Spiked seltzer brands, ranked

Spiked seltzer is a relatively new phenomenon in the world of alcoholic beverages. While there have been similar options throughout the years (remember Zima?), it wasn't until the last two years that spiked seltzer's popularity really began to, well, spike.

Also known as hard seltzer or hard sparkling water, spiked seltzer as an industry did only about $3 million worth of business in 2015. By 2018, that number had exploded to $550 million. By 2021, some estimations have the spiked seltzer industry worth as much as $2.5 billion

No matter what you want to call it, these boozy seltzer drinks have become a force to be reckoned with as people are drawn to the unique flavors and relatively low number of carbohydrates and calories in each drink.

Whether you're a spiked seltzer newbie or a well-versed veteran of seltzers of the hard variety, read on to view the ultimate guide to the hard seltzer brands — ranked from worst to best.

15. Crook & Marker Spiked & Sparkling Seltzer

When you see the marketing for Crook & Marker, you might think you've hit an alcohol-fueled jackpot and are on your way to acquiring one of the best hard seltzers out there. Their flavor lineup looks intriguing and phrases like "zero sugar" and "organic alcohol" are definite attention-grabbers. But somewhere between the idea and product, things went awry.

To start off, Crook & Marker misses the mark when it comes to fresh flavor. Their black cherry is one of the worst in terms of its strong faux sweetness. It also leaves a putrid aftertaste in your mouth, like that generic brand of diet soda that you picked up at your local dollar store.

Secondly, the organic alcohol they tout isn't mana from an environmentally-friendly heaven. Their "BaseBrew" sounds like it's made at Whole Foods with ingredients like amaranth, cassava root, quinoa, and millet. But in reality, the result is a beverage that isn't refreshing, sessionable, or worth your hard-earned dollars — even if you give it bonus points for potentially being kinder to the environment than its competition. 

Crook & Marker simply doesn't deliver the drinkability you want in a spiked seltzer. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

14. Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer

Smirnoff continues to be the best-selling vodka in the world, but does that mean you should trust all their endeavors, or does it mean they should just stick to what they know best? Smirnoff jumped into the hard seltzer game back in 2016 and has yet to make a real splash in terms of market share or fans. 

If you are reminiscing about Smirnoff Ice from drinking days gone by, these spiked seltzers are similar but aren't exactly the same thing. The varieties of Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer range from basically flavorless (looking at you, Raspberry Rosé) to too much overbearing flavoring — most notably in the Watermelon, which for some reason tastes like bad bubblegum.

The Smirnoff can says only "natural flavors" but that doesn't seem possible. Who knows what happens in the fermenting process to yield these unpleasant results. If Smirnoff is your only option for hard seltzer, give it a hard pass and get vodka and soda instead. Or, take a trip back to your college days and buy some Smirnoff Ice.

13. Henry's Hard Sparkling Water

Henry's Hard Soda has been one of the top hard soda brands for several years, but their venture into the hard seltzer realm has received mixed reviews. Created by MillerCoors, Henry's Hard Sparkling Water is a lightly flavored drink that is fairly easy to sip at the club or pound on the sand.

But here's the thing — Henry's is just not that good. Their flavor choices range from satisfactory (Strawberry Kiwi) to subpar (Blueberry Lemon) and a bunch of other middle of the road options in between. There's no real standout flavor and these beverages aren't that refreshing. Maybe it's because they use corn syrup, or maybe it's something else. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter because there are so many other better spiked seltzers to choose from that you don't need to waste time pondering Henry's shortcomings and inadequacies.

And another thing to note, while many other hard seltzers are gluten-free, Henry's is not — it's made with barley malt. So, if you care about gluten, steer clear.

12. Natural Light Seltzer

Natty Light is one of the worst beers out there. Unless your bank account is low and you enjoy drinking water-flavored beer, you know to stay away. How does their hard seltzer stack up? While most spiked seltzer are close to 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), Natural Light Seltzer comes in at a boozy 6 percent. And, of course, it's cheap. So, if you are looking for a low-cost buzz, you've stumbled into an acceptable option.

Launched in August 2019, these hard seltzers come in two flavors: Catalina Lime Mixer and Aloha Beaches. The former is a black cherry and lime variety that is surprisingly decent. Cherry and lime typically mesh well together as long as there is a nice balance — and in this case, there is.

While the cherry tastes fresh and natural in the Catalina Lime Mixer, the mango and especially the peach flavor in Aloha Beaches are quite the opposite. The taste of this beverage is extremely sweet, artificial, and overall nasty — not exactly what you are looking for in a light, refreshing seltzer. If you can finish even two of these without the sickly sweetness overwhelming your taste buds or your stomach, you deserve a commendation. Remember, Aloha means doesn't just mean hello, it also means goodbye. And you should definitely say goodbye to Natural Light's Aloha Beaches.

11. PRESS Premium Alcohol Seltzer

For something beyond the mainstream, delve into some of the independent hard seltzer brands, like PRESS. PRESS Premium Alcohol Seltzer has been around for a few years, and prides itself on having unique flavor combinations that are outside the norm. Currently, their flavors include Blackberry Hibiscus, Blood Orange Chili, Grapefruit Cardamom, Lime Lemongrass, Pear Chamomile, and Pomegranate Ginger.

The Pomegranate Ginger stands out above the rest with its delicious malty taste that is somehow fruity and spicy at the same time. Blood Orange Chili is also worth a sip. The sweet-spicy combo is something you'll absolutely love, or completely be repulsed by — there's no middle ground. 

PRESS seltzer isn't as smooth as some of the other brands, but it's definitely unique if you are looking for something outside the traditional seltzer flavors — or you are trying to impress a date by flexing your adventurous taste buds. In terms of alcohol content, PRESS has some of the lightest seltzers on the list, at just 4 percent ABV.

10. Polar Seltzer Arctic Summer

Every company seems to be jumping into the fray when it comes to creating spiked seltzers. And early in 2019, an actual seltzer brand finally got into the mix — Polar Seltzer. Polar teamed up with Boston's Harpoon Brewery to create a new line of hard seltzer — Arctic Summer. 

Made with the same flavor essence of Polar's non-alcoholic seltzers, Arctic Summer offers four spiked flavors: pineapple pomelo, ruby red grapefruit, raspberry lime, and black cherry. Their offerings are refreshing, crisp, and easy to drink, but not especially notable either positively or negatively.

If you love your seltzer extra bubbly, then Arctic Summer delivers the carbonation you crave. It's definitely fizzy, so be forewarned prior to your first sip. Also, keep in mind that all those bubbles might slow you down, thus this one is better for slow sipping than hard pounding.

With Polar's experience in the seltzer market, don't be surprised if this brand of spiked seltzer improves dramatically over the next few years. There's good reason they're second when it comes to the best selling non-alcoholic seltzer brands in America.

9. Grandeur Peak Spiked Sparkling Water

Squatters Craft Beers introduced their Grandeur Peak Spiked Sparkling Water in April of 2019 with two natural flavors: ruby red grapefruit and Utah cherry. With just 80 calories (zero from sugar), one gram of carbs, zero gluten, and only 4 percent ABV, these spiked seltzers are some of the lightest on the market.

While your socks won't get knocked off, there's nothing particularly wrong with either of the flavors. The cherry variety is actually a pleasant surprise in terms of how natural it tastes, while the grapefruit version manages to capture the flavor of grapefruit without the harsh bitterness. But, that said, they just don't provide enough flavor to jump any higher in this ranking. If you're someone who is looking for more seltzer than flavor, then Grandeur Peak might do it for you. But if you'd like a little more oomph, keep on reading down the list to find something you'll enjoy much more.

8. Vive Hard Seltzer

Relatively new to the scene, Braxton Brewing Co. launched Vive early in 2019. Currently, Vive offers eight flavors: black raspberry, blood orange, cherry, dragonfruit, grapefruit, lime, peach, and mango. The nutritional stats are similar to many other spiked seltzers, coming in at 5 percent ABV, 100 calories, and two grams of carbs per can.

Vive is trying to stand out from the pack with their use of pure Kentucky artisan water and only natural flavors, calling the product a "better-for-you alcoholic beverage." Rather than just fermented, it's brewed, kind of like a beer, and then filtered before the fruit is added. So, it is definitely a bit different than your run of the mill hard seltzer. But how does it taste?

If you like Fresca, you'll love their grapefruit. It tastes almost identical but with the tiniest of bite. Their cherry and peach varieties are a bit too sweet, but the rest of their flavors are definitely worth a sip. This seltzer brand would be a bigger contender if it were available nationally. As it stands, Vive Hard Seltzer is only available in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. But the company is making some strategic partnerships — they are the Official Hard Seltzer of the Indiana Pacers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Columbus Blue Jackets — so it's probable that their reach will expand in the not too distant future.

7. Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water

The first craft brewery to step into the world of hard seltzer is Oskar Blues Brewery with their Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water. After their big beer success, how will they fare with spiked seltzer? Well, the jury is still out.

Some of their flavors are top-notch, while others you will assuredly spit out. That said, if you want something to enjoy by the pool all day, Wild Basin melon basil is it. A hint of basil is present in the scent, and the slight watermelon flavor is exactly what you want out of a refreshing summer drink. 

Alternatively, their classic lime is what you are looking for in a traditional seltzer drink. It tastes extremely clean. No syrupy mouthfeel. No gross aftertaste. Just straight-up lime seltzer goodness. If you want to support Wild Basin, stock up on melon basil and classic lime, and ignore all the rest of their offerings. Those two have been mastered — and the same can't be said for the rest.

6. Sauza Agua Fuerte Spiked Sparkling Water

So, you love margaritas, but you don't like those margaritas in a can? (That's totally understandable as many of those taste more like a margarita in a trash can.) Well, if you are a tequila drinker, we have the seltzer for you – Sauza Agua Fuerte. 

This brand only offers four flavors (grapefruit, lime, mango, and pineapple) but they are all worthwhile choices. Each one is mixed with Sauza brand silver tequila and contains no artificial flavoring. If you have to only pick one of the four flavors, go with pineapple, as its tropical taste brings back memories of your epic beach vacation in Mexico.

The trouble with this crisp, spiked seltzer is it's more difficult to find than the other more popular brands. However, if you can find Sauza Agua Fuerte, it's time for a fiesta with all your closest amigos, as this hard seltzer goes down smoother than your favorite margarita. Plus, there's a flavor that will please everyone out there.

5. Mighty Swell Spiked Spritzer

Based in Austin, Texas, Mighty Swell might not be one of the top selling hard seltzers but they are making a name for themselves. If you like Cherry Limeade at Sonic Drive-In, then you'll love Mighty Swell's cherry lime flavor. With a pale pink hue and fresh cherry aroma, it offers a nice flavor that is just sweet enough.

The other flavor that is a must-taste from Mighty Swell is their watermelon mint. While some brands of seltzer offer watermelon flavoring that is akin to Jolly Ranchers, this one seems much more natural.

It should be noted that Mighty Swell has more sugar than some of the other spiked seltzer favorites with 110 calories and four grams of sugar per 12-ounce can. The sugar, however, comes from the incorporation of white grape juice, which explains why the flavors taste naturally sweet. Mighty Swell Spiked Spritzer is gluten-free and vegan-friendly, with no added sugar, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup. Try it. You'll like it.

4. High Noon Sun Sips

When you're sipping your beverage on the beach with the sand between your toes and the sun roasting your skin, you'll want your drink in hand to be one like High Noon Sun Sips. While definitely not one of the best selling brands, these crisp, cool drinks are truly what hard seltzer should be and is likely to become in the future. While most boozy seltzers are blended with malt liquor, High Noon Sun Sips is blended with actual vodka. The result is an extremely clean, refreshing beverage that really shows off their real fruit juice flavors.

Their grapefruit and pineapple varieties are outstanding, with the fruit flavor taking center stage. The same can't be said for their other options. The black cherry flavor is just meh, and the watermelon tastes like rind rather than actual watermelon. But, across the board, you'll get no aftertaste, which is one of the biggest turnoffs of a disappointing spiked seltzer.

3. Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer

Bon & Viv is the third best-selling spiked seltzer in the country, and it might start gaining some more traction since it recently became the Official Hard Seltzer of the NFL. If you're looking for a seltzer brand that isn't overly sweet, you are looking for Bon & Viv. In fact, these hard seltzers have zero grams of sugar per can, so you can drink them without guilt (listen up, Keto fans). They offer interesting flavors like clementine hibiscus, pear elderflower, and prickly pear, which is one of the best flavors across any brand.

Whether you're drinking at a bar, or even just need something to pair with your dinner, Bon & Viv is a marvelous choice because it's extremely easy to drink. The mouthfeel isn't as bubbly as some of the others on the list, which is a bonus in many situations. Also, to adjust for the lack of sweetness, the flavors are more crisp and floral. Unless your sweet tooth protests, this spiked seltzer is destined to become one of your favorites.

2. Truly Hard Seltzer

Truly is truly one of the best hard seltzers available. One thing you'll like about it is you get to sample some of their best flavors all in one pack: their berry mix pack. This grouping features black cherry, wild berry, blueberry & acai, and raspberry lime flavors. However, do yourself a favor and dump the black cherry down the drain. It tastes like cough medicine.

Wild berry is a favorite with its sweet goodness, but most of their flavors are quite tasty. In all, Truly offers 13 total flavors across their different variety packs. In the long run, it will likely be better for business if this brand pared down their offerings and sold just their best flavors rather than trying to be everything to everyone in the spiked seltzer world.

At first sip, you might think Truly is the best hard seltzer out there. But wait a few seconds and you will be hit with the aftertaste. It's not pungent. It's not overwhelming. But it's there — and it keeps Truly out of the number one spot.

1. White Claw Hard Seltzer

White Claw actually outsold Budweiser in July 2019, and with good reason. This hard seltzer brand isn't just the most popular, it's actually the best. Launched in 2016 by Mark Anthony Brands (maker of Mike's Hard Lemonade), White Claw sales reached $327.7 million in July 2019 and dominates with about 60 percent of the market.

White Claw is currently available in six flavors: black cherry, mango, natural lime, raspberry, ruby grapefruit, and pure. Some people don't like the smell of the black cherry variety but the taste is magnificent. It's flavorful, sweet but not too sweet, and simply delicious. Almost as good as the black cherry is White Claw mango — it's the perfect summertime choice.

If you're looking for a convenient replacement for your vodka and soda, White Claw has created Pure. It's clean, crisp, and beyond refreshing. The only problem with White Claw might be that they go down too smoothly, so drink responsibly.