I Tried Every Single Alcoholic Seltzer Available and Here’s What I Thought — Kitchn

If you’re like me, you’ve noticed alcoholic seltzers popping up on grocery and liquor store shelves more and more these days. But have you tried them? For everyone’s convenience and to satisfy my own curiosity, I took it upon myself to taste test every flavor of seltzer from every brand available.

What You Need to Know About Boozy Seltzer

Despite being clear, fizzy liquids, they’re not calorie-free like virgin seltzer is, although almost all of them boast their relatively low calorie counts compared to other adult beverages as a selling point. Nor should they be confused with regular seltzer in regards to their hydrating properties. They’re clear, fizzy, and fruity, but alcoholic seltzers are very much still booze. In terms of alcohol content, the seltzers I tried range from 4.2% to 6% ABV — about the same range as you’d expect for beer.

I Tried 21 Flavors of Alcoholic Seltzer and Here’s What I Thought

And like any other alcoholic beverage, not all alcoholic seltzers are created equal. So on a recent weekend afternoon, I invited a couple of friends over, broke out 21 flavors of alcoholic seltzer, and we put them to the test. Here’s how it went.

Basic Facts

  • 110 calories
  • 2 grams sugar
  • 5% ABV
  • Contains gluten
  • Alcohol made from malt base

Flavors Available

  • Cranberry
  • Lemon Lime
  • Raspberry
  • Grapefruit

Tasting Notes

My taste test started off with Nauti Seltzer’s grapefruit flavor for an extremely scientific reason: The can has the prettiest color. Nauti is actually the only alcoholic seltzer that comes in a standard beer can, whereas the rest I tried either opted for clear bottles or slimmer, taller cans. First impressions? It smells really fresh and fruity and definitely like grapefruit, but not exactly like an actual grapefruit. I could see myself getting pretty tipsy off it, since it doesn’t taste like alcohol. I only poured a splash for myself to taste, but I found myself going back for more. I liked that it’s a bit dry and not too sweet.

The raspberry and cranberry flavors both taste like fruit-flavored light beer, but even lighter than light beer. I could see myself drinking both by themselves, but found that the raspberry had a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste.

By far the best flavor of Nauti Seltzer is lemon lime. It’s a bit heavier on the lemon flavor than the lime, and I could see myself drinking a can by the pool or even pairing it with a seafood dish.

Basic Facts

  • 110 calories
  • 4 grams sugar
  • 5% ABV
  • Gluten-free

Flavors Available

  • Natural Lime
  • Black Cherry
  • Ruby Grapefruit

White Claw manages to nail all three of its flavors. The ruby grapefruit has a more rounded-out grapefruit flavor compared to other brands’ grapefruit offerings, and even had a touch of authentic-tasting grapefruit bitterness. It tastes the most “grown up” of all the flavors we tried, and my friends and I could all see ourselves drinking a can of it straight.

The black cherry smells sweet and inviting. Even my friend who usually dislikes cherry-flavored foods enjoyed it, but we agreed that the flavor is a bit overwhelming and it might work better as a mixer. The natural lime actually has a bit of a really special key lime flavor, which was unique among the other brands’ lime flavors. It tastes like a lime ice pop that you’d want to have on a hot summer day — in a good way.

(Image credit: SpikedSeltzer)

Basic Facts

  • 140 calories
  • 5 grams sugar
  • 6% ABV
  • Gluten-free
  • Alcohol made from sugar and fructose

Flavors Available

  • Indian River Grapefruit
  • West Indies Lime
  • Cape Cod Cranberry
  • Valencia Orange

Tasting Notes

With its alliterative name and candy-colored mermaid packaging, SpikedSeltzer is the archetypal “alcoholic seltzer.” One of my coworkers told me that SpikedSeltzer was popular at her college because it’s tasty and gets you really drunk, which pretty much sums up SpikedSeltzer perfectly.

With the highest sugar and alcohol content of all the brands I tried, SpikedSeltzer’s flavors were the boldest and most saccharine. The Indian River grapefruit has a bit of a cough-syrupy sweetness to it. The Cape Cod cranberry is completely different from the Nauti Seltzer cranberry flavor and has the strongest flavor of all the seltzers we tried. It smells like a cranberry-scented candle and tastes like a cherry Tootsie Pop. The West Indies lime doesn’t taste like lime, and it’s hard to determine what it does taste like. Finally, the Valencia orange was the subject of the only disagreement my motley focus group had. I thought it tasted like a Creamsicle, while my friend thought it had chemical taste.

Overall, the flavors can be polarizing, but if you want a beverage that packs a punch flavor — sweetness and ABV-wise — SpikedSeltzer might be the answer.

Basic Facts

  • 92to 93 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 4.2% ABV
  • Contains gluten
  • Alcohol made from malt base

Flavors Available

Tasting Notes

Henry’s Hard Sparkling is the lighter cousin of Henry’s Hard Soda, which offers boozy versions of cola favorites like orange soda and ginger ale. Unlike the other brands, Henry’s offers only two flavors.

I gotta give it to them for the passion fruit, which was one of the flavors I was most excited to try. It smells great and very much like passion fruit, but when it comes down to the taste, the taste of alcohol was overwhelming. Same goes with the lime — a refreshing scent followed by a sharp alcohol taste that I think would make it difficult to down a whole bottle. I think both flavors might fare better as a mixer in a cocktail.

Basic Facts

  • 100 calories
  • 1 gram sugar
  • 5% ABV
  • Naturally gluten-free
  • Alcohol made from cane sugar

Flavors Available

  • Colima Lime
  • Grapefruit & Pomelo
  • Pomegranate
  • Sicilian Blood Orange
  • Lemon & Yuzu

Tasting Notes

Truly definitely wins the award for most creative flavor names, and its chic minimalist packaging stands out. That said, the Sicilian blood orange, lemon & yuzu, and grapefruit & pomelo all smelled delicious but didn’t taste like anything other than water and liquor when drunk straight-up. The Colima lime reminded me of Sprite mixed with vodka, and not in a good way. The pomegranate tasted vaguely fruity at first but left an unpleasant, medicinal aftertaste.

But before you write off Truly completely, get this: One of my friends suggested mixing together all the flavors from each brand to see which brand’s composite flavor tasted the best. The mix of all five Truly flavors was by far the best combination. We all wanted to keep drinking the mix, which we didn’t with the individual flavors. Truly markets itself as a sort of high-end mixer that won’t dilute your drink, so perhaps this discovery speaks to Truly’s powers as a mixer.

Overall, I could see intrepid mixologists keeping a few bottles of Truly on a bar cart to impress guests and act as a conversation starter.

Basic Facts

  • 90 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 4.5% ABV
  • “Crafted to remove gluten,” but not gluten-free
  • Alcohol made from fermented grains

Flavors Available

  • Orange Mango
  • Cranberry Lime
  • Watermelon

Tasting Notes

I don’t know how they do it, but Smirnoff has the lowest calorie content, no sugar, and still manages to taste pretty darn good. After trying six different alcoholic seltzer brands, I noticed that in order to have a more rounded-out, drinkable flavor, seltzers either started with a malt base like Nauti Seltzer or, if they were gluten-free, had a higher sugar content. It seems like Smirnoff tries to be the best of worlds by “removing gluten,” although it’s not gluten-free, and getting rid of sugar altogether.

All three flavors — orange mango, cranberry lime, and watermelon — smell enticing and kept me sipping.

My Final Thoughts on Alcoholic Seltzer

There are some tasty alcoholic seltzers out there, and I can definitely see some of them rounding out a cocktail nicely as a mixer. Alcoholic seltzer can also be a fun, new alternative to beer if you are gluten-sensitive or gluten-free, although only Truly, Spiked Seltzer, and White Claw are gluten-free. I suggest White Claw in ruby grapefruit if this is the case for you.

I can see myself bringing a six-pack of boozy seltzer to a picnic or summer barbecue, or throwing some in a cooler along with beer and wine to take to the beach or on a boat. I had a lot of fun trying out all the seltzers , but I don’t foresee the category replacing traditional wine, beer, or spirits for me on a consistent basis. It’s just a totally different product and way of drinking.

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