In 2019, White Claw (which by that point had been around for three years already) became the drink of the summer. It, and other hard seltzers like Bon & Viv, Truly, and offerings from Bud Light and Corona, rose to popularity by combining vice with wellness — yes, these drinks were alcoholic, but also gluten-free, low-ABV, and low-calorie. You’d think the pandemic would throw a wrench in this trend. People are drinking more, hard liquor retail sales surpassed pre-pandemic levels, and wellness just doesn’t seem to be the top concern when you’re facing the despair of another day indoors as you wait to be eligible for the vaccine.
It turns out all of that is no match for the hard seltzer juggernaut. Both Topo Chico (now owned by Coca-Cola) and Spindrift are releasing lines of hard seltzer, and next month Cincinnati will host the first ever hard seltzer festival. Hard seltzer might even be the next thing in homebrewing. It’s here to stay.
Topo Chico Hard Seltzer will debut in the U.S. later this month, and will come in four flavors: Tangy Lemon Lime, Exotic Pineapple, Strawberry Guava and Tropical Mango. Spindrift also launches Spindrift Spiked in April, in the flavors Mango, Lime, Pineapple, and Half & Half. Both brands have the reputation as the Cadillacs of seltzers, with Topo Chico long being coveted by seltzer heads, and Spindrift earning diehard fans in the great flavored seltzer war of 2019.
Until now, hard seltzer’s appeal has mostly been that it allows you to get drunk with as little “stuff” in the way as possible. It wasn’t about taste, but sippability. But as more brands enter the market, especially independent brands and those whose “soft seltzers” are considered more luxury, it introduces an idea that hard seltzer isn’t just a flavorless vehicle for alcohol. Discernment and taste could be an aspect of why one chooses one brand over the other, the way drinkers interact with beer or wine. Maybe there’s even a future in which instead of the pool, hard seltzer finds more of a home at the dinner table.
It’s not like it’s a bad thing that hard seltzer is more widely available to anyone who wants it. And it’s likely that, after this peak, it will cease to live in the realm of “trend” and just be one more option available at the corner store, having fully saturated the market. Which can’t come soon enough, because I’m ready for the next big thing: