This is my first and last column dedicated to hard seltzer. I’m over hard seltzer. Consider them cancelled!
OK, the fizzy, low-cal alcoholic beverage probably does not deserve such a vicious slandering. They did not slight me personally or some other marginalized group publicly. But for the past few months, I have considered it my mission to seek out every new brand and eagerly taste every new fruity flavor, and while this was fun at first, now it just gives me heartburn. Plus, I recently got into boxed wine.
Nevertheless, here is my ranking of the five best hard seltzer brands on the shelves. These are all variety packs, so if you don’t like one, don’t get mad at me, just switch to one of the other flavors in the box.
- White Claw Variety Pack 1
This is the O.G. hard seltzer variety pack, the one that introduced the world to “no laws” and endless Claw memes. The best flavor among the bunch is without a doubt Black Cherry (I think SCOTUS ruled on it, sorry), but there are plenty of Natural Lime, Ruby Grapefruit and Raspberry fans out there. Not here, but out there somewhere. In the spring White Claw released its Variety Pack 2 — a little something I like to refer to as their “expansion pack” — which included Lemon, Watermelon, Mango and Tangerine. Lemon is the standout in that cardboard box, but it can’t compete with Black Cherry. You can actually buy a pack of JUST Black Cherry, but I stick to the variety pack to convince myself that I like variety in my life.
- Truly Lemonade
If White Claw is the hard seltzer people love to love, Truly is the one they love to dunk on. Its 13 flavors are so notoriously ho-hum that last fall the brand announced it was “reformulating” every last one to be “crisper and more refreshing.” I could not care less. I’m sticking with the Truly gold mine, its new pack of all-lemonade flavors. We’re talking Original Lemonade, Black Cherry Lemonade, Mango Lemonade and Strawberry Lemonade. The flavors are familiar, but in lemon-packed combinations that make every one super drinkable. Here’s a free idea: They should go back and add lemonade to all their other flavors, too. Truly, call me!
- Corona Refresca
I know what you’re thinking: “Ex-squeeze me? A mainstream beer brand like Corona?
Corona Refresca, however, is a hidden gem among the mainstream beer brand-turned-seltzer brand packs. Please note this is NOT the regular Corona Seltzers pack that has boring flavors like Tropical Lime (as opposed to Arctic Lime, I guess). The Refresca flavors include Passionfruit Lime, Guava Lime and Coconut Lime, which are delightfully beachy and light without tasting artificial like a Lime-A-Rita knockoff. You really have to try the Coconut Lime, which somehow tastes creamy, like it has coconut milk in it. It is a mind-boggling quality for a transparent hard seltzer, and this brain teaser alone is worth the price of the whole pack.
- Crook & Marker Red Variety Pack
Crook & Marker’s red variety pack is one of the many colorfully packaged boxes of hard seltzers I picked up randomly at Target. Target has the best hard seltzer selection around, and they always seem to have new brands on the shelves, which is why my hard seltzer taste test mission will never come to an end. Crook & Marker, though, is a tried and true favorite. The flavors don’t sound revolutionary — Tangerine, Black Cherry, Grapefruit, Blueberry Lime — but their aromas and tastes are. The beverages smell faithfully like the real fruits on their labels, and pack much more intense flavors than anything else I’ve found. I even gave a box of these to Publisher Rob Holbert, a White Claw freak, for Christmas, with a note telling him they’re much better than Claws. He never did give me his review, now that I think about it.
- Wild Basin Mix Pack
Wild Basin is another brand that I had never heard of before grabbing it out of the cooler at Target. Target should sponsor this column. This pack I actually took to Publisher Ashley Trice’s house for a garden party (aka drinking in foldable chairs on her front lawn). The cans look like artisanal sparkling waters and the flavors sound like something you’d sip on at a spa: Classic Lime, Cucumber Peach, Melon Basil and Lemon Agave Hibiscus. Lime is a throwaway, as usual, but the others were incredibly unique yet subtle in their tangs. I couldn’t stop raving about them, which confused Ashley, who had thought they were nonalcoholic and had combined a can with a couple of shots of vodka. I followed her lead, and I gotta say, the speed with which that combo took us downhill may have accelerated Wild Basin’s rise to the top of this list.
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist and Boozie’s most unreliable Baldwin County spy. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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