Hard seltzer is fruit-flavored carbonated water. What makes it hard? Alcohol is added. Vodka and gin are grain-fermented. Many hard seltzers are made from fermented cane sugar. This makes them lower in alcohol and vegan friendly.
WHY ARE HARD SELTZERS SO POPULAR?
Presently hard seltzer is a $550 million business. Analysts project it will keep growing. By 2021, they estimate hard seltzer sales will reach $2.5 billion.
While seltzer water has been around since Joseph Priestly invented it over two hundred and fifty years ago, hard seltzer has been around only since 2013. Originally called Spiked Seltzer, it was rebranded Bon & Vivian, and then Bon Viv. By 2016, other companies had released including heavy hitters White Claw and Truly. These two control 85% of hard seltzer sales.
There are now so many brands that in 2020 the 50 best hard seltzer brands were reviewed by Men’s Health.
Why the popularity? People are looking for a refreshing beverage with low calories, little sugar, and natural flavors. Because it is low alcohol in content and gluten-free, hard seltzer appeals to the health-conscious drinker. Hard seltzer also appeals to the budget-conscious drinker.
BIG BRAND HARD SELTZERS
Several companies have produced a hard seltzer in response to the growing demand for hard seltzer.
- The earliest brand was Bon & Vivant. It is now called Bon Viv.
- One of the most popular is White Claw. At 100 calories and 5% alcohol, White Claw comes in Natural Lime, Black Cherry, and Mango.
- Bud Light hard seltzer also has 100 calories. Made with spring water and natural fruit, it comes in Strawberry, Grapefruit, Pineapple, and Cranberry.
- Vizzy Hard Seltzer is 5% alcohol and 100 calories. Vizzy has added Vitamin C and antioxidants to its Blueberry/Raspberry, Pineapple/Mango, Strawberry/Kiwi, and Black Cherry/Lime flavors.
- Vyne Botanicals has added hops to sparkling water to produce a hard seltzer with no calories. It is also sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan friendly. Natural flavors include Floral, Herb, and Citrus.
- Truly Hard Seltzer comes in thirteen flavors. It is 5% alcohol, 100 calories, one gram of sugar, and naturally flavored.
- PBR actually just announced an ABV Stronger Seltzer. It is 8% alcohol.
To get into hard seltzer sales, vodka companies are offering their own variations. Smirnoff has released a Sparkling Seltzer in a stunning array of flavors. It has zero sugar, zero calories.
You can purchase Smirnoff’s, naturally-flavored Infusions. Infusions are available in naturally flavored Cucumber/Lime, Strawberry/Rose, and Watermelon/Mint. Add four ounces of club soda to two ounces of your favorite Infusions flavor and you’ve got a great summer drink.
HOW HARD SELTZERS ARE MADE
The manufacturers of non-alcoholic seltzer simply use filtered water or spring water and flavor it with flavor essence. It is then carbonated and put into a can. This is the same principle as making soda pop. Ingredients don’t cost much.
Other drinks like beer, wine, and flavored vodkas are much more expensive. They require specialized equipment and costly ingredients. Their manufacture is more labor-intensive. Energy input and effluent treatment are needed. Cleaning chemicals must be factored in. There are also costs related to fermentation and aging.
Just think of how much simpler it is to make seltzer and add a flavor essence and a shot of alcohol!
Many varieties use fermented cane sugar. Then, fruit flavors are added. Others produce flavored malt beverages. New variations are coming out all the time.
IS HARD SELTZER HEALTHY?
The answer is both yes and no.
Hard seltzers are lower in both calories and carbohydrates when compared to other alcoholic beverages. It is also gluten-free and vegan friendly.
However, a can of hard seltzer has the same caloric content and the same alcohol content as light beer —between 4% and 6%. Although it is a much healthier choice than mixed sugar-laden drinks like Pina Coladas, Mai Tai, margaritas, or chocolate martinis.
WHY MAKE YOUR OWN HARD SELTZER?
DIY brewing hard seltzer is fast, easy, and it’s fun. When you brew your own, you save money (and calories). The sky is the limit on the flavors you can create. You will amaze your friends with your newfound talent.
Creating your own hard seltzer requires very little equipment and space.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN HARD SELTZER RECIPE
There are two ways to make hard seltzer:
The easiest way is to blend. If you’re blending, you can use flavored vodka to add the flavor of your choice.
A fast and easy way to blend is to take Switch Vodka Light and soak the fruit of your choice on this zero calories, zero sugar product. Experiment with various natural flavor fruit combinations. Just before serving, add club soda or seltzer water to the Switch Vodka Light/fruit combination. The time you soak the fruit in Switch Vodka Light will increase the fruit flavor or your quick and easy Hard Seltzer drink.
To give guests some participation, you might mix a batch of plain hard seltzer and have guests add pieces of fruit to their drink.
Create a sugar brew batch of plain hard seltzer mix two gallons of spring or filtered water in a brew kettle to a boil. Add three pounds of corn sugar. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar. Then add a mineral pack. This is composed of Epsom salt, magnesium chloride, and baking soda. Stir vigorously to dissolve the minerals. Look for flavors like pear to add to your sugar brew.
You can also make a sugar brew by adding fast-acting yeast to the corn sugar. The yeast colony feeds rapidly on the sugar. The process takes three days to a week. Add water back into the sugar wash. Bottle or keg the sugar brew.
If you want to get into making your hard seltzer in a more ambitious way try this bigger volume recipe:
- 5 gallons of spring or distilled water
- 4 pounds of corn sugar
- Yeast nutrient available from wine or brew supply stores or online at suppliers like (https://vinepair.com/articles/hard-seltzer-homebrew-tips/)
- 1 pack Lalvin EC-1118 yeast available from Walmart or Amazon
- 24 bottles if you plan to bottle instead of keg
- Priming sugar if you plan to bottle instead of keg
- Four or five-gallon brew kettle
- Covered fermenting bucket
- Natural fruit flavors are optional
And there you have it! Your friends will be asking you what type of seltzer they’re drinking and you can say it’s one you made yourself!