seltzer is distilled five times from Midwest corn. That’s blended with sparkling water, real fruit juice, and natural flavors. With no added sugar, each has 100 calories and contains between 1.7 to 2.9 grams of carbs, depending on the flavor. These seltzers are also gluten-free
If you're looking for a convenient way to replace a standard vodka soda, High Noon is a great option. The cans actually skip the “seltzer” label and go right to “vodka & soda,” and the alcohol content (5 percent ABV) is right in line with the average mixed drink. These seltzers have a nice fruity flavor that's more pronounced than some others. While grapefruit is a fan favorite, other options include black cherry, lime, peach, pineapple, and watermelon.
Best Wine-Flavored: Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Rosé Seltzer
The fact that Smirnoff entered the hard seltzer market should not surprise anyone, but there’s no vodka involved. The biggest difference between these and Smirnoff Ice is that the seltzers are sugar-free. Don't expect the company's vodka in Smirnoff Sparkling Seltzers—they're malt beverages and rather good, especially if you like bold fruit.
Smirnoff offers some unique naturally flavored options, such as cranberry lime, lemonade, and piña colada. The pink cans of rosé seltzers are where they really shine, though. Mixed with pink apple, raspberry, strawberry, or white peach, you get a taste of sparkling rosé wine in a lighter, more convenient form. All are "crafted to remove gluten," have 90 calories and 1 gram of carb, and weigh in at a refreshing 4.5 percent ABV.
Best With Food: Press Premium Alcohol Seltzer
At 4 percent ABV, Press was designed to be a sessionable seltzer that can be paired with food. On both of those points, it hit the mark stupendously. It has a malt base and goes through a carbon filtration process designed to remove gluten. It's not as light as other seltzers, but if you can deal with a slight boost to 110 calories, 7 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of sugars, it's totally worth it.
The flavors are natural, refreshing, bright, and gently sweetened. Anyone who loves to explore different tastes will appreciate the blend of fruits with herbs or spices: blackberry hibiscus, lime lemongrass, grapefruit cardamom, and pomegranate ginger. Apple cinnamon is an autumn release ideal for seasonal dinners, and the blood orange chili seltzer is a fantastic choice for anyone who loves spicy drinks.
Best Craft: Sound Craft Seltzer
Sound Craft keeps it simple—and that's a very good thing. From the talented people behind Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Co., these Washington-made seltzers use whole, organic fruits that are juiced and fermented into alcohol. The result of this back-to-basics approach is thirst-quenching beverages that are an absolute joy to sip.
The brand’s flavor line-up is short and sweet: cucumber, grapefruit, and rosé (made from blackberries). They have a striking natural flavor that works wonderfully when you want some oomph in your seltzer. All are naturally gluten-free and have 5 percent ABV. Each can contains 105 calories and 2 grams of both carbs and sugar.
Best Still: Pura Still Spiked Still Water
Pura Still is technically not a seltzer—it's spiked water without the bubbles. This a great option for those who don’t enjoy carbonated drinks, but still want a fruity, ready-to-drink adult beverage. With 90 calories and 2 grams of carbs, it’s also not a diet-buster.
Pura Still is made with coconut water, fermented malted barley extract, sugar, and natural flavors. The process and results are surprising, and the still water is pretty good. Sold in bottles and cans, you may even find it in your local beer cooler. There are three flavors, including blackberry, mandarin orange, and mango. While they’re all good, blackberry seems to be the crowd-pleaser. They have a little more flavor than non-alcoholic flavored waters, so they're both interesting and refreshing.
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Colleen Graham is a food and beverage writer with over a decade of experience writing about cocktails, beer, and wine. She is the author of two books, “Rosé Made Me Do It” and “Tequila: Cocktails With a Kick,” and has developed countless drink recipes.