There is a reason that hot girl summer and hard seltzer summer both happened in the same year. Don’t waste your time reading wordy think pieces about why hard seltzer is the biggest thing to hit the nation since prohibition ended because the answer is simple: we want to drink, but we don’t want to deal with the calories and carbs that come with sugary beverages or beer. That, and we want to be able to get up and go back to work the next day without hating ourselves.
Hard seltzer is just—the answer. However, the seemingly endless list of companies trying to cash in on the product make it overwhelming when you have to choose a brand. For this reason, we’ve ranked some of the heavy hitters of the hard seltzer world to bring you a list of which ones to grab, and which ones to avoid, next time you hit the seltzer aisle at your local grocer—ranked from best to worst:
You truly cannot go wrong. White Claw is the OG hard seltzer and there’s a reason it’s still the most popular (aside from the memes). Its flavor variety may be simple, with classics like grapefruit and black cherry, but it’s perfected its simplicity without over complicating in the flavor department. White claw has also mastered nutritional value—finding the perfect balance between high flavor and low carb/sugar count. Some of the flavors taste better than others, though, so the variety pack is your best bet.
Few alcohol companies have any business venturing into the hard seltzer world, but Smirnoff gets a pass because it’s technically been in the hard soda business for the longest amount of time. While its Ice brand may be one of the worst things to happen to the alcoholic beverage industry, its hard seltzer is one of the better products on the market. Flavors like white peach rose and berry lemonade are light enough not to be sickening, and contain no sugar or artificial flavors while sitting at under 100 calories and only around 1 gram of carbs per can. Plus, its packaging is cute!
For those of us that shop exclusively at Whole Foods, Press is the best hard seltzer in the beer aisle. Its flavors are eclectic—with names like pomegranate ginger, grapefruit cardamom, blackberry hibiscus, pear chamomile, and lemongrass lime. Press’s nutritional information is also in the average range, clocking in at around 110 calories and 7g net carbs on average. It is, however, rare, as Press is often only available in bougie markets and retailers (and Target). Drink it if you value the finer things in life like gold kitchen accents and millennial pink skincare products.
Where Truly failed, Henry’s thrives. Its flavor profile is simple—offering variations such as blueberry lemon and strawberry, the flavor is nice without being syrupy. Henry’s also offers one of the lowest calorie counts, sitting at under 100 calories. Its carb content, however, is higher than some of its counterparts at around 6 grams—though that’s still low for anyone looking to keep things low carb.
How could we not mention this—uh, atrocity? It’s hard to imagine a world where Four Loko does not exist now that the box has been opened. That being said, it’s also hard to imagine a world where there is a need for a 14% ABV seltzer. The company announced its venture into the hard seltzer world in the most Four Loko way—plus its flavors sound just as toxic as the original brand’s does. While Four Loko hard seltzer may not be for the faint of heart, it’s a company that knows its brand and executes it well. For that, we have to appreciate it for the epidemic that it is.
Corona & Natural Light
Speaking of other alcohol companies that are trying to cash in on the hard seltzer boom, we’ll just group Corona and Natural Light’s brand launches together. Corona’s Refresca hard seltzer is branded well, as its simple packaging looks Instagram friendly and its flavors are interesting enough to stick out among a sea of options. This is also where Natural Light’s seltzer sticks out. Though its flavors are fairly simple, its kitschy flavor names like “Catalina lime mixer” and “Aloha beaches” are worth picking up.
Don’t even waste your time with this one. Many hard seltzer companies turn toward sugar alternatives to keep the sugar and carb content low, but the drawback is that they end up compromising good flavor in return. Truly does this, plus its boring packaging and branding offers little visually. For simple flavors like “berry,” turn to White Claw instead to actually enjoy sipping on the beverage.