It may only be March, but Spiked seltzers are poised to dominate backyard cookouts and beachside weekends as warmer weather approaches. Unlike other malt beverages such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Twisted Tea, spiked seltzers feature less sugar and far fewer calories, making them a “healthier” and more refreshing option. But not all seltzers are created equal. We tasted three popular brands to determine which one we’ll be stocking our coolers with this summer.
Flavors available: West Indies Lime, Valencia Orange, Indian River Grapefruit, Cape Cod Cranberry
Nutrition facts: 140 calories, 5g carbohydrates/sugars
Suggested retail price: $8.99 per six-pack (12 oz. cans/bottles)
Product details: SpikedSeltzer is made from natural ingredients, including purified water and cold-pressed fruit “sourced from well-known regions.” It contains no sulfites and is gluten-free.
Tasting notes: Of the three brands sampled, SpikedSeltzer was the least impressive. Only the Cape Cod Cranberry had an enjoyably balanced and pronounced flavor. The others were either too faint to appreciate (orange, grapefruit) or wholly unpleasant (lime). The flavor of the base malt liquor lingers unpleasantly as if the fruit flavors are working to mask it rather than enhance the overall product.
Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer
Flavors available: Orange Mango, Watermelon, Cranberry Lime
Nutrition facts: 90 calories, 1g carbohydrates
Suggested retail price: $8.99 per six-pack (12 oz. cans)
Product details: Smirnoff Sparkling is infused with natural fruit flavors and made with no artificial sweeteners. It bills itself as “crafted to remove gluten,” which according to Smirnoff means, “the product is fermented from grains containing gluten and crafted to remove gluten.” So technically speaking, it’s not gluten-free since the gluten content can’t be verified.
Tasting notes: Coming in with the lowest calorie/carb count — five calories less than Michelob Ultra — Smirnoff is a relatively guilt-free option. The Orange Mango is tasty and satisfying, while the Watermelon is fruity and unique. The Cranberry Lime is kind of meh. This is also the least carbonated of the three brands, which makes it taste somewhat flat on the tongue — not necessarily a bad thing for drinkers who don’t enjoy overly fizzy drinks. However, It’s not-quite-gluten-free status is a bummer for anyone with dietary restrictions.
Truly Spiked & Sparkling
Flavors available: Colima Lime, Grapefruit Pomelo, Pomegranate, Sicilian Blood Orange
Nutrition facts: 100 calories, 1g sugar, 2g carbohydrates
Suggested retail price: $9.99-$10.99 per six-pack (12 oz. cans)
Product details: Truly is made from fermented cane sugar with no artificial flavors or sweeteners. It’s gluten-free.
Tasting notes: Truly comes closest to a true seltzer in carbonation and flavor without any malt liquor aftertaste. The flavors are pronounced, forward and balanced. The Pomegranate was my favorite, but all of them were quite good. Even the lime, which was the weakest flavor across all three brands, was decent. If you’re in the market for a solid spiked seltzer that you won’t get tired of, Truly is the way to go.
Jim Sabataso is a writer, cocktail enthusiast, and bar director for The Palms Restaurant in Rutland, Vermont. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @JimSabataso.