First, there was Zima. Then came Mike's Hard Lemonade, followed by hard iced tea from Mike's and then Twisted Tea. By the time hard root beer blew up and alcoholic Mountain Dew knockoffs started to hit the shelves, malt beverages were at peak velocity.
Enter hard seltzer water. Fermented from ordinary sugar instead of malted grains, hard seltzer waters hit the scene in 2013, a few years after the beginning of sparkling water LaCroix's meteoric rise in market share for soft drinks.
These drinks tend to follow a similar format: relatively low in calories (around 100 to 120 calories per 12 ounces, compared with 150 or more for most beers), carbs and sugar, and invariably fruit flavored, suitable for drinking straight out of the can, served on the rocks or used as a mixer in a cocktail (instead of boring, nonalcoholic mixers).
Here are six hard seltzers to try on one of the many upcoming hot afternoons.
SpikedSeltzer is the original hard seltzer, first to market in 2013 and inspiring many imitators before being purchased by AB InBev in 2016. SpikedSeltzer comes in four varieties: Cape Cod Cranberry, West Indies Lime, Valencia Orange and Indian River Grapefruit, flavors derived from cold-pressed fruit. At 6 percent alcohol by volume and with 5 grams of sugar, SpikedSeltzer is both stronger and a little sweeter than most of the newer brands, and it's also a little more calorie-dense, at 140 calories a serving.
White Claw Hard Seltzer is perhaps the biggest competitor to SpikedSeltzer. Owned by the Mark Anthony Group, which also owns the Mike's Hard line of malt beverages, White Claw markets itself as the "purest hard seltzer in the world," made from only essential fruit juice, sugar and water. These 12-ounce cans clock in at 110 calories each and 5 percent alcohol by volume. Flavor choices include Ruby Grapefruit, Black Cherry and Natural Lime. e_SClBTruly Spiked & Sparkling, an offshoot of the Boston Beer Co. (makers of Samuel Adams beer, Angry Orchard cider and Twisted Tea), offers a wide range of flavor options, designed to cater to "craft" consumers. For example, there's Wild Berry (strawberry, raspberry and Marion berry) and Pomegranate, Blueberry and Acai, Lemon and Yuzu, Raspberry and Lime, Blood Orange, Grapefruit and Pomelo and Colima Lime (made with limes grown in volcanic soil). It's a little drier than White Claw, but the fruit flavors are still quite pronounced.
MIA HRD WTR, produced by MIA Brewing out of Miami, represents the first real craft entry into the category. Grapefruit, Cucumber and Lemon Lime, and Blueberry, make up the flavor portfolio here, and you can find these in 16-ounce cans and on draft all around the Tampa Bay area. HRD WTR is the driest of the bunch, similar to LaCroix, with muted fruit flavors and a refreshing crispness. e_SClBCoco Cocktail is another Florida-based entry, produced by Healthy Beverages, LLC. The company name says it all: These are marketed toward health-conscious drinkers, with 75 to 95 calories per drink, triple the potassium of most sports drinks and no tannins or added sulfites — characteristics its manufacturers claim will produce "no hangovers." (Someone test this and get back to us.)
Aside from unusual ingredients like garcinia cambogia and mangosteen in its Refresh Lemon Key Lime flavor, Coco Cocktails are also notable for being made of orange wine and coconut water. Other flavors include Power Pomegranate Berry, as well as Pink Grapefruit and Watermelon versions of the 75-calorie Uberlyte line.
3 Daughters Spiked Water is new and local, first produced by the St. Petersburg brewery in January. The 10-barrel (310-gallon) pilot batch was split into Orange, Lemon and Kiwi versions, all of which have since sold out. Despair not: New batches are on the way, including a canning run that should be on the shelves as early as late April, each containing 4.5 percent alcohol by volume and 90 calories per serving.
e_SClBContact Justin Grant at email@example.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.