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Alcohol Trend Spotlight: What is In Hard Seltzers?

Row of hard selzer cans on a shelf

Hard seltzer, hard sparkling water, spiked seltzer—it doesn’t matter what you call them; what matters is that the popular alcoholic beverage is sweeping the nation as America’s drink of choice. But have you stopped to think about what’s in a hard seltzer? 

How do they get that light flavor, refreshing fizz, and low calorie count? 

And are they really as “healthy” as everyone says?

Join us as we dive deep into the ingredients, processes, and newfound popularity of the alcoholic beverage known as the hard seltzer.

Hard Seltzer Ingredients: What Goes Into It?

At the most basic level, hard seltzer is simply seltzer (sparkling water, carbonated water, seltzer water, soda water, whatever name you choose) with alcohol in it (a “hard” drink as opposed to alcohol-free soft drinks). 

The first ingredient is simple: purified carbonated water. 

But when we start talking about the alcohol in hard sparkling water, the conversation becomes slightly more complicated. The alcohol type is different across each different hard seltzer brand:

Alcoholic seltzer – One of the most popular – alcoholic seltzer – is considered a “flavored malt beverage.” That means the alcohol in the beverage is made by fermenting malted barley and hops.

Spiked seltzer – Another fan favorite, spiked seltzer, doesn’t include “gluten, liquor or spirits,” according to its ingredient list. Once again, liquor isn’t added to the seltzer base; rather, the alcohol is made through fermentation, but not of malted barley and hops. The alcohol in spiked seltzer comes from all-natural cane sugar. Many other brands’ alcohols are made in the same way.

Regardless of whether they’re fermenting malted barley or pure cane sugar, the result is largely similar. The remaining ingredients also tend to overlap:

Natural flavoring – Hard seltzers are known for their subtle hints of flavor, which are usually derived from natural sources like fruits and juice concentrates.

Sweeteners – You’ll see cane sugar more often than not, as well as stevia, sucralose, and other natural or artificial sweeteners from time to time. Most hard seltzers have only a few grams of sugar— some selzeters have 1g to 3g of sugar depending on the serving size—which is part of their appeal. 

Citric acid – some seltzer ingredients list contain citric acid as well as sodium citrate, the sodium salt derived from citric acid. Naturally occurring in many citrus fruits, this acid is mainly used for fruit flavor, preservation, and adjusting the beverage’s pH balance.

Hard seltzers boast a low calorie count, which is a big part of their appeal. Most of these calories come from the alcohol itself with some derived from the other ingredients in hard seltzer, like sugars and other carbohydrates.

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Hard Seltzer Fermentation & Mixing Process: How Is It Done?

The minute differences between each brand’s ingredient list naturally persist in the fermentation and mixing process. However, the big picture is largely the same, with several distinct steps:1

  • First, they prepare the base to be fermented. With cane or another sugar, this involves dissolving the sugar in boiling water. 
  • Next, brewers ferment the sugar solution using yeast nutrient and yeast. They leave their concoction at a chilled temperature for a week or more. 
  • After that, the fermented sugar wash is usually filtered to create a clear solution, often flavorless and odorless as well. 
  • If the original sugar wash was brewed to be extra strong, they’ll then dilute their concoction. Other hard seltzer brewers will ferment their solution to their target strength the first time around and skip this subsequent step.2
  • Finally, brewers will add color, flavor, sweetener, citric acid, and any other ingredients to yield a tasty product with the right pH balance.

Of course, there are important considerations that help professional brewers create the best possible version of their alcoholic seltzer, including the choice of yeast, other ingredients, and equipment maintenance.

Interestingly, the surge in hard seltzer drinking is largely because it’s being passed off as a “healthy” alternative to alcohol, particularly with its low calories and sugar content. However, low calories also mean low nutritional value. In reality, if you’re looking for a genuinely healthy beverage, you won’t find anything with alcohol on that list.

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SLIQ Spirited Ice: An Alternative Alcohol

Seltzers may be all the rage, but they’re certainly not the only way to partake in some adult-only fun—and not the best way, either.

Unlike hard seltzers, which are essentially glorified fizzy water and some fermented sugar, SLIQ Spirited Ice pops are made with premium ingredients, including top-shelf liquors like 100% blue agave spirit, seven-times distilled vodka, and superior white rum straight from the Caribbean. 

Don’t worry, though – the frozen cocktail beverages still contain gluten-free, vegan-friendly and kosher ingredients. 

If you’re tired of sipping multiple seltzers just to feel a slight buzz, you’ll love that SLIQ packs a bit more of a punch. Each single-serving alcohol pop has 8% ABV as opposed to the usual 5%, with the perfect sweetness level and vibrant flavors in each bite.

The next time you partake in some good-natured and responsible imbibing, make the right choice and enjoy the elevated experience of a SLIQ Spirited Ice—or two, or three.

Sources: 

  1. Beer & Brewing. Hard Seltzer: We Can Do This the Easy Way, or We Can Do It the Hard Way. https://beerandbrewing.com/hard-seltzer-we-can-do-this-the-easy-way-or-we-can-do-it-the-hard-way/
  2. Brewing Industry Guide. Beyond Beer: The Art & Science of Hard Seltzer. https://brewingindustryguide.com/beyond-beer-the-art-and-science-of-hard-seltzer/
  3. The New York Times. Are ‘Natural Flavors’ Really Natural? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/well/eat/are-natural-flavors-really-natural.html 
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